LAKEVIEW — Plans to open a Capital One Cafe in the coveted Southport Corridor have hit an early snag.
The bank hoped to open at 3435 N. Southport Ave. in early 2017, an expansion of the banking cafe concept in use in the Gold Coast and six major U.S. cities.
But it already faces opposition from the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, which fears opening a 7,500-square-foot corner bank — even one that serves coffee — would detract from the popular retail destination the chamber strives to nurture.
Adding more banks to Southport "can zap the energy and impair the development of a more vibrant retail district" along the corridor, said Lee Crandell, the chamber's executive director.
Crandell cites the city's pedestrian streets ordinance, which is meant to "preserve and enhance the character of streets and intersections that are widely recognized as Chicago's best examples of pedestrian-oriented shopping districts," the 2004 ordinance states.
The law bans banks within 600 feet of another bank, credit union, currency exchange or ATM facility without a special-use permit. It also prohibits drive-thru facilities, gas stations and strip malls from the streets.
A rendering of a Capital One Cafe design that could come to the Southport Corridor. Each cafe is designed to fit the neighborhood it's in. [Provided/Capital One Cafe]
Crandell said both the ATMs at Quiroga Car Wash and the Southport Brown Line "L" station are within the 600-foot perimeter.
"Many retail and hospitality businesses rely on being co-located in very close proximity to one another in order to thrive," Crandell said. "Businesses like banks don't really contribute to the retail synergy."
Chicago and its suburbs began limiting new bank branches in 2004, fearing the commercial bank branches would choke out stores and restaurants and hurt sales tax revenue.
The Lakeview chamber's board of directors voted July 8 to oppose granting the special-use permit after Capital One shared its cafe plans, Crandell said. While the cafes are supposed to be designed to fit in with the neighborhood, a large ATM area would take up "a significant amount of the Southport frontage," Crandell said.
But the vote is purely advisory, much like those of neighborhood organizations. The decision rests with the city's Zoning Board of Appeals on whether to grant the permit, similar to the one granted to Rosecrance Lakeview last year.
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) is working with Capital One and Peet's Coffee "to better understand their concept and flush out the concerns and questions that have been raised," chief of staff Bennett Lawson said.
The Capital One Cafe in Gold Coast has a conference room, lounge and a seating section for busy coffee-drinkers. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
And as with Rosecrance, the company will likely meet with neighbors to present its case.
Capital One did not respond to questions about the special-use permit.
There's no issue for the cafe planned in the New City complex. The Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce said a Capital One Cafe would be a "good fit" for the site.
There are a few exceptions to the pedestrian street rules when it comes to banks: No special-use permit is required if the bank is in the basement or above the first floor or hidden from view. It's also allowed if the bank is an accessory to a retail or commercial use.
The existing Capital One Cafe in the Gold Coast neighborhood has two business permits, both licensed as retail food establishments for Capital One and Peet's Coffee, which supplies the cafe beverages. At the very least, it calls into question whether the bank-cafe hybrid is more one type of business than the other.
In the Southport designs, the majority of the square footage was dedicated to the bank, Crandell said.
There is room for changes, as Capital One representatives pledged to get input from neighborhood sources on the design to "draw from its neighborhood's character," said Antonio Wilson, who oversees operations at the Gold Coast cafe.
The bank plans to open its second Chicago cafe first in Lincoln Park before turning to Lakeview in early 2017.
The company has yet to apply for business or special use permits or business licenses, "so we're still at a very early stage," Lawson said.
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