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City May Buy Mayfair Lumber to Consolidate Maintenance Operations

  Mayfair Lumber plans to close after 80 years in business, a victim of the struggling economy.
City May Buy Mayfair Lumber to Consolidate Maintenance Operations
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JEFFERSON PARK — The city should buy the six-acre Mayfair Lumber yard to consolidate maintenance and sanitation operations throughout the Far Northwest Side, Ald. John Arena (45th) said Thursday.

Next Wednesday, the Chicago City Council is scheduled to consider a measure that would authorize city officials to begin negotiating to buy the lumber yard near Milwaukee and Lawrence avenues, which will close once it sells off its inventory after more than 80 years in business.

"It is a good opportunity, the type that doesn't come up often because we are so landlocked here in the city," Arena said.

Plans call for the lumber yard — long a Northwest Side landmark with its towering neon sign visible from the Kennedy Expressway — to become the new Northwest Side home for the city's departments of Water Management and Fleet and Facility Services operations as well as the Mayfair Sanitation Facility.

The maintenance yard, 4900 W. Sunnyside Ave., which is used by the water department as well as fleet services, would be closed, although a fueling station for city vehicles would remain, Arena said.

The sanitation facility, 4639 N. Lamon Ave., would move north across the Union Pacific railroad tracks to the triangular piece of property now home to the lumber yard. The Lamon site could become part of the nearby Mayfair Pumping Station, which is looking to expand, Arena said.

In addition to the Mayfair lumber yard at 4825 W. Lawrence Ave., plans also call for the city to purchase the Leprecan Portable Restrooms site at 4808 W. Wilson Ave.

Mayfair Lumber owner Chip Konen, whose grandfather started the business in the 1980s, said the bad economy was to blame for the business' closure.

In the year and a half the property has been on the market, Arena said his office had not received a single inquiry about purchasing or redeveloping the site, evidence of the changing nature of the lumber industry, Arena said.

Because the lumber yard is not accessible from Cicero, it is less than ideal for shops or restaurants looking to attract passersby, Arena said.

However, that isolation makes the site a good fit for the city's operations, which have drawn complaints from nearby homeowners about noisy trucks, smelly garbage as well as speeding city workers who take up parking spots along side streets.

"The city will be able to consolidate its operations into an area that's protected with a natural barrier," Arena said. "It will keep operations away from the residential areas."

The move will also enable the city to more easily pick up garbage and plow streets during the winter, Arena said.

The lumber yard's more central location would be a better fit to the city's new grid-based system of garbage pickup, he added.

"Efficiency will go way up, and that will save taxpayers money," Arena said.

It would be premature to begin discussing what should replace the maintenance yard on Sunnyside Avenue, Arena said, mentioning homes and open space as possibilities.

"There will be a community conversation about what should happen to that land," Arena said. "The nice thing is, we're in the driver's seat because it is city land."

The land will require some level of clean up, which could determine its ultimate use, Arena said.