LAKEVIEW — The landscape of Belmont Avenue may soon be changing as Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) has privately listed several prominent properties on the street for sale, including the Ann Sather building, he confirmed.
"It's just about me having a little bit of a life," Tunney said of why he's selling the properties. "I work seven days a week."
The three buildings east of the Belmont "L" stop at 909 W. Belmont Ave., 915-925 W. Belmont Ave. and 929 W. Belmont encompass nine storefronts, including Ann Sather, American Apparel, Comedy Sportz and The Gallery Bookstore.
Tunney declined to confirm a price for the properties and said he would have sold them long ago “if the price was right.” Several real estate sources said the current asking price was about $8 million.
The listing follows the alderman's sale of the Andersonville Ann Sather building. Newcastle Limited now owns the property at 5207 N. Clark St., and Tunney plans to shutter the restaurant there by the end of the year.
But Tunney said the flagship Ann Sather on Belmont "will always be around."
Sizable property like this in one of the city's busiest commercial corridors rarely pops up, and a change in hands can significantly impact the feel of the neighborhood, experts said.
Already, BlitzLake Capital Partner's recent $5.5 million purchase of properties at the northwest corner of Belmont and Clark, including the Dunkin' Donuts, could mean big changes.
Developer David Blitz is seeking to build taller than the five or six stories that current zoning allows, according to Bennett Lawson, Tunney's chief of staff. Lawson said Blitz will be asking neighbors for zoning relief and approval on a planned development.
Blitz did not respond to a request for further detail.
Tunney's properties are attractive due to their proximity to the Belmont "L" station, the amount of retail, the parking and the size of the lots, experts said.
Not only do the numerous storefronts bring in leasing cash, the big lot size means an investor could develop the land later on, said Greg Dietz, vice president of investment sales at Baum Realty Group.
“Maybe 10-15 years from now, the neighborhood gets denser and denser, and there is potential to build on that site,” Dietz said. “[Potential buyers] may be thinking that with this Belmont parcel.”
Changes in zoning would have to be approved by Tunney.
Beyond potential density increases, the flavor of the businesses on the street could change if Tunney’s buildings were sold and BlitzLake finished a development, Dietz said.
Right now, Belmont is still “the fun street” that’s “rough around the edges," with its tattoo parlors, lingerie stores and other local spots, he said.
But when people invest that much money in property, they want to “leave their imprint,” Dietz said. That means bringing in new tenants — often national or strong regional businesses who can afford higher rents and can take over the lease if a business struggles, he said.
And there are plenty of takers, Dietz said. National businesses are hungry for quality property in the area.
“It starts moving Belmont into a more upscale kind of street,"" Dietz said. "I don’t know if the residents would want that or not."
Tunney would not say if he was close to finding a buyer.
"Everybody has their price," he said.