PORTAGE PARK — A long-vacant lot at Irving Park Road and Central Avenue would be transformed into a two-building strip mall anchored by a drive-thru Starbucks, under a plan being considered by Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th.)
Sposato will host a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Portage Park Senior Center, 4100 N. Long Ave., to discuss the proposal, which he said he has "mixed feelings" about.
Sposato said he wanted to see the lot — which he said had been an "eyesore" for 10 years — redeveloped and a "crappy corner" across Irving Park Road from Portage Park's namesake park improved.
But Sposato said he was worried the coffee behemoth could hurt Portage Grounds and Perkolator, both of which have become neighborhood institutions.
"They might be able to co-exist because they have different customers, but I don't know," Sposato said. "I have mixed feelings."
But Robert Quezada and Karrin Staskawicz — who opened Portage Grounds because they were frustrated at not being able to get a decent cup of coffee in their own neighborhood — said they were concerned by Starbucks' plans.
"Can Starbucks put us out of business?" Quezada said. "Absolutely."
Joe Basilone, who with his wife Melissa owns three businesses in the Irving Austin Business District including Perkolator, said there were "a million more things I'd rather see on that corner" than a Starbucks.
The Starbucks proposed to be built on the western edge of Portage Park could be the neighborhood's second. Ald. John Arena (45th) is weighing a proposal to allow a Starbucks with a drive-thru lane to open at Cicero and Berteau avenues north of the Six Corners Shopping District.
A drive-thru lane requires special permission from city officials as well as Sposato's support.
A spokesman for Starbucks said the company had no store openings to announce when asked Wednesday about a store at Irving Park and Central.
In April 2015, Starbucks dropped plans to open up a drive-thru cafe at Irving Park Road and Cumberland Avenue on a lot that remains vacant.
"The plans always look nice on paper, but who knows if it is actually going to happen?" Sposato said.
If Starbucks does open a cafe at Irving Park and Central, Quezada said the Seattle-based firm would be capitalizing on his and Staskawicz' hard work.
"It feels like the Grinch is coming to steal Christmas," Quezada said.
But Quezada acknowledged that a Starbucks could bring more attention — and traffic — to the area, which could benefit all of the businesses.
Basilone agreed, but said he was worried about the traffic a Starbucks drive-thru would create at Central Avenue and Irving Park Road.
"I'm in favor of seeing vacant properties developed," Basilone said. "But I want it to be done thoughtfully and reasonably with the community in mind."
In March, Sposato drew fire from the Portage Park Neighborhood Association for supporting a proposal to replace the workshop and store of a world-renowned canoe builder and conservationist with a drive-thru Dunkin' Donuts at Irving Park Road and Naragansett Avenue.
Basilone said he was confident that regardless of what Starbucks decides to do, Perkolator would continue to thrive.
"We aren't going anywhere," Basilone said, while acknowledging that a Starbucks less than a mile away would probably hurt his bottom line. "If someone is going to Starbucks, they are going to go to Starbucks. We're going to keep on doing what we're doing."
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