CITY HALL — The Plan Commission Thursday unanimously approved an eight-story, 96-foot-tall building on the site of the current Dunkin' Donuts at Clark Street and Belmont Avenue.
The retail and residential building, which is expected to be anchored by what Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) called a "first-class grocery store" on the ground floor, will replace the doughnut shop commonly called the Punkin' Donuts because of the clientele brought in by the Alley just to the north.
"It's been a problem for the community for quite some time," said Jim Banks, an attorney for the developers.
"It's a problem with traffic," added Howard Hirsch, architect on the project. "It's a problem with people loitering."
The project had Tunney's support, as well as the general support of Mark Thomas, the Alley owner who is running against him for alderman, although Thomas spokeswoman Beverly Kleinman did express reservations about the contractor on the project and parking for the retail stores.
Commissioner Doris Holleb also expressed reservations on the lack of additional retail parking, but Tunney maintained there was adequate street parking and abundant foot traffic from the nearby Belmont CTA station.
"It is a handsome project," Tunney said, adding that the "first-class grocery store" would address a "little food desert" with the loss some years ago of a Dominick's on Broadway in Lakeview.
The $50 million project at 3200 N. Clark St. went through several iterations with neighborhood groups before sailing through a final ward meeting on Wednesday night.
BlitzLake Capital's project started out as 10-story, modern, glass tower last fall and eventually went down to an eight-story, more traditional-looking corner building.
The final plan included 90 apartment units, two floors of retail and 39 residential parking spaces. Retail is expected to include a small, "fresh market"-type grocery store.
At a sparsely attended meeting Wednesday night, neighbors largely approved of the latest plan, though they still asked questions about parking and loading.
Some questioned where employees of the retail portion would park, while others wanted to know why the building just a block away from the Belmont CTA stop couldn't have zero parking.
Architect Howard Hirsch said that no one felt comfortable bringing the building down to zero parking, only with reducing it. Earlier renderings had as many as 120 parking spaces.
"Going through the powers that be, you have to go through compromises," Hirsch said. "We thought this was a good one."
At Thursday's Plan Commission meeting, Hirsch emphasized that loading docks would fully enclose delivery trucks, which would have access off Clark and not extend into the street.
Residents will get first chance at reserving parking spaces, but Hirsch said the spaces are flexible and could potentially be used for employees, too. One resident pointed to nearby garages that largely sit empty during the day and could be used for employee parking.
If developers gain the rest of the approvals needed in the City Council, they plan to start demolition before winter, Hirsch said. The construction schedule takes about 16 months, with an optimistic move-in date of late 2015.