NOBLE SQUARE — Plans are underway to bring a four-story, 95,033-square-foot Audi car dealership to a parking lot near the North Avenue Kennedy Expressway ramp.
At a Monday meeting in front of 25 Noble Square residents who live near the proposed development, the owner of the proposed car dealer said that an Audi sales center at 1521 W. North Ave. would bring minimal traffic to the side streets of Bosworth and Greenview avenues.
"A lot of you would prefer that nothing be there. This will be much better than a Best Buy, or a drive-through bank or an Apple store. We look forward to being a great neighbor," said David Gonzalez, president of the Las Vegas-based firm Fletcher Jones that owns three car other dealerships in the Chicago.
One of the firm's ventures, a Mercedes-Benz dealership, which replaced a demolished Blockbuster at 1520 W. North Ave., is already across the street from the proposed site.
On average, the Mercedes-Benz showroom gets 10 to 15 customers daily and around 30 on its busiest day, Saturday, Gonzalez said.
"Fletcher Jones is in the business of selling cars; it's important that we are integrated into the community and that you feel good about us being here," Gonzalez said.
To alleviate neighbor concerns over losing up to 12 parking spaces on the street, Gonzalez promised that the firm's estimated 40 employees — only 30 of whom will be working at any given time between the Benz and Audi showrooms — will take a shuttle bus to and from work.
The shuttle bus will depart from a new Elston Avenue service center.
The proposed North Avenue Audi sales building will showcase approximately 13 new Audi cars and a floor of used cars. There will be 22 parking spots for customers, as well as up to 40 spaces of underground valet parking.
A frustrated neighbor, who declined to be named, told Gonzalez, "You will eliminate six on-street spots on Bosworth, six on Greenview. That's 12 cars forced to park elsewhere in an already congested neighborhood."
Gonzalez said the North Avenue dealership will be strictly for sales and that services and repairs — to be offered elsewhere — generate the most traffic.
The community gathering, held in advance of a Zoning and Planning Committee vote on a zoning change amendment, was arranged at the request of outgoing Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd).
Brian Hopkins, the 2nd Ward's incoming alderman, elected Tuesday, was not immediately available for comment on whether he would support the zoning change amendment.
After the meeting, held in the Pulaski Park Field House, 1419 W. Blackhawk St., Timothy Stevens, a spokesman for Fioretti, said the plan would need the blessing of the new alderman.
Currently zoned for retail and office use, Fletcher Jones is seeking an amendment to the site that will allow for car sales.
Christine Hutton, a residential Realtor who lives in the 1400 block of North Bosworth Avenue, said she is "supportive" of the plan.
"It's a good business that will have minimal impact on the neighborhood," Hutton said.
Earlier in the meeting, Kapra Fleming, owner of the House of Two Urns, a bed and breakfast at 1239 N. Greenview Ave., reminded her neighbors that a drive-through bank was once planned for the site and that would have brought far more traffic than a car dealership.
If all goes as Gonzalez plans, a building permit would be issued in December and construction would start soon after, with an estimated completion date by the end of 2016, Gonzalez said.
The Audi dealership's hours would be 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday though Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
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.
A zoning amendment hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. on April 16, according to a letter that was sent to some 3500 residents, attorney Katriina McGuire said.
Proposed Audi Sales Center by Gensler Architects.
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