Emanuel guest at ward luncheon
by BRIAN NADIG
The Weber Spur trail, the planned Peoples Gas facility in Sauganash and the city bag tax were among the items discussed at the annual "State of the Ward" luncheon at Colletti’s Restaurant and Banquets, 5707 N. Central Ave., on April 10 with Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th) and special guest Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Emanuel said that he is hesitant to discuss plans for the Weber bike and pedestrian trail because the Union Pacific Railroad could toughen its negotiating stance on the sale of its property to the city if it knows how much the city is looking forward to the economic and recreational benefits the trail would provide to the area.
The city has run into delays in purchasing the railroad right-of-way, where the tracks have been removed. The trail would run in northeast from Mayfair to several suburbs, including the Village of Lincolnwood where the trail already has opened.
Laurino discussed the Peoples Gas facility that is moving its headquarters from the 45th Ward to Sauganash in the 39th Ward.
"Peoples Gas purchased the former Commerce Clearing House building in the Peterson Pulaski Industrial Corridor for its new administrative campus," Laurino said. "They’re currently in the planning process with the city for the nine-acre site and will break ground this year."
The utility company is seeking a zoning change for the project, which calls for a 45-foot-tall, 85,000-square-foot office and service center at 4025 W. Peterson Ave. Plans also call for a freestanding microwave tower not to exceed 150 feet in height and parking 350 fleet vehicles and 450 accessory vehicles.
"Across the street from the Peoples Gas facility, on the north side of Peterson, we are breaking ground this year on a new shopping center. It will be anchored by a Dunkin’ Donuts," Laurino said. Also planned at 4635 W. Foster Ave. is the larger Edens Collection shopping center, where construction could start later this year, she said.
In October, the new pedestrian pavilion and expanded parking lot opened at Whole Foods, 6020 N. Cicero Ave. The company also paid for a new traffic signal that was installed on Cicero at the entrance of the parking lot.
Laurino said that the pavilion will be used for community events and that the nearby Sauganash School hopefully can display science or other student projects there. "I want to see activity there," she said.
Also at the luncheon, Emanuel defended the city’s bag tax, which calls on retailers to charge 7 cents per bag they provide to shoppers.
Gladstone Park Chamber of Commerce president David Wians raised concerns that the tax created an extra burden on Northwest Side retailers because area residents can easily commute to stores in the adjoining suburbs where there is no tax. Wians said that merchants have complained that they are seeing fewer filled shopping carts in their stores.
Emanuel said that the city has experienced economic and environmental benefits from the bag tax, as the disposal of plastic bags is a costly landfill expense. He said that he believes the tax is encouraging an increasing number of shoppers to use reusable canvass bags instead of plastic ones and that a countywide bag tax would address the concerns of shop owners whose businesses are located near the suburbs.
Emanuel also said that he would soon make an announcement about plans for five parks and recreational facilities for students.
Emanuel said that one of the facilities would be located at the Read-Dunning development site, where a public high school and a Chicago Park District multi-purpose athletic field with stands for 1,500 spectators are planned. Efforts are being made for Saint Patrick High School to play its home football games on the field.