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CTA Railroads Small Vendors Out of 'L' Stations

By Alisa Hauser | October 24, 2012 11:08am
 A "For Lease" sign hangs next to "Concessions" inside Dash Patel's 80-square-foot stand at the Damen Blue Line "L" stop.
A "For Lease" sign hangs next to "Concessions" inside Dash Patel's 80-square-foot stand at the Damen Blue Line "L" stop.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

WICKER PARK — Dash Patel first learned the CTA wasn't renewing the lease at his 80-square-foot concession stand at the Damen Blue Line "L" stop when a "For Lease" sign appeared outside in early October.

Patel, who has worked at the stand six days a week for the past six years, is one of seven CTA vendors who aren't getting their month-to-month leases renewed as the transit agency hunts for higher-paying tenants.

“I offered to give more money [in rent] but they wouldn’t say how much they wanted," said Patel, who estimated his stand generates between $1,500 and $2,000 a month in profit. "Rent will go to the highest bidder.”

Six other vendor spaces inside CTA stations, including a 199-square-foot space at the nearby California Blue Line stop, were available for rent on the website for commercial real estate broker Jones Lang LaSalle.  Bids for the spaces closed Nov. 5.

CTA spokeswoman Lambrini Lukidis said the CTA is reviewing the proposals.

Brian Carroll, from Jones Lang LaSalle's Public Institute Sales Department, declined to comment on new tenants at the Damen stop, but confirmed the bidding process has closed. In August 2008, Jones Lang LaSalle began an exclusive five-year consulting deal with the city to handle leasing for CTA spaces, according to a report in REjournals.com.

"Essentially, what has happened is the CTA is putting out spaces they have on month-to-month leases for bid, to get longer-term leases," Carroll said. "I've spoken with [Patel] several times to get him to bid."

With the help of an Internet-savvy friend, Patel went to the CTArealestate.com site to submit his bid to keep his stand. He said he offered to go to a five-year lease at $525 monthly, with a $25 annual increase.

Carroll said that selecting a tenant was not just a "financially driven" decision.

"We don't just award [the space] to who gives us the most money," he said. "CTA is a public transit organization and they consider five components in the application process, like business experience. How does your use serve ridership? What's your community involvement?"

Lukidis was unable to provide the number of bids that were received or the range of rent offered.

"The competitive bid process is open to all who want to submit a Request for Proposal, including current tenants," Lukidis said in a written statement. "Once a winning bid is selected, it will go to the Chicago Transit Board for approval. Notification is made to all who have submitted an offer once the winning bid is approved by the Transit Board."

While the CTA board did not evaluate bids for Patel's space and six other "L" station spaces at its Nov. 14 meeting, based on the wave of new leases approved in October, it would appear the direction that the transit organization is headed indicates higher-rents and longer-term leases.

At its October board meeting, the CTA approved five new concession contracts, including a fresh produce business at Ashland/63rd on the Green Line that was identified through CTA's minority outreach efforts, according to a CTA news release.  

The new wave of leases all have 10-year terms and will bring in $1.4 million combined, the CTA said. The estimate translates to an average rent of $2,330 per month — well above the $500 Patel's been paying.

Meanwhile, Patel's two-year city business licenses expired Nov. 15. He initially thought he wouldn't renew his two licenses, which cost $1,080, but he decided to renew both for another year, even though his future was uncertain.

"I wish they had given me first chance since I am already here," Patel said.