CITY HALL — A proposed 101,000-square-foot car dealership set be located along the North Branch of the river in Lincoln Park finally passed the city's zoning committee Wednesday.
The $57 million project, which had been held up by Ald. Danny Solis (25th) on concerns of a lack of Latino franchise owners, is expected to be one of many new development projects at the plagued intersection of Damen, Elston and Fullerton avenues.
The Fox Motors dealership is expected to employee 135 full-time employees at an average salary of $65,000 and 200 construction jobs over the two-year building process, according to the firm.
The firm estimated that over the next 20 years, the dealership would generate $200 million in sales taxes.
"I'm looking at Fox [Motors], Midtown [Athletic Club] and two or three other properties as being the cornerstones of that area," said Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd).
The development sparked controversy over the past months as Solis twice tabled Fox Motor's request to rezone the land, according to a Crain's Business report.
Solis had questioned why only five percent of Ford dealerships nationally are owned by minorities, while 23 percent of new car buyers are minorities.
On Wednesday, Solis acknowledged the controversy, but ultimately voted in favor of the rezoning, which passed on a unanimous vote .
"Without that controversy and without [the media] raising the issue, maybe this whole point about the representation of Hispanic and Latin American dealers in the auto industry wouldn't have been highlighted," Solis said.
Waguespack called Solis' efforts a "hiccup," and said there was never any real doubt of the dealership getting the OK.
He did criticize Solis and the city council's Latino caucus for delaying the project.
"Those caucuses need to go out. They need to work with the mayor. They need to work with the City Council to bring up those issues in a way that's more comprehensive rather than focusing on one owner and one dealer," Waguespack said.
The project, which will be funded by Fox Motors, has had the support of both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Lincoln Park Chamber of commerce.
Emanuel, in a statement, vowed to "work to ensure that every viable project has a smooth path to fruition in this city.”
The Michigan-based company originally came to Waguespack at the beginning of the year hoping to receive Tax Increment Financing dollars, but was denied.
The company came back and agreed to pay for the entire project.
Similarly, Waguespack denied TIF funds for the upcoming Mariano's Fresh Market at Ashland, Webster and Elston avenues.
He hopes the rest of the city follows a hard line on TIFs, arguing that Chicago can "still get investment anyway."
"You look at the DePaul [arena] project coming up. It's an opportunity for us to say you don't necessarily need it," he said of TIF deals.
Fox Motors currently operates a temporary dealership at 2401 S. Michigan Ave., which is serving as a placeholder until the new northwest Lincoln Park dealership is built.
The location for the new car dealership is an abandoned industrial site, which backs up to the river.
The final full City Council vote on the rezoning is scheduled for Sept. 11.
"It's very hard to get people to invest and bring in a dealer into a city around the country," said David Kelleher, a Ford executive who spoke at the zoning hearing. "It takes an enormous amount of investment and capital . . . This project goes well beyond anything we’ve seen nationally.”
The dealership has agreed to include 34,000 square feet of green space on the roof of the new project, construct according to LEED specifications, and build a river walk.
The dealership will have 152 parking spaces for customers and employees and room for 400 more vehicles for inventory and storage.
“It’s really going to benefit the Chicago community," Solis said at the zoning hearing. "I really am anxious to see it flourish."