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Bucktown's Blighted Northern Gateway at Milwaukee, Western Ripe for Change

By Alisa Hauser | September 26, 2014 12:27pm | Updated on September 29, 2014 9:10am
 Illinois Title Loans has moved out and a developer has purchased the former loan shop's parking lot.
Changes Ahead for MIlwaukee, Western Bucktown Corner
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BUCKTOWN — A blighted patch of Bucktown at the southeast corner of Milwaukee and Western avenues could be seeing its next chapter, now that an unused parking lot belonging to the shuttered Illinois Title Loans complex has been bought. 

"It's an important corner and a starter point for those headed south to the [Bloomingdale] trail. I don't want it to sit there. I hope [developers] can also buy the title building because its a garbage dump now. It's disgusting," said Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd).

Waguespack is referring to Cal Partners LLC, the development firm that bought the former title loan company's parking lot on August 20 for $850,000, according to county records.

Though Cal Partners owner Alphonse Ilekis has laid claim to the parking lot — and recently fenced it off — the remainder of the Illinois Title Loans property is still up for sale, including the building itself, which once was a Checker's Drive-In restaurant.

Homeless people and vagrants, as they did even when the loan shop was open, continue to congregate in the building's driveway, much to the dismay of neighbors.

Next to the CTA Blue Line Western "L" station and across from a recently remodeled McDonald's, the corner properties include the parking lot at 1924 N. Milwaukee Ave. and the loan company building at 1920-22 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Andrew Cohen, who is working with Ilekis, said, "It's obviously a great corner and we plan on redeveloping it."

Ilekis' firm specializes in building commercial retail and strip malls. Cohen said his firm "thinks the best fit for the corner is retail."

Cohen added, "We could have a residential component, too, and are keeping options open."

Waguespack, who confirmed he met with Cohen and Ilekis, said, "It's still in the infancy stages but I want them to get to the community to talk about their plans."

Cohen said they are currently hoping to buy the Illinois Title Loan building, which is listed for sale for $1 million.

"It was like a pawn shop for your car but you can keep driving your car, " said Michael Klaskin, a realtor who is trying to sell the tiny 1,200-square-foot building, which sits on a 4,400-square-foot lot.

"It is under-serving the area. We think it would be more value and a better fit for the neighborhood to have a mixed-use building there, either office or apartments on the upper floors and retail on the ground level. There are lots of possibilities," Klaskin said.

Klaskin said that the Illinois Title Loan company had been renting both the building and the adjacent parking lot for several years on a month-to-month lease before shuttering a few weeks ago when the building's owner did not renew their lease.

Neighbors who have noticed the green fencing around the parking lot are hopeful that change is on the horizon.

"I feel like that corner has bigger potential. It's by the [CTA] Blue Line, with so many places right by it like the Belly Shack and Green Eye [Lounge]," said Jess Waldman, an art instructor at nearby Easel Art Studio, 1911 N. Milwaukee Ave.