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Uptown Sonic Drive-In Construction Could Start As Early As Oct. 1

By Adeshina Emmanuel | September 19, 2013 9:24am
 The empty lot at 1016 W. Wilson Ave., in Uptown, will soon be Chicago's first Sonic Drive-In.
The empty lot at 1016 W. Wilson Ave., in Uptown, will soon be Chicago's first Sonic Drive-In.
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DNAinfo/Adeshina Emmanuel

UPTOWN — The city's first Sonic Drive-In is expected to open in January, and construction could start as early as Oct. 1, according to the office of Ald. James Cappleman (46th).

The drive-in will be built at 1016 W. Wilson Ave., in a vacant lot overgrown with grass and weeds (mostly the latter) just west of a McDonald's restaurant.

Sonic Drive-Ins are typically built in suburban and rural areas, catering to customers in cars. But the Uptown Sonic will feature a revised design with more sit-down dining and fewer drive-in stalls, according to Sonic.

The Truman Square Neighbors block club, whose area includes the Sonic site, broke the construction news on its Facebook page Wednesday and Cappleman's office later confirmed that Sonic would soon have the green light to build from the city.

 Sonic Drive-Ins feature carhop service, Coney dogs and Cherry Limeades.
Sonic Drive-Ins feature carhop service, Coney dogs and Cherry Limeades.
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Cappleman said in a recent email to constituents in his ward, which includes most of Uptown and part of Lakeview, that building the restaurant should take Sonic 60 to 90 days.

The business opening "takes care of an empty lot" and "brings more people into the ward to shop" while creating more tax revenue for the city,  said Cappleman chief of staff Tressa Feher.

Feher said the restaurant will open in January.

Earlier this year, the fast food chain said it was targeting a summer opening but had to push that date back a few months after running into red tape related to obtaining a building permit, among other issues. Sonic wasn't immediately reachable for comment.

The Oklahoma-based fast food chain has about 3,500 restaurants countrywide. Sonic is known for carhop service and offerings such as quarter-pound Coney dogs, Tater Tots and Cherry Limeades. The average store does about $1 million in annual sales, according to Sonic.

The new Sonic will sit on Wilson between two troubled intersections.

A gang-related shooting at Wilson and Broadway left a 14-year-old boy in critical condition earlier this month. Last month, 21-year-old Darius Oliver died from wounds suffered in a gang-related shooting at Wilson and Sheridan.

Rick Addy, owner of Shake Rattle and Read used book and record store by the intersection of West Lawrence Avenue and Broadway, said he "looks forward to new business moving in to the Uptown area" to "make that a lively strip again."

But he expressed concerns that safety could be an issue and hoped that the alderman's office and officials were working hard to make the street safer.

"They have to do something about that. I think they're working on that, I hope," Addy said.

The alderman's office has been working with police and businesses and organizations in the area to improve safety in that part of the neighborhood, although vagrancy remains a problem.

Feher said that "with more businesses thriving in that area, the less there will be violence."

The drive-in will occupy a corridor also due for a major makeover between the $203 million reconstruction planned for the Wilson Red Line station, the potential transformation of a vacant bank building into an entertainment venue and restaurant, and the redesign of a nearby stretch of Broadway.

Officials have mentioned Sonic as an important complement to plans for a bolstered Uptown entertainment district.