PORTAGE PARK — Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) is preparing to make a decision on whether to green-light a strip mall anchored by a drive-thru Starbucks at the intersection of Irving Park and Central Avenue, he said.
"I'm still trying to get the best possible sense of what the community wants," the alderman said after a public meeting he held Thursday to discuss the proposal with constituents.
The plan, which would see 6,500 square feet of retail space built alongside the Seattle-based coffee shop, has met widespread resistance from nearby residents and business leaders who said they'd rather see an independent operator move in.
But Sposato warned constituents to temper their expectations, saying the current proposal "looks fine."
"A lot of people call me telling me they want a ma-and-pa business moving in there, but you're just not going to get a ma-and-pa to pay rent at 50 bucks a square foot," he said.
Sposato has repeatedly made plain his desire to redevelop the site, now a concrete lot used by an auto dealership to store cars, which he's called an "eyesore."
He's still willing to entertain different proposals than the one that's on the table, but his patience is wearing thin for out-and-out opposition, he said.
"Some people want nothing over something," he said. "Some people want to keep seeing a chain-link fence when they drive by there. I want economic development."
The owners of both coffee shops expressed reservations about the proposal when it first landed in June; Portage Grounds owner Robert Quezada said it could "absolutely" put them out of business.
But Sposato wasn't so sure a third operator would necessarily spell doom for the first two, he said.
"People say it's a concern that we already have these coffee shops, but we also already have a Dunkin Donuts nearby, and a 7-Eleven with coffee, too," he said. "So I don't dispute that we're already well served by two coffee shops, but we're also well served by two restaurants, three hamburger joints ... so where do you draw the line?"
Sposato said he "may or may not" host another community meeting before making the decision, but either way, "the ball is in [his] court now."
"The developers are waiting to hear from me," he said.
The Starbucks could be the second to open in Portage Park. Ald. John Arena (45th) is nudging forward a plan to allow a Starbucks with a drive-thru lane to open at Cicero and Berteau Avenues north of the Six Corners Shopping District.
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