WICKER PARK — A boarded-up door in front of a long-vacant auto body garage on North Avenue doesn't look too promising.
But as soon as July, the portal is expected to lead into a butcher shop, restaurant and music venue.
A two-story, 9,300-square-foot building at 2033-35 W. North Ave. will serve as the future home of the "Chicago Chop Shop" butcher and deli-style restaurant, as well as The 1st Ward, a newcomer to Wicker Park's hopping music and events scene.
The gears for the Chicago Chop Shop complex — just steps from the Milwaukee-Damen-North intersection known for its thriving restaurants and music venues — were put into motion by Nick Moretti, a real estate investor who bought the building in August 2011.
Matt Woodburn, 38, manager of The 1st Ward and one of the complex's three owners, said he's aiming to create a "throwback feel and vibe" to the 5,000-square-foot private event space adjacent to the Chop Shop's first-floor butcher and deli.
Woodburn, who's the founder of the Art Institute of Chicago's After Dark event series and a sales leader for a West Loop audio-visual events production company, said The 1st Ward will host a range of events from music concerts to fashion shows and artist showcases.
"We won't be a one-trick pony; we want to have a diverse calendar and not just be known for one thing. I'll curate the space and not take an event just because we have to or the price is right," Woodburn said.
"We want anyone from the neighborhood to be able to host an event there, to think of it like their local banquet hall," he said.
Woodburn said he's in the process of forming a production company that will be responsible for programming events in the space, which has a standing-room capacity of 500 people.
The capacity makes The 1st Ward larger than the nearby Subterranean at 2011 W. North Ave., which opened in 1996 and has a capacity of 375 patrons; Double Door at 1551 N. Damen Ave., which opened in 1994 and has a 550 capacity; and Empty Bottle at 1035 N. Western Ave., which opened in 1993 and has a 400 capacity.
Woodburn said The 1st Ward will be located behind the butcher counter on the first floor, which will be owned and operated by Mario Minelli of Minelli Meat & Deli in Niles.
Reached by phone, Minelli said The Chop Shop's butcher and deli will serve as an expansion to his third-generation family-owned business, and customers can expect to find sandwiches, homemade sausages, meatballs, pastas, and grab-and-go items.
Minelli said his deli's specialties are homemade, hand-rolled meatballs and steak cut on the premises from whole cattle.
"Our machinery will be in-house, we will be mixing and stuffing sausages, too," Minelli said.
Minelli said he was excited to bring his family's business, which originated on Western and Taylor Street in the Little Italy neighborhood, back into the city as well.
In addition to the 1st Ward space and Minelli's butcher-deli, the restaurant arm of the Chop Shop will accommodate 60 diners in a second-floor eatery, with its bar and food program led by Ty Fujimara, from SmallBar's Logan Square outpost and Arami.
According to a news release, the restaurant will focus on "prime meats, seasonal salads and small plates" while a full-service bar will offer artisan wine, craft beers and local spirits."