WEST LAKEVIEW — One month after Whole Foods Market released a concept study for its new store, neighbors say the grocery company has ignored their concerns about the plans.
The current Whole Foods at 3300 N. Ashland Ave. is closing to make way for a 75,000-square-foot supermarket at the Ashland, Lincoln and Belmont intersection. The new store, set to open in 2017, will be the second largest in the Chicago area.
A concept study for a new Whole Foods Market has some neighbors concerned. (Provided/Melrose Street Concerned Residents)
Lakeview residents have applauded the move, with some shoppers saying it would be a better shopping experience than the "cramped" store.
"When we first heard about it, most people in the neighborhood were thrilled. We are all very excited about the idea of this moving and having a bigger one," Tricey Morelli said.
It wasn't until some residents saw a March 19 concept study that they became concerned, especially with grocery chain's plans lacking the addition of a public park on Melrose Street.
The park was originally included in the project development plan for a mixed-use building that led to the property's zoning change from residential to commercial, Morelli said. (Since then, plans to build a Target on the property have also fallen through.)
Other changes displeasing neighbors are:
• A second entrance/exit for the parking garage on Melrose Street, in addition to a Belmont Avenue entry
• A traffic light planned for the corner of Ashland and Melrose
• The building's planned exterior
"What we're not interested in is having a big black box sitting in a very residential area. It's Whole Foods Market, not Whole Foods Big Box. I think it's in everyone's interest to make it very attractive so that it fits in the neighborhood," Morelli said.
The planned Whole Foods Market in West Lakeview would be the city's second-largest, but residents are concerned the boxy design will be an unattractive addition to the neighborhood. (Provided/Melrose Street Concerned Residents)
She and other Melrose Street residents formed the Melrose Street Concerned Residents, which she said has since gained support from neighbors on adjacent streets. The group developed a counter proposal, figuring Whole Foods would welcome feedback from its neighbors.
That hasn't proved to be the case.
"We didn't hear anything back. Our concern is we're being ignored, I guess is the word," Morelli said.
After sending the counter proposal to 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney, West Lake View Neighbors, Novak Construction and an attorney for Whole Foods, Morelli said only Novak developers would meet with the neighbors.
"The Whole Foods members were not there, and so we didn't really have an opportunity to talk to them about their concerns or our suggestions. When I reached out to [the Whole Foods Market] attorney for this project, he said he wasn't available," Morelli said.
Street changes to make way for the new Whole Foods Market at Ashland, Lincoln and Belmont have some neighbors concerned about traffic. (Provided/Melrose Street Concerned Residents)
Whole Foods said it has received "a ton of positive feedback" since announcing the move.
"The Lakeview community has told us for almost 20 years the changes they'd like to see in the store. Some we were able to immediately address and others, due to the constraints of the size of the store, we weren't able to incorporate until now," spokeswoman Allison Phelps said in an email.
Phelps did not respond to further requests for comment.
Tunney's office received the proposal and asked the development team and the departments of transportation and planning and development to review the ideas. There will likely be a follow-up community presentation at the May 11 West Lake View Neighbors meeting before zoning and planning hearings take place, said Chief of Staff Bennett Lawson.
Lawson said a second meeting with neighbors directly affected by the grocery store would also be arranged.
Morelli insists the neighbors aren't looking to pick a fight with Whole Foods, but want their concerns addressed.
"I think it could become a beacon of the neighborhood, but we don't want to turn around and see they're starting construction without giving consideration to the neighbors' interests," Morelli said.
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