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End of Era for Citgo Gas Station in Bucktown, Luxury Condos Up Next

By Alisa Hauser | May 15, 2013 9:01am | Updated on May 15, 2013 10:15am
 After almost 60 years, a Citgo gas station at 1720 W. North Ave. in Bucktown-Wicker Park is scheduled to close May 25. The 18,000 square-foot lot on the northeast corner of Hermitage and North Avenues will be redeveloped into a luxury condominium building.
Bucktown Citgo Gas Station to Shutter
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BUCKTOWN —  The "last call" for fuel in the 1700 block of West North Avenue in Bucktown is coming soon.

After nearly 60 years in business, a Citgo gas station on the northeast corner of North and Hermitage Avenues plans to close May 24, according to cashier Karen Johnson.

Johnson has been slowly sharing news of the impending closure with favorite customers she's grown close to over the years.

"I will miss the customers the most. They come to talk to me for five or 10 minutes. I get to know people as friends," Johnson said.

The 62-year-old worker said she would've celebrated her 11th anniversary with the station on May 25 — the day after the closure.

Johnson said that one woman "almost cried" when she heard about the gas station shuttering and not seeing Johnson anymore.

"She took my name and number and we're going to meet over at the [Holstein Park] pool. We ran into each other there a few times there," Johnson said.

A manager for the gas station confirmed the property is scheduled to be sold and redeveloped into condominiums.

The manager referred all inquiries to Ari Topper, a real estate broker from Jameson Realty who's handling the sale of the 18,000 square-foot corner development site which includes a vacant three-flat apartment building at 1611 N. Hermitage Ave.

Topper and Irwin Walzer, the owner of the gas station, could not be reached for comment.

Described on real estate site Trulia.com as "one of the last blocks of premier development land in the area," the 18,000 square-foot land parcel is listed for sale at $2,495,000.

The lot has been on the market since 2010. A previous attempt by a developer to build a four-story, 30-unit apartment building was unsuccessful when residents expressed concerns with density and parking.

Paul Sajovec, a spokesman for Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), said he couldn't comment since he has not seen plans for the new development.

Sajovec said the project did not need to go through a community group process because the developers are "building within the existing commercial zoning" rather than requesting a zoning change like the previous proposal had required.

A source in the real estate industry confirmed that the property has an active buyer who's expected to close on the deal in the next two weeks. The source also confirmed that a new construction luxury condominium building at 1611 N. Hermitage Ave. would be built out over the gas station property.

Based on renderings for 1611 N. Hermitage Ave. posted to Koenig & Strey listing agent Jennifer Mills's website, the four-story luxury development will contain retail storefronts on the ground level and offer 17 three-bedroom, two-bath condos.

Pre-construction prices range from $650,000 to $900,000. Mills said that the building is "50 percent sold" and delivery is expected in January of 2014.

Mills confirmed a fourth-floor penthouse unit with a 1,000 square-foot rooftop deck is under contract and that the second floor condos have private 250 square-foot decks.

Though the future seems bright for the area's booming real estate development scene, the past has not been forgotten.

Joe Hill, age 65, was filling up the gas tank on his Suzuki Intruder motorcycle Tuesday. 

Hill, who lives on the city's North Side, said he has fond memories of coming to the gas station when he was a boy growing up in Bucktown and that the father of a friend worked at the station.

Hill, recently retired from his job as a salesman of wholesale goods, said he was sad to hear of the closing, especially since, at least based on Tuesday's prices, he said a gallon of unleaded mid-grade gasoline was 19 cents less at the Citgo than a nearby competitor.

Surveying the station, Hill said, "this land is worth more than a gas station." 

Martin Rodriguez, 47, too, was saddened by the news of the gas station's closure.

While pumping gas into his minivan, the Bucktown resident said he was "not surprised" by the sale.

Rodriguez pointed across the street to a large condo building at 1725 W. North Ave., which he said was one of the first big developments in the neighborhood in the late 1990s.

"It used to be a rim shop," Rodriguez said.