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Mixed-Use Tower with 25 Units, Retail Tenants Proposed for The Alley Site

By Ariel Cheung | January 16, 2016 12:34pm | Updated on January 19, 2016 8:38am
 Mark Thomas, owner of The Alley, fears his building, originally a theater built in the 1920s, will be irreparably damaged by construction next door for the Belmont Clark development.
Mark Thomas, owner of The Alley, fears his building, originally a theater built in the 1920s, will be irreparably damaged by construction next door for the Belmont Clark development.
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DNAinfo Chicago/Ariel Cheung

LAKEVIEW — A mixed-use development proposed for the site of The Alley could leave the century-old facade intact, but it poses "some challenges," according to the proposal.

Developer Craig Knapp wants to build a 25-unit apartment building with one or two commercial tenants. Hawthorne Neighbors will consider the proposal during its Wednesday meeting at Home Run Inn, 3215 N. Sheffield Ave.

The development would stand 75 feet tall — approximately six or seven stories — which would line up with the side of 3200 N. Clark St. where the two buildings meet.

Plans for 3200 N. Clark St. show a maximum height of 96 feet, while the side that would meet with the former site of The Alley stands around 75 feet. [Provided/44th Ward]

The building would also have a loading dock off the alley for commercial use and moving tenants in and out of the apartments.

The site's proximity to the Belmont ''L'' station qualifies it for reduced parking under the city's transit-oriented development ordinance. Its future neighbor, the 3200 N. Clark St. project, also qualifies and will have 90 apartment units and 39 parking spaces.

The first two floors of 3200 N. Clark St. will have retail space anchored by a scaled-back Target, originally called a TargetExpress before the company dropped the concept.

Knapp plans to have fewer than 10 parking spaces for his 25 apartments, which will likely be a hot-button issue for residents concerned about the availability of parking along Clark and Belmont. The plans do not list any parking spots for the commercial space.

Knapp hopes to preserve the terra cotta facade that has stood at 3226-28 N. Clark St. for a century, but he faces some challenges due to the building's height, the proposal's outline states.

"We are optimistic on keeping all or most of it," he wrote.

The Alley's owner Mark Thomas said in the past that he considered going through the process to get building's facade designated as historically significant. The city does not list it among its protected structures.

Prior to The Alley, the space was a thrift store in the 1980s. Originally, the Clearmont Theater showed movies like "Leak in the Foreign Office" and "The Play's the Thing" as early as 1914, according to archives posted on the Lakeview Historical Chronicles blog. The theater installed a Robert Morton pipe organ in 1924 to play background music for silent films, the blog reports.

The neighborhood movie theater opened in the early 1910s and closed after World War II, according to Cinema Treasures.

If Knapp's proposal moves forward, it will be another significant shift for the central Lakeview corridor.

When 3200 N. Clark St. broke ground in August, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) pledged it would become "a major catalyst toward re-energizing" central Lakeview.

"We felt this was an area that needed to the extra density, needed more eyes on it at all hours of the day," Tunney said at the groundbreaking ceremony.

The project has substantially altered the intersection at Clark and Belmont, demolishing the aptly nicknamed "Punkin Donuts" and buildings that housed The Architectural Revolution, Taboo Tabou and Blue Havana cigar shop — all businesses Mark Thomas owns in addition to The Alley.

Thomas announced in December that The Alley would close after 39 years in Lakeview, partially blaming construction at 3200 N. Clark St. for "slaughtering" his sales.

On Saturday night, Thomas is gathering former employees and longtime customers for the store's funeral. The Alley will close Wednesday, but Thomas said he hopes to launch a new concept with the same spirit going forward.

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