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Waguespack Wants Public Chicago River Access as Part of Vienna Beef Revamp

By Alisa Hauser | May 13, 2015 9:56am

Architect Andy Koglin of OKW Architects walks meeting attendees through the proposed site plan for the Vienna Beef redevelopment. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]

BUCKTOWN —  Plans to bring a grocery store, shopping and dining complex to a former Vienna Beef factory were unveiled Tuesday at a sparsely attended community meeting hosted by Bucktown Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd).

Bounded by Damen, Fullerton, the soon-to-be-created "new" Elston Avenue, which will loop around the Damen and Fullerton intersection to alleviate congestion, and the Chicago River, the seven-acre redevelopment site will incorporate the existing administrative offices and public factory store for the storied hot dog maker.

Rich Klawiter, a lawyer for Vienna Beef, explained that the impetus for the redevelopment was the city's long-anticipated remake of the Damen, Elston and Fullerton intersection.

Having owned the land since the 1970s, Vienna Beef needed to relocate their plant because of the planned intersection changes and construction, which would make it impossible for trucks to go in and out of the already clogged area on the border of Lincoln Park and Bucktown.

Alisa Hauser explains the details of the proposed plan:

Waguespack goes over a map of the site plan with a resident.  [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]

Though Vienna Beef had previously hoped to have its plant fully moved to Bridgeport by this spring, Vienna Beef's president Jim Bodman said it will likely happen before the end of the year.

The plant employs 250 workers whose jobs will stay in Chicago.

Renderings by OKW architects show a 55,000-square-foot grocery store, two separate restaurants totaling 14,000 square feet and a 12,000-square-foot retailer.

So far, Chick-Fil-A  is "first out of the gates" in signing on to the project, Klawiter said.

Set to occupy an 8,000 square-foot building with a drive-through window, the fast food eatery will have 61 parking spaces located on the southeast portion of the parcel, along a stretch of "New Elston" that will be built so Elston can curve around and bypass the clogged and dangerous intersection.

Architect Andy Koglin of OKW Architects walks meeting attendees through the proposed site plan for the Vienna Beef redevelopment. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]

The mall would not be accessible through Damen and just one "curb cut" or entrance would be on Fullerton, for cars turning right only (no left turns exiting the complex onto Fullerton would be permitted). 

The main entry to the site would be via the soon-to-be rerouted Elston Avenue.

Klawiter said the project's traffic plan is being worked on closely with the Chicago Department of Transportation, which has "conceptually signed off on [the] plans."

A CDOT spokesman was not immediately available early Wednesday for a comment on the site's traffic plan.

Linda O'Connell has lived about a block and a half from the Vienna Beef factory for 30 years and was among a small handful of residents who attended meeting —  mostly packed with Vienna Beef executives, brokers from Mid-America Real Estate, representatives from Chick Fil A, lawyers and reporters.

O'Connell said she is most concerned about the traffic.

"When developers get to do what they want, the trade off should be more river access. A concentrated plan to have more of a bike path that is closer to Downtown would be great too. We have a great alderman and I trust him to strongly do the right thing," O'Connell said after the meeting.

Waguespack emphasized that river access, open to the public, should be part of the plan for about 300 feet of embankment along the river.

Waguespack also said he is advocating for the 12,000-square-foot retail spot in the complex to be sports or outdoor related, too.

Steve Lipe, a Bucktown resident and prolific Wicker Park real estate developer, encouraged the developers to consider adding mixed-use residential options to the already approved commercial-only zoning.

"I think offering an alternative development that is walkable would create more of a buzz than big boxes," Lipe said.

Klawiter replied that the tax base revenue from commercial use will be more than for  manufacturing use. Klawiter added that, "Chick- Fil-A sales are "robust."

Paul Bryant, a broker with Mid-America Real Estate, which is leasing out the spots, said he is "very close" to signing on other tenants, including a major grocery store but declined to elaborate.

Vienna Beef President Jim Bodman listens to resident's concerns at a redevelopment meeting Tuesday. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]

Vienna Beef Redevelopment Site Plan by Mid-America Real Estate

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