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Some Neighbors Skeptical of Proposed Burger King on Clark Street

By Benjamin Woodard | January 24, 2013 12:33pm
 The empty lot is operated by Gateway Centre, which also houses a Dominick's grocery store.
The empty lot is operated by Gateway Centre, which also houses a Dominick's grocery store.
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

ROGERS PARK — Neighbors who attended a public meeting about a proposed Burger King on Clark Street expressed concerns ranging from increased traffic and pedestrian safety to animal rights and children's health.

The one-story, drive-through restaurant is planned for an empty plot of land on Clark Street at the edge of the Gateway Centre.

Adam Velarde, who would own the business, and his development team fielded questions from Ald. Joe Moore (49th) and community members Wednesday night at the Pottawatomie Park fieldhouse.

"I am involved with my business," said Velarde, who opened his first Burger King in the 90s and now operates 28 restaurants in the Chicago area and southern Wisconsin. "I truly care about it. I've had to work for everything I do."

Velarde said he'd hire about 40 part-time employees from the area, install security cameras around the building and be sure outside trash is picked up.

But community members were worried the increased traffic — estimated at 40 cars an hour — would pose safety risks for pedestrians and clog Clark Street.

The site plans direct traffic to the drive-through located at the rear of the building.

John Schroeder, a former Evanston policeman, said the restaurant would attract crowds of loitering teens and increase crime in the shopping center, which includes a Dominick's and LA Fitness.

"This is a mistake. When you move them out of your restaurant, they are going to go where? They’re going to go into their cars or loiter in the parking lot. I think you’re going to regret it," Schroeder said.

Moore, who stayed neutral during the meeting, said Dominick's had the right to approve or disapprove Burger King's plans before eventually granting 21-year lease on April 23.

But it's no done deal.

While the proposal doesn't require a zoning change because it would be considered a part of the existing shopping center, it needs approval from the Chicago Plan Commission and City Council.

A few neighbors raised concerns about unethical treatment of animals in Burger King's supply chain. Velarde said he understood the concerns.

"You're not going to like my response," said the restaurateur who employs 600 people at his establishments. "I don't have control over my supply chain."

Steve Hueffner, a 31-year-old tax accountant, started an online petition to ban the development.

As of Thursday morning, he had collected 166 signatures.

Gail Goldberger, who has lived nearby the site for 30 years, said she wasn't wholly opposed to the Burger King, but was worried the development "might take away from the quality of having a little more room and little more space."

"There are nary places like that in the city," she said.