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Binny's, Culver's Set for Redeveloped Bank Building; Aldi, Starbucks Out

By Heather Cherone | September 21, 2015 5:57am
 City funds would be used to save a historic theater and create space for nonprofit arts organizations in a renovated building.
Binny's, Culver's Set for Redeveloped Bank Building; Aldi, Starbucks Out
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PORTAGE PARK — A long vacant former bank building on the western edge of the Six Corners Shopping District is set to be transformed into a Binny's Beverage Depot and the first Culver's restaurant on the Northwest Side, the owner said Friday.

Binny's has agreed to lease the first floor of the former Bank of America building at 4901 W. Irving Park Road, said lawyer Charles Cui, who owns the nearly 50-year-old building that has been vacant since 2011.

"It is coming along quite well," Cui said of the effort to redevelop the bank building, which has progressed in fits and starts for the last several years.

In addition, Wisconsin-based Culver's — known for its "butter burgers" and frozen custard — has signed a letter of intent to open a restaurant with a drive-thru window just west of the former bank building where a tire shop used to operate, according to Culver's spokesman Paul Pitas.

Hilary Jurinak, Binny's communications coordinator, said the company could not comment on the Irving Park Road location but hoped to have "information available soon."

Binny's and Culver's interest in the site means grocery chain Aldi and coffee behemoth Starbucks are no longer considering opening stores in the building, Cui said.

Both Aldi and Strabucks signed letters of intent — a step short of signing a lease — before scrapping plans to open in Portage Park.

The 50,000-square-foot building is more than 70 percent leased, and will also feature the first Retro Fitness gym in Chicago, Cui said.

A 300-seat theater on the second floor, which was once home to the Northwest Chicago Film Society, will be restored, and offices for medical services and nonprofit arts groups will be created, according to the plans, which received a warm welcome from Portage Park residents at a community meeting in March.

Cui said he's still looking for a non-profit group to manage the theater.

Ald. John Arena (45th) supports the $16-million development, which promises to reshape half a city block between Lamon and Lavergne avenues on the western edge of Six Corners. It will benefit the community by "filling a hole in our shopping district," the alderman has said.

But Cui said he was still negotiating with city officials about the amount of money the project will receive from the city's Portage Park Tax Increment Financing District.

While Arena endorsed the development group's request for $2.5 million from the TIF fund, city officials have been pressing the team to make the project work with $2 million or less in public money, Cui said.

Without public money, the project is not feasible, Cui said.

"The TIF money is the final piece that we are waiting for," Cui said. "It is crucial."

The tax money is needed to preserve the theater and completely renovate the building built in the 1960s that was gutted by vandals four years ago and make it environmentally sensitive and efficient, officials said.

If approved by city officials, construction could start this fall, with the first stores opening in summer 2016, officials said.

The project would create between 75-100 construction jobs and 100-150 full-time jobs and generate $300,000 in sales tax revenue for the city, Bossy said.

The proposed development "honors the intent" of the master plan approved by the city in 2013, Arena said.

Efforts to revitalize the area around Irving Park Road and Cicero and Milwaukee avenues, which was once Chicago's premier shopping district outside the Loop, hinge on the redevelopment of the former bank building, according to the master plan.

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