ALBANY PARK — Ald. Deb Mell (33rd) has denied permission for a "curb cut" requested for a proposed Walgreens at Kimball and Lawrence avenues — in effect quashing plans for a parking lot on the corner of the site.
In meetings with the Centrum Partners developers and at a community forum held in January, Mell repeatedly stated her opposition to any design that places parking rather than the actual building at the intersection of two major thoroughfares.
"We want buildings in the front and parking in back" to encourage walkability and a sense of community, she said at last week's inaugural meeting of the ward's Transportation Advisory Council. "How we move through the city is becoming less auto-centric."
Mell's denial of the curb cut, necessary for the lot's driveway, puts the ball in Centrum's court.
"We are still working with the alderman and her office. It'd be in everyone's best interests to see something developed here," said John McLinden, Centrum managing partner. "It's a neighborhood that could use a shot in the arm."
Centrum's announcement last week of a mixed-use, transit-oriented development adjacent to the Paulina Brown Line station in Lakeview had some questioning why the Albany Park site, directly across from the Kimball Brown Line station, wasn't receiving the same treatment.
"Same developer is behind the car-centric Walgreens proposal at Lawrence/Kimball. Walk the walk, gang, not just talk the talk," tweeted Shylo Bisnett, founder of the Albany Park Neighbors community group.
"It's a completely different location," McLinden responded. "What would work at Lincoln and Roscoe wouldn't work at Lawrence and Kimball."
Base rents in Lakeview are 30 percent higher than Albany Park, he explained.
The apartment/retail mix in Lakeview "makes no economic sense at Lawrence and Kimball. That's just the facts," McLinden said.
If mixed-use were feasible in Albany Park, "trust me, we'd do it in a heartbeat," he said. "Without Walgreens as an anchor, this project wouldn't make any sense."
McLinden cited a number of benefits Walgreens would bring to the community, including 35 full-time jobs and hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales tax revenues. Such a significant investment at Lawrence and Kimball could spark further growth in the neighborhood, he said, which is the same reason Mell is arguing against the design put forth by Centrum.
"That is the cornerstone of that area," she said of the intersection. "If we start badly there, it's just going to get worse."