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Wicker Park Rising Rents Force Nail Salon, Resale Shop Off Milwaukee Avenue

By Alisa Hauser | July 1, 2014 8:07am
 Two vintage buildings at 1308-10 N. Milwaukee Ave. are being remodeled by a developer who has given the current tenants lease extensions though ultimately is planning for new tenants.
1308-19 N. Milwaukee Ave.
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WICKER PARK — Rising rents in Wicker Park's southern corridor near Milwaukee and Ashland avenues are forcing a nail salon to close as its neighbor, a resale clothing shop run by a Jewish social services agency, plans to move.

Henry Nguyen, owner of Sunny Nails at 1310 N. Milwaukee Ave. said the salon is planning to close July 31.

Nguyen said he no longer could not afford the storefront's rent, which would have nearly doubled if he renewed his lease.

Veronica Smith, manager of The Ark at 1308 N. Milwaukee Ave., confirmed that the clothing shop, which opened in 2009 as a complimentary shop next to The Ark's main location at 1302 N. Milwaukee Ave., would be closing by the end of the year.

 After nearly 20 years in the neighborhood, Sunny Nails will be closing at the end of July, owner Henry Nguyen confirmed.
After nearly 20 years in the neighborhood, Sunny Nails will be closing at the end of July, owner Henry Nguyen confirmed.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

Smith said the shop was not able to work out a new lease and will be moving rather than closing.

The changing storefronts are part of a wave of changes along Wicker Parks' southern gateway, a two-block stretch of Milwaukee Avenue that has "been along the peripheral for several years," one area leader said.

Alisa Hauser explains how Wicker Park's redevelopment may only be beginning:

"That block of Milwaukee has kind of caught fire. The Centrum guys kicked it off," said Ed Tamminga, chairman of the Wicker Park Committee's preservation and development subcommittee.

Tamminga was referring to Centrum Development's recasting of a shopping mall complex into the Wicker Park Commons, as well as a plan by LG Development Group to bring a large transit-oriented development to 1237-53 N. Milwaukee Ave. 

The project surge has turned a spotlight on the southern end of Milwaukee rather than the neighborhood's main hub at Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues.

In February, a venture led by real estate developer Josh Mintzer bought the three-story terra cotta building at 1308 N. Milwaukee Ave. building for nearly $1.1 million and the adjacent building at 1310 N. Milwaukee Ave. for $1.3 million, according to county records.

"My core business is buying retail properties and repositioning them," Mintzer said, adding that his belief in the southern end of Milwaukee Avenue as a retail corridor is "somewhat bullish."

"There was never a southern anchor for Wicker Park but with Wicker Park Commons being completed there is now an anchor. In the next couple of years I see a nice fill-in between the Wicker Commons and six corners [at Milwaukee, Damen and North]," Mintzer said.

Mintzer is planning on doing some facade work and tuckpointing on the building at 1308 N. Milwaukee, which once housed a hat company. The 2,500 square-foot lofts above the clothing shop, which feature tall ceilings, could be rented out as "live-work space for creative office types," Mintzer said.

Mintzer is also planning to renovate the apartments above Sunny Nails.

Elsewhere on the block, Mintzer is in the process of buying two buildings at 1348-50 N. Milwaukee Ave., where Central Furniture Mart plans to close at the end of July.

Central Furniture's co-owner Ricardo Dasilva said the decision to sell the buildings and move to Humboldt Park was prompted by a desire to be closer to where the furniture shop's customers live. 

Mintzer predicts more furniture shops will leave Wicker Park.

"Once you see one of these furniture shops go, it will take one big swing in this corridor," Mintzer said.

"All these furniture owners have had their buildings in their families forever, that has kept other retailers out. Those sellers have not been motivated to sell but their demographic is moving out" of the area, Mintzer said. 

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