More land may be needed for planned dealership on Milwaukee


About 52,000 square feet of vacant land in the 5300 block of North Milwaukee Avenue is being set aside for a possible new car dealership, but that may be only half the space needed for the project.

The amount of space will depend in part on the number of automobile brands sold at the dealership, project representative Anthony Marino said at a Nov. 21 community meeting held by Alderman John Arena (45th). Other property owners on the block have been contacted about selling their land for the project.

While 52,000 square feet can accommodate a single-brand dealership, up to 50,000 square feet of additional land would be needed for several brands, Marino said. The site once was occupied by Gateway Chevrolet, but since last year it has been used as a vehicle storage lot for Marino Chrysler Jeep Dodge, 5133 W. Irving Park Road.

“It’s the most expensive parking lot in Chicago right now,” Marino said of the site.

Marino said that he would like to start generating income from the property but that it would be at least 2 or 3 years before a dealership can open there. “It takes time buying up different properties,” he said. “I still need more square footage.”

In addition, the process of negotiating a dealership agreement with a car manufacturer will take 6 to 9 months, according to project officials. “This is a blue collar neighborhood, and I’m looking to attract something that fits us,” Marino said.

In response to concerns that Gateway workers parked on area side streets, Marino said that he plans to have sufficient on-site parking for employees.

Preliminary plans call for employee parking lot at the northeast corner of Parkside and Milwaukee avenues, while a two-story showroom and service center with 16 bays would be constructed at the southeast corner of the intersection.

Residents at the meeting inquired about the possibility of returning Parkside to a two-way street between Milwaukee and Lovejoy Avenue or having the city vacate that stretch of Parkside and sell it to Marino to reduce cut-through traffic on Lovejoy and in alleys. Parkside became a one-way northeasterly bound street about a dozen years ago, according to residents at the meeting.

Arena said that he will ask the city Department of Transportation to study the effects of changing Parkside. “We’ll table that until we get more information,” he said.

Most of the site is zoned for automobile sales, but Marino is seeking to have four lots, including those formerly occupied by a hair salon and an accounting office, rezoned to C2-1 to accommodate a dealership. Having the entire site properly zoned would facilitate negotiations with automakers, Marino said.

Arena said that, based on the opinions expressed at the meeting, he is comfortable moving forward with the zoning change. He said that the storage lot does not attract customers to the Gladstone Park commercial corridor and that he hopes the rezoning would help speed up the process for a dealership.

C2-1 zoning allows a used car dealership, but only new car sales are planned, Marino said in response to a resident. “That’s not my business,” he said. “We are a new car dealer.”

It also was reported that Marino is planning to acquire the former Motive Parts building at 5396-98 N. Milwaukee Ave., where plans to open a motorcycle shop were dropped.