WICKER PARK — After several months of talks, Trader Joe's has abandoned plans to set up shop on the northeast corner of Division and Honore streets in Wicker Park, the project's developer told DNAinfo Chicago on Thursday.
"Trader Joe's takes very seriously when they say they are a neighborhood grocer, and given some of the vocal opponents to the location, they did not feel that they were welcome in the neighborhood," said Kevin Henning, president of Smithfield Construction Group.
Smithfield Construction bought the former lumberyard at 1811-25 W. Division St. in 2012, and was planning to build a three-story development of 14,900 square feet for the Trader Joe's on the first floor and two adjacent retail storefronts offering about 2,000 square feet each, according to plans.
A spokeswoman from Trader Joe's declined to comment, but 1st Ward Ald. Joe Moreno confirmed Thursday that he received notice from both Smithfield Construction and Trader Joe's about the pulling out of the project.
"I think there were some benefits and downsides to the development," Moreno said.
Among the challenges the grocer would have faced in opening include the lifting of a packaged goods liquor moratorium, turning Honore into a two-way street and adding a traffic light.
At the center of the issue was the proposed grocer's proximity to a school.
Shortly after news arrived in February that Trader Joe's was interested in setting up shop, Moreno made it a priority for developers to earn the support of LaSalle II Elementary School, 1148 N. Honore St., which neighbors the proposed store.
A community meeting in April brought several hundred residents who lined up in support and opposition of the plan. Parents connected to LaSalle II School vocally opposed the plan, though the Local School Council gave preliminary support of it, while asking the developer to address financial, safety and traffic concerns.
Ronda Locke, a member of the school's LSC, said she was "extremely relieved" by Trader Joe's decision to withdraw its plans.
"For the safety of children and the impact on the community and Division [Street], I am pleased they recognized this isn't a slam dunk. I hope for their own sake they find a better car-centric location and consider places such as the Megamall in Logan Square," Locke said.
Locke was referring to the Discount Megamall, 2500 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Logan Square, where 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack has pushed for a grocery store.
Moreno said he is encouraging Trader Joe's to look at other locations in Wicker Park and Logan Square "that would be less controversial."
Moreno declined to reveal which locations he is promoting to the grocery chain but said, "A Trader Joe's would be great for business in any community."
Henning declined to comment on any other other developments planned for the spot, saying only, "We are disappointed."
Before Smithfield Construction's Trader Joe's proposal, the firm had planned to build a four-story development with two Lettuce Entertain You restaurants on the ground level and 39 apartments, but that did worked out either.
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