Proposed Dunkin’ and possible second restaurant on lot near Elston & Foster generates some traffic concerns, but several residents say area needs more places to eat; project could take up to 2 years to complete
by BRIAN NADIG
A proposal for two commercial buildings, including a Dunkin’ Donuts with a drive-through facility, on a 33,000-square-foot lot at 5137 N. Elston Ave. was met with more positive feedback at the Forest Glen Community Club’s Feb. 14 meeting than previous proposals for the property.
The undeveloped site is a landscaped parcel located immediately to the west of the parking lot for the Trinity Slovak Lutheran Church, 5106 N. LaCrosse Ave. and behind Foster-Elston Auto Repair, 5157 N. Elston Ave., which would not be part of the development. The church currently owns the lot that would be developed.
The project would take 1 1/2 to 2 years to complete due to a series of required approvals, including a zoning change and a special use for the drive-through, project officials said. In addition, the city would have to vacate an L-shaped alley that runs through the property.
Previous proposals included plans for a gas station, car wash, 7-Eleven convenience store and a Taco Bell, but the late-night nature of some of those businesses generated opposition in the neighborhood to the plans. One of the earlier plans also included the auto repair site.
Project officials said that the proposed Dunkin’ would not be open 24 hours and that tentative hours would be 4 a.m. to 8 p.m., with a 10 p.m. closing in warmer months due to the Baskin Robbins ice cream store that would be included in the donut shop.
About 70 people attended the meeting, and concerns were expressed about the proposal’s impact on the area’s already congested rush-hour traffic and the ability to walk across both Foster Avenue and Elston Avenue, as the development site fronts both streets.
However, other residents said that they prefer the site to be developed for low-rise commercial uses rather than tall residential buildings and that the community needs more restaurants.
“We don’t have any (sit-down, full-service) restaurant’s within walking distance,” a man said. Several at the meeting noted the recent closing of Mother Cluckers Kitchen, 5200 N. Elston Ave.
The second building under the proposal is being targeted for a “ma and pa-type style restaurant,” but a tenant has not been lined up, said project representative Ashley Purohit. She added that the goal is to find a tenant that would complement the Dunkin’ and would be a good fit for the community.
The site plan presented at the meeting showed that there would be driveways on both Foster and Elston and that a 2,100-square-foot Dunkin’ with a traditional drive-through lane and a mobile order bypass lane would be located near the south end of the site. It would include outdoor seating.
The north end of the site would include a building of similar size, although specifics would be based on the needs of the tenant. The site plan also showed a drive-through lane for this building, but a second drive-through on the site is “not being actively pursued” in part because it could compete with the Dunkin’, Purohit said.
Some residents recommended that the development’s driveway on Foster not align directly with Lamon Avenue to the north due to existing traffic backups on that side street. They said that the driveway could make it more difficult to turn off Lamon, as those motorists would have to compete with drivers on Lamon for access to Foster.
Purohit said that the the development would include ornamental fencing and extensive landscaping, including trees. “Some of our shops we do roses,” and landscaping plays an important role “in drawing more people in,” she said.
A resident asked that the signage on the property “not be so high up.”
Purohit responded, “We usually do work with the community. It’s really dependent on what the community wants.”
The Purohit family owns and operates several Dunkin’ stores in the area, including the recently opened one at 4825 N. Austin Ave. on a former Bank of America site in Jefferson Park and the store at 5050 N. Cicero Ave. Max Purohit has been a Dunkin’ franchise operator for about 40 years.
Plans do not call for the Cicero location, which is only a few blocks from the development site, to close but for the Baskin Robbins there to be relocated to the new location under the proposal. The shop on Cicero, which does not have a drive-through, “captures” a different traffic flow than the one on the proposed development site would, Max Purohit said.
The Cicero shop is smaller than the proposed new one. “Our seating is almost always filled,” Purohit said.
Also speaking at the meeting was a Trinity church official who said that revenue from the potential sale of the lot would help significantly with the upkeep of the church, which has owned the lot for more than 60 years. The congregation is 130 years old.
Alderman Samantha Nugent (39th) said that comments about the proposal can be e-mailed to her office at firstname.lastname@example.org