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Don't Let Drive-Thru Dunkin Donuts Replace Canoe Shop, Residents Urge

By  Heather Cherone and Ted Cox | July 15, 2016 4:20pm | Updated on July 18, 2016 6:34am

Owner Vishal Shah, second from right, said the new Dunkin Donuts would strive to be a "good neighbor." [DNAinfo/Ted Cox]

CITY HALL — Portage Park and Dunning residents Friday asked city officials to block a plan to replace the former workshop and store of a world-renowned canoe builder and conservationist with a drive-thru Dunkin Donuts.

The project, which has the support of Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th), would tear down Ralph Frese's Chicagoland Canoe Base shop at 4019 N. Narragansett Ave.

The city's Zoning Board of Appeals is expected to vote on the matter late Friday.

Heather Daniel, a resident of Cuyler Avenue, said the drive-thru would "decimate" the value of homes along the Portage Park and Dunning border, an area she called “peaceful, tranquil and quite residential."

"I can't even imagine a 24-hour drive-thru dropped into that area," Daniel said.

However, owner Vishal Shah said the new Dunkin Donuts — which would replace the store across the street in the Dunning Square strip mall — would strive to be a "good neighbor."

Cars will exit the drive-thru on Cuyler Avenue to get to Narragansett Avenue, with a 6-foot fence and landscaping set to shield the houses from the cars along the alley, officials said.

[38th Ward Office]

The new store will be double the size of the existing store in the strip mall, and would employ 18 people. The store will be open from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m., with the drive-thru open 24 hours. said Nicholas Ftikas, the attorney representing Shah.

“We want to be a good neighbor,” said Shah, who added that he trains his employees to tell customers, especially late at night, to keep the noise down.

The Dunkin Donuts needs a drive-thru lane to compete with nearby Burger King and McDonald’s restaurants, which both have drive-thru lanes, Ftikas said.

Bob Denneen, Sposato's chief of staff, said the alderman supported the project because it would put a vacant property back to use, "while respecting the needs of the community.”

Patricia Conroy, of the Portage Park Neighborhood Association, testifies at the city Zoning Board of Appeals. [DNAinfo/Ted Cox]

Patricia Conroy, president of the Portage Park Neighborhood Association, said Sposato had not done enough to inform the community of the proposed drive thru and allow them to weigh in on the project.

To move forward, the project's drive-thru needs a special use permit.

The board often, but not always, follows the recommendation of the alderman for projects in his or her ward.

The canoe shop has been vacant since 2012, when Frese — a world-renowned canoe builder and conservationist — died. The stretch of Narragansett in front of the shop was named in his honor in 2013 under a measure sponsored by former Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th.)

The workshop was likely the last working blacksmith shop in Chicago, records show.

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