Residents discuss plan for coffee shop
by BRIAN NADIG
A report that a Starbucks coffee shop with a drive-through facility could open at the southeast corner of Irving Park Road and Central Avenue has caused concern that the shop would hurt nearby independent coffee houses.
"A lot of people are saying we don’t want corporate stores there," Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th) said after he held a June 14 community meeting on the proposal. Sposato said that many of the people at the meeting said that they support Portage Grounds, 5501 W. Irving Park Road, and Perkolator, 6032 W. Irving Park Road.
Sposato said that he shares the concerns expressed by residents and that he is has not decided whether to approve the zoning needed for the project. "Is Starbucks’ clientele going to be their clientele?" he said. "Is there room for all of them? Anything that goes in there, there’s going to be something nearby with a similar business."
Sposato said that it may be difficult to develop the 32,000-square-foot parcel at 5555 W. Irving Park Road without national chains due to the higher rent that new commercial construction often demands. An automobile dealership is temporarily using the site for storage.
"Small guys are not going to go in there," Sposato said. He said that small independent businesses tend to open in older storefronts due to the more affordable rent.
The proposal calls for a coffee shop to be built on the southeast corner of the site, with a one-story 6-500-square-foot commercial building at the northwest corner of the property. The development requires the property to be rezoned from RT-4, which is intended for multi-family construction, to B3-1, which permits a variety of retail businesses.
At the meeting the developer for project would not confirm the name of the coffee business that is interested in the site, but there are strong indications that it is Starbucks, Sposato said. "We know it’s not Dunkin’ Donuts," he said.
Sposato said that since he became an alderman last year, his office has received comments from residents who say that they would like to see something built on the site because it is an eyesore. A Saturn dealership on the site closed about 10 years ago.
In other zoning news, the organizers of a proposed mosque at 4846 N. Elston Ave. agreed to have a June 17 hearing by the Zoning Board of Appeals deferred, according to Mayfair Civic Association Zoning Committee chairman Chris Lambesis. The deferral will allow representatives of the Islamic Center of Chicagoland to meet with residents who live near the site, Lambesis said.
In addition, last month the Chicago Plan Commission approved a proposal to rezone industrial buildings at 5140-90 N. Northwest Hwy. from M1-1 to B1-1, according to Alderman John Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh. The rezoning would prohibit the planned construction of a self-storage facility on a portion of the block, where several buildings are for sale.
Brugh has said that a storage facility is not the best use for the block and that Arena wants to have the entire block redeveloped as part as a single development.