Residents object to Panda Express proposal for Six Corners; plan calls for short stretch of Warner to become two-way street
by BRIAN NADIG
Warner Avenue between Cicero Avenue and the first alley to the west would become a two-way street under a proposal to build a Panda Express with a drive-through facility at 4130 N. Cicero Ave. in the Six Corners shopping district.
Several residents raised objections to the proposal during an Oct. 20 virtual meeting hosted by Alderman James Gardiner (45th).
The proposal, which requires approval of a special use for the drive-through from the Zoning Board of Appeals, has been in the works for more than a year. In the summer of 2020 the proposal was presented to merchant groups.
“It’s not the kind of development our neighborhood is looking for at this exact (location),” one resident said, expressing concern about the amount of trash existing fast-food restaurants create in the neighborhood and adding that the planned 10 p.m. weekday and 11 p.m. weekend closing times would be too late. “This is Chicago, and you’re just increasing traffic.”
At the end of the meeting, Gardiner said, “This is not a done deal.” He added that he will be seeking additional feedback from nearby homeowners.
The Panda Express would be constructed on the current Bank of America site, where the bank’s walk-up facility closed several years ago but drive-up ATMs remain operational.
Plans call for the Panda proposal to include two drive-up ATMs on the far north end of the parcel along Berteau Avenue. There also would be 49 on-site parking spaces that would be used by customers and employees and an outdoor dining patio.
Project representative Eric Abeln said that converting a portion of Warner, which runs one-way west, to a two-way street would help reduce the number of vehicles exiting the parking lot and then driving through the neighborhood, presumably toward Milwaukee Avenue. Instead motorists would be able to exit onto Warner and have the option to head directly to Cicero, reducing cut-through traffic in the neighborhood, he said.
In addition, in terms of the project’s overall impact on traffic, Abeln said, “About 50 percent of our customers will already be traveling on Cicero, … (picking up) some food on the way home.”
Some residents expressed concerns that making a short stretch of Warner a two-way street would be confusing to drivers and worsen traffic on Warner.
Former 45th Ward alderman John Arena, who serves on the board of the Six Corners Association, recommended that the site plan be altered to encourage motorists to exit to the north onto Berteau, which runs one-way east toward Cicero. He added that short stretches of a two-way street to accommodate a business can create potential “head-on conflicts” and that there are usually better solutions.
The Panda Express would be located across from Starbucks Coffee, 4155 N. Cicero Ave., which has a drive-through facility. The Starbucks was built on a parking lot for the former Family Fruit Market.
Also at the meeting, some participants tried to bring up recent controversies involving text messages between Gardiner and a former aide, but they were not allowed to finish their remarks. At the start of the meeting, Gardiner said that the purpose of the meeting was to get feedback on the Panda proposal.