BEVERLY — An Advance Auto Parts store is proposed for the property next to the 95th Street Metra station.
And while train riders probably aren't its target market, the auto parts store at 1800 W. 95th St. — just west of the busy Metra depot — seems to be a go.
"I'd love to be able to put something that is more of a splash there, but nobody is interested," said Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th).
O'Shea's comments came after news of the development was posted online and questioned as the best possible use of the property that abuts the busy train station.
"Am I disappointed it's not a mixed use development? Yeah, I am," Danna said Monday.
Danna reiterated what he wrote in his blog, namely that a building with commercial storefronts on the first floor and apartments or condominiums above would be the preferred fit.
He said such a property adjacent to the train tracks would cater to commuters who rely on Metra's Rock Island rail line to get to work downtown. It could also lay the groundwork for walkable shops, restaurants and other tenants.
But O'Shea said he's patiently waited for such a tenant. In fact, the property from 1800-1814 W. 95th Street was put up for auction twice since he became alderman. It received zero bids.
In light of no one else stepping up, the latest proposal seems to be a way to rejuvenate the stretch of languishing storefronts.
"Is it a Whole Foods? No," he said of the auto parts store.
A coffee shop is the most commonly recommended tenant for the area. But O'Shea cited three coffee vendors who have opened and subsequently closed due to poor sales around 95th Street over the past decade — two of which shut down in the past two years.
"We've had coffee shops along the train tracks. In fact, we've had coffee for sale in the 95th Street train station," O'Shea said.
He specifically cited Markland Hubbard Gourmet Provisions, which has since moved from 95th Street to near the 99th Street Metra Station. Iona's Beverly Hills Cafe also closed its 95th Street store and moved to suburban Blue Island.
As for a mixed-use proposal, O'Shea said there are already "hundreds" of vacant apartments nearby, so it's no surprise that developers never stepped up.
These factors all contributed to O'Shea giving the go ahead to the auto parts store, which will also include a parking lot.
"We are supporting it, and it's going to happen," he said.
Danna seemed resigned to the development but added that a new vision is needed for 95th Street. The once busy commercial strip has clearly fallen on hard times.
He believes the area can rebound by embracing foot traffic, adding that standalone businesses — like the auto parts store — only encourages more cars.
Customers willing to walk can become discouraged by such stores as parking lots make for long stretches between shopping. Meanwhile, vehicles also zoom by at high speeds, lessening the feeling of safety for those on the sidewalk, he said.
"If you look at 95th Street, the potential is there," Danna said. "95th Street is almost our downtown."
O'Shea didn't discount the benefits of walkable shopping district, but he believes the 19th Ward is overwhelmed with small storefronts. In the case of Advance Auto Parts, a new, modern store will replace seven long-vacant spots.
And while it may not be ideal, he's backing the store for several reasons — not the least of which is his desire to return the property to a sales- and property-tax-generating parcel.
"It's also going to create jobs ... that's what we need to create," O'Shea said.
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