LOGAN SQUARE — While many residents have been eagerly awaiting the opening of the Middle Eastern restaurant Masada, some neighbors are less enthused about something that will come with it — a 17,000-square-foot parking lot.
Masada's owner, Shadi Ramli, also runs the wildly popular Sultan's Market in Wicker Park, so Masada would have an existing customer base in Logan Square.
The project has been slow going since Ramli bought the building at 2206 N. California Ave. some 10 years ago, because he wanted to open the new spot using cash instead of going into debt.
Because of the building's zoning designation and parking requirement for the size of the space, Ramli was told he'd have to provide a handful of off-street parking spots, and also bought a 17,000-square-foot lot across the street.
"I'm not a big fan about talking about it, because right now I'm getting a lot of heartache about it," Ramli said of the lot when reached by phone Monday.
The problem for some neighbors is that they don't want a drab parking lot so close to a particularly pedestrian-friendly corridor of Milwaukee Avenue, and just a few hundred feet away from the California Blue Line station.
"Why does a restaurant directly across the street from a popular L station need a parking lot?" nearby resident Jacob Marshall wrote in an email to DNAinfo. "You can literally see the place from the platform! Such a waste."
Justin Ruiz, a 22-year-old student who lives a few blocks north of the lot, also questioned putting a parking lot in a spot where so many other businesses do without.
"A lot of people around here do bike or take the Blue Line," he said. "None of those places [on Milwaukee Avenue] have parking lots."
Ramli said he has received dozens of similar emails complaining about it, but said the city requires him to provide the spots.
It is not unheard of for such parking requirements to be waived. As the transit blog StreetsBlog Chicago reported, nearby Revolution Brewing and The Radler were able to get out of their parking requirements by petitioning to change the zoning and getting a zoning waiver, respectively.
Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) said he, too, has heard from residents upset about the lot, but points out that Ramli owns it and that the city has no say in the matter of the lot itself.
"I get it, I'd love for it to be a park, too, but he owns it," he said, adding that it's unfortunate the issue is causing problems for Ramli.
"He's a great guy," Moreno said. "He built an immigrant business in Wicker Park, he started from nothing, and now he's got this beautiful restaurant where he lives, in Logan Square with his mother."
Ramli and his mother, who established Sultan's Market, emigrated from Jordan in the 1980s.
Moreno said he suggested adding some trees, bushes and even a bench or two to the lot to make it a little more appealing, which Ramli has agreed to, along with opening up the lot for other uses, such as farmers markets.
"There's $54,000 worth of landscaping going into it," Ramli said. "It's going to be a great place and we're going to be an asset to the community."