Cell phone store may open in development


A national cell phone carrier is considering opening a retail store on a parcel at Northwest Highway and Harlem Avenue, where construction began last summer on a Starbucks coffee shop with a drive-through facility.

Project developer Lee Wolfson is seeking to have the former car dealership lot rezoned to B3-1. The M1-1 zoning of the site allows restaurants but requires a portion of retail sales to include items that are made on the site.

Wolfson said at the Oct. 6 meeting of the 41st Ward Zoning Advisory Committee that he could not name the company that he is negotiating with until the lease is signed but that a cell phone store is one of the retail chains under consideration. "We are looking for a very strong national or regional brand," he said.

The coffee shop is being built on the south end of the parcel, while the retail store, measuring 2,540 square feet, would be built at the north end of the property, which is at 6340 N. Northwest Hwy. Plans call for 23 parking spaces on the site.

The committee recommended that Alderman Anthony Napolitano support the zoning request by a 10-1 vote.

Despite the outcome of the vote, committee members questioned whether a second building is needed given the anticipated popularity of the Starbucks and the existing traffic congestion at the Harlem-Northwest Highway intersection.

Wolfson said that the project would not be financially feasible without the second tenant on the site due to the asking price of the property. He said that a cell phone store typically has a low volume of customers compared to a restaurant and other retail uses.

Plans call for construction on the site to be completed within the next 3 months and for the coffee shop to open this winter. "We have to be off the site with all our equipment before Starbucks opens," Wolfson said.

In order to keep the project on schedule, Wolfson is seeking a construction permit for the second building before the B3-1 zoning is approved, according to a Napolitano aide. If the site is not rezoned, Wolfson would be restricted to leasing the second building to a restaurant under the terms of the pending permit.

A permit for the Starbucks was issued in August.