Developer hopes to attract brewery to Portage Park retail/self-storage project
by BRIAN NADIG
Height, parking and aesthetic concerns about a proposed four-story retail and self-storage complex at 3631-57 N. Central Ave. were expressed at an April 11 community meeting hosted by Alderman Gilbert Villegas (36th).
“I’ve heard that the building needs to be dressed up,” Villegas said at the end of the meeting. “We’ll continue the dialogue.”
Some audience members asked Villegas to take a hand up or down vote of the crowd, which numbered about 100, but he refused. Villegas said that the crowd represented a small portion of the community and that his office also has been receiving feedback via social media and other means.
Project developer Bernard Edelman said that he is pursuing a wine/coffee café and a brewery and burger establishment as possible ground-floor tenants but that it is too early in the development process for leases to be signed.
Plans call for 13,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor, with the storage facility in the rear of the site and occupying the upper floors. There also would be a 15-space parking lot which would be accessible from Central, with no access to a rear alley.
A planned development ordinance which would allow for the construction of the four-story building was introduced at the April 10 City Council meeting. It would be constructed on the north end of a site where a Dominick’s Finer Foods once stood and where a CVS Pharmacy now operates on the south end.
Project officials said that $3.3 million in tax increment subsidies is required to make the development feasible and that the total cost of the project is estimated at $13 million, not including land acquisition expenses.
Some residents said that that they would prefer the TIF funds to be used for school improvements or other public infrastructure projects.
Project officials responded that while TIF funds are needed for the project, the assessed valuation of the site would go up significantly once the building is constructed, generating much higher property taxes than the approximately $12,100 which was paid for 2017.
Several homeowners who live behind the site expressed concern that the building would be too tall, with one resident said that he would be looking at a “concrete wall.” No windows on the rear wall are planned to allow for more privacy for the residents living immediately to the east of the site, according to project officials.
The owner of a nearby property on Central Avenue said that 15 parking spaces would not be sufficient given that up to about 20 employees could be working in the different businesses on the site and that a brewery would attract lots of patrons.
Some residents also questioned the need for another storage facility in the area. One resident said that there are a dozen such facilities within a three-mail radius of the site and that “they’re not at capacity.”
Edelman said that “we’re confident” that the proposed storage facility would be a success and that users of these facilities are often seeking storage space close to their home. He said after the meeting that that there are no self-storage facilities within a mile of the site.
“This lot has been empty for 15 years. It’s time to build,” Edelman said. “This building is going to create an pedestrian experience and complement other buildings in the area.” Plans call for the building to be setback from the property line to allow for wider sidewalks.
Previous plans for the site have included an affordable housing development and a memory care center.