NOBLE SQUARE — The owners of a Mercedes Benz dealership just west of the North Avenue Kennedy Expy. ramp are planning to build an Audi showroom on a parking lot that they have long used for storage.
Fletcher Jones, a Las Vegas-based firm that owns three car other dealerships in the city, including a Gold Coast Audi showroom, is seeking a zoning change to build a four-story, 95,033-square-foot Audi dealership at 1521 W. North Ave., Crain's reported Friday.
Currently in the 1st Ward, the large lot — among the first things that people see when they are entering or leaving the Wicker Park neighborhood via North Avenue — will become part of the new 2nd Ward when the new city ward map takes effect after February's election.
On Monday, Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) said he supports the project, but has not examined all of the plans in detail yet.
"I support economic growth and job development in the new 2nd Ward. This would be good for the city," Fioretti said, adding that he plans to discuss the matter with the community and it will depend on how quickly Fletcher Jones is "prepared to do so" and whether they will offer good outreach to residents.
The proposal is for a "planned development," which is a designation for large developments that require additional oversight with city planners to ensure that the plans fit with the surrounding neighborhood.
The zoning change was scheduled to be voted on by members of the city's commission on Zoning and Landmarks in December but was deferred and currently has no rescheduled date, Cathy VanAlstin, a city staffer said on Monday.
The site was already approved for a planned development but the change they are seeking is to modify the zoning from use of a parking lot to use of a car dealership, VanAltsin said.
Fletcher Jones acquired the parking lot at 1521 W. North Ave. for $5.83 million in 2008, according to county records.
For the past several years, the empty lot has been used to store Mercedes Benz's fleet of Sprinter Passenger vans.
When asked if he would support the use of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds to build the new dealership, Fioretti said, "Before we get into TIF, we need to see what the use is and why. If they will have TIF funding, will they hire from the community? I want to see community hiring tied to TIF funding," Fioretti said.
Dave Gonzalez, president of Fletcher Jones' Audi dealership at 1111 N. Clark St. in the Gold Coast, did not initially return several calls seeking comment.
Late Monday, Gonzalez said that there will be a community meeting to discuss the project, though no date has been set.
The Noble Square Audi dealership plan would include 85 parking spaces, 58 of which would be valet, according to an October letter sent by the firm's attorney, Katriina McGuire, to property owners within 250 feet of the proposed development.
Area resident Annie Swingen said she and her neighbors are worried about the density of the building and the traffic it would bring.
"It is a huge building that is going to be plopped down on the corner of a residential street. I think we need to have a discussion with them. As neighbors we want to see what they are planning for our neighborhood and want to know how parking would be handled," Swingen said.
Andrea Miller, a commercial real estate broker, said that she while she supports the plan, she believes the proposed dealership "will bring a lot of density and traffic to that intersection and highway entrance which is already congested."
Miller is currently working with developers Sedgwick Partners to bring new tenants to the base of a planned 4-story, 29-unit apartment building at 1545 W. North Ave., next to the proposed Audi dealership. That plan will include 30 parking spots, the majority indoors, Miller said.
The new Audi dealership would be designed by Gensler Architects, the same firm that built the firm's Audi dealership in the Gold Coast, which opened five years ago.
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