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Wicker Park Trader Joe's Has Residents Lining up in Support, Opposition

By Emily Morris | April 16, 2014 7:35am | Updated on April 16, 2014 9:46am
 A proposed plan to bring a Trader Joe's to 1819-25 W. Division St. in Wicker Park was discussed at a community meeting.
Trader Joe's Community Meeting
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WICKER PARK — As residents wait for updates on a proposed Trader Joe's on Division Street, one neighbor has started a petition to block the new development while another countered with a pro-Wicker Park Trader Joe's Facebook page.

East Village resident Ronda Locke started the petition over the weekend as part of a "No Trader Joe's on Division" website. By Tuesday, the petition had generated discussion across a number of community Facebook pages, with residents weighing in on both sides.

The petition argues that the grocery store would be unsafe for kids who attend a nearby school, create traffic problems and clash with the vibe of the neighborhood street.

"I feel that I can't just sit back and let this happen," Locke said.

Emily Morris chats with DNAinfo Radio about the debate over the proposed Trader Joe's:

The proposed Trader Joe's at 1811-25 W. Division St. would be near LaSalle II Magnet Elementary School, 1148 N. Honore St., and the store plans to change Honore from a one-way to a two-way street. The Trader Joe's would also need two liquor moratoriums lifted in order to sell alcohol.

The Smithfield Properties' development would be three stories. Trader Joe's would span 14,900 square feet on the first floor, and two retail storefronts would take up about 2,000 square feet each, according to plans by architect Joe Antunovich.

Locke, who has two children at LaSalle, is one of a number of parents and residents who have expressed worries about increased traffic possibly affecting kids getting to and from school or diverting motorists to neighborhood streets.

"You cannot underestimate the traffic concerns," said Locke, who added that she's not opposed to a Trader Joe's coming to the neighborhood, but to the proposed location.

Others have said the Trader Joe's would be a welcome option for the neighborhood, and in response to the petition, Wicker Park resident Anna Rooney launched a "Bring Trader Joes to Wicker Park" Facebook page.

"A lot of us are very excited about having an affordable grocery store within walking distance," said Rooney, who lives with her husband and 9-month-old son within a block of the proposed store.

Rooney said she understands the potential traffic problems, but "I think the benefits of the Trader Joe’s outweighs that."

Jim Houlihan, a local adviser to Smithfield Properties, said a traffic study is being created to show the expected impact on neighborhood streets. The study has been delayed to incorporate more feedback, according to Smithfield Construction President Kevin Henning.

"We’re working to address all of those concerns," Houlihan said. "It’s important that the traffic study be completed so there’s a concrete discussion about facts, rather than feelings."

Locke said she's also worried about bringing a chain store to a street largely focused on independent businesses.

But for Rooney, local doesn't always translate to affordable.

"I love the neighborhood, and I love that we have a lot of options, but honestly, we can’t really afford most of them," Rooney said.

Locke said she expects to count the number of signatures on the petition sometime in the next few weeks and is also anticipating the traffic study.