Wendy’s planned for Pulaski-Montrose; mosque hearing set




by BRIAN NADIG

The Mayfair Civic Association at its June 9 meeting endorsed a plan to build a Wendy’s restaurant near the Pulaski-Montrose intersection, but on another issue the group is asking residents to oppose a proposed mosque at 4846 N. Elston Ave.

The restaurant would have a drive-through facility and would be constructed on an approximately 25,000-square-foot parcel at 4406-20 N. Pulaski Road, where a former car wash is located. Plans call for 25 parking spaces, with a vehicular entrance on the north end of the site and an exit on the south end.

Wendy’s construction manger Mat Knupp said that the restaurant would include an outdoor dining patio and feature the hamburger chain’s new prototype design, with a mostly glass exterior in front and a 55-seat dining room with a fireplace. He said that about 500 customers a day are anticipated, with up to 100 in the busiest hour.

The building of the drive-through facility requires the issuance of a special use permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals. Construction could start as early as next spring and would last 12 weeks, according to project officials.

No objections were raised when association zoning committee chairman Chris Lambesis asked residents if the association should write a letter supporting the proposal. “I like your development,” Lambesis told project officials. “I think it’s going to help the neighborhood.”

Also at the meeting, residents were asked to collect signatures for a petition which opposes the proposed mosque and to testify at a June 17 hearing on a request by the Islamic Center of Chicagoland to allow religious assembly on the commercial site. The zoning board will hold the hearing during the 2 p.m. session of its meeting on Friday in the Council Chamber at City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St.

The mosque would be constructed inside an existing building on a triangular-shaped parcel that is surrounded on all three sides by alleys, one of which runs behind a row of bungalows in the 4800 block of North Kentucky Avenue. The vacant building was once used by a former auto body business at 4856 N. Elston Ave., where the Islamic Center is planning to house a community center.

Residents have raised concerns that the mosque would lead to more vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the alleys because there is no direct access to the property from a street and that the mosque also would worsen the area’s parking congestion. The community center, which would be located on Elston across the alley from the mosque, would have a 37-space parking lot.

“The reason we’re opposing it is it backs up to residential on Kentucky,” Lambesis said.

Association president Ron Duplack said that the building which would house the mosque typically had no more than five auto body workers in it, causing no disruptions for the neighborhood. Islamic Center officials have said that the mosque would have between 100 and 150 members and that the combined occupancy of the mosque and community center would be 296.

“This absolutely has nothing to do with religion and race,” Lambesis said. “We want this in our neighborhood. Let’s find a place that is suitable for the use.”

A group of residents have hired an attorney to represent them at the zoning board hearing. Lambesis said that Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th) has indicated that it may be difficult to stop the project due to First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion but that he hopes the board will base its decision on zoning and traffic regulations.

The association has been unable to meet with project officials since a community meeting on the proposal was held in 2014, Duplack said.

It also was reported at the meeting that the owner of a computer and video game lounge is looking to open a new facility in the 4100 block of West Montrose Avenue. At its location at 3341 N. Elston Ave., Ignite Gaming offers more than 100 Xbox, PlayStation, Wi and other consoles and holds tournaments.

Plans call for the selling of food and liquor, and it is not expected to open until next year, Duplack said.

Also at the meeting, traffic concerns were raised about a planned street festival that the North Mayfair Improvement Association is holding on Labor Day weekend in the 4800 block of North Elston Avenue. Some residents said that the closing of Elston could lead to more cut-through traffic on side streets and lead to worse backups on Lawrence, which will remain open during the two-day festival.

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