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Businesses Near Elston/Fullerton/Damen Intersection Prepare for Demolition

By Alisa Hauser | September 11, 2014 4:04pm
 Work is scheduled to begin in the near future on the reconfiguration of the Damen, Elston and Fullerton intersection.  The major project will impact several local companies and workers.
Damen, Elston and Fullerton Intersection Update
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BUCKTOWN —  With a makeover of Bucktown's busy and oft-clogged Damen, Elston, and Fullerton intersection set to begin in the spring, many in the area are asking the same question: When will the demolition start?

"We are still on standby. We are not telling customers yet because they have not told us anything," said Liz Corona, a district manager for a Dunkin' Donuts at 1927 W. Fullerton Ave. in Bucktown.

CDOT tells Alisa Hauser that the demolition and construction project is on track:

The Dunkin' Donuts, along with several other buildings, are scheduled to be demolished this fall so the city can reconfigure the intersection, part of a $36.3 million project expected to begin this spring and be completed by December 2015, officials said in April 2013.

 The city announced Wednesday that it will "reconfigure" the Damen-Elston-Fullerton intersection in the fall. Here's some of the proposed renderings.
Ciy to Reconfigure Damen-Elston-Fullerton intersection
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On Wednesday, Pete Scales, a Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman, confirmed the project is still on track, with demolition to begin in October.

Scheduled for Oct. 1, the first building to be demolished is a storage warehouse at 1875 W. Fullerton Ave., owned by the Fullerton Avenue Company, a subsidiary of Newsweb Corp.

The city is acquiring the warehouse and surrounding land through a court order, according to county records.

"The new Elston [Avenue] will go straight through our property, right where our building is. We didn't have a lot of active use of the property, it was a development site for us. The taking [by the city] impacts our ability to develop it," said Charley Gross, president of Newsweb Corp.

The intersection makeover will realign Elston Avenue, so it will bypass the current intersection and cross Fullerton about one block east of the current intersection.

Click here to view a map of the plan.

The rerouting of Elston Avenue will lessen the impact of traffic at the intersection, which sees 70,000 vehicles a day and consistently ranks in the top five intersections for the most traffic accidents each year.

Waits to make a turn at the intersection can be as long as seven minutes, city officials said.

The project will impact several companies, some of which are relocating, like Whirlyball, which is scheduled to open at a new location at 1823 W. Webster Ave. by Thanksgiving, according to owner Sam Elias.

On Wednesday, Elias said that he was asked by the city to vacate Whirlyball's original location at 1880 W. Fullerton by Nov. 1. 

Elias said the Nov. 1 request to vacate "is just not feasible." 

"We will vacate when our [new] building is ready and that is the end of November. We plan on staying open until we relocate. We expect that to happen right before Thanksgiving," Elias said.

Scales could not immediately confirm when WhirlyBall, which is part of a four-storefront complex that includes a My Gym, a fitness training center and a shuttered card outlet, would be demolished.

Scales confirmed demolition is scheduled to start Oct. 1 at 1875 W. Fullerton Ave. but could not provide a date on when the Dunkin Donuts would be torn down.

"We anticipate that all properties will be fully acquired by November," Scales said.

Meanwhile, Corona said the Dunkin' Donut's franchise owner, Amyn Ali, who owns nine other other Dunkin Donuts including the 1927 W. Fullerton outpost, is looking at sites for relocation.

"It is a little weird since we don't know the date of when exactly they will demolish. We have to grow as a company and it's awkward to not know," Corona said.

In addition to those locations, Midtown Athletic Club at 2020 W. Fullerton Ave. will be partially demolishing their fitness center building next summer, after a replacement facility is in place, Scales said.

Vienna Beef at 2501 N. Damen Ave. is the largest of the companies impacted by the intersection makeover.  The firm has made plans to relocate its plant from Bucktown to Bridgeport.

While sitting on a picnic table at the Vienna Beef Factory Store and Cafe earlier this week, Terry Knight, a shipping and receiving clerk at the factory, said that the plant's workers have not been given a firm date on when the move will take place.

Knight has worked for the sausage and hot dog maker for 38 years and will spend his last three years before retirement commuting to and from the new Bridgeport plant.

"At first we thought November, but now it could be February or March. I do know we want to get it done before April because that is the beginning of hot dog season," Knight said.

According to city documents, Vienna's manufacturing and distribution facility is expected to open in December. The Vienna Beef Factory Store will still be open for at least a couple of years in Bucktown.

The longtime Chicago company announced last year it was leaving its home in Bucktown because of the construction.

The route rejiggering would cut right through the company's front doors and could "impair Vienna's vehicular access, onsite functioning and any future expansion opportunities," according to a city department of housing and economic development report. 

CONTRIBUTING: Casey Cora

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