JEFFERSON PARK — Ald. John Arena (45th) will approve a zoning change laying the groundwork for an auto dealership to build a new facility in the 5300 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, he announced at a Monday night community meeting.
The city block-sized plot of land straddling Parkside Avenue on the east side of Milwaukee was home to a barber shop, a two-flat apartment building and a long-vacant Chevrolet dealership when the Marino family acquired the property in 2012. The new owners demolished all three buildings and left a wide lot, which they now use to store cars from their flagship dealership in Portage Park.
Their new service and sales facility would employ about 50 people, fewer than half the number who work at Marino Chrysler Jeep Dodge, 5133 W. Irving Park Road, Tony Morino said at Monday's meeting.
The dealership would likely sell an "entry-level import" like Honda or Toyota, he added. But the months-long process of wooing a car manufacturer is only beginning.
"Manufacturers want to see a contiguous property that's zoned accordingly," Marino said. "They want to know if this is actually going to happen."
Most of the property is already zoned for commercial use, but not two parcels at each end of the lot — where the barber shop and apartment building once stood — which need a zoning change.
Under Marino's plan, a new building would take up about half of the 39,000 square feet of empty space south of Parkside Avenue. The other half — along with a 13,000-square-foot plot north of Parkside — would remain open lots for storing cars.
The building would be about 50 feet high, leaving room for two floors.
Depending on which auto manufacturers sign on, Marino will likely try to acquire about 45,000 square feet of additional land to add to the property, he said.
At the end of Monday's meeting at the Jefferson Park District police station, in which about 15 immediate neighbors expressed broad support for the project, Arena said he was "comfortable" with green-lighting the zoning change.
"The sooner we can get this business open and running ... that's going to help not only the city's bottom line with property taxes, it's going to help other businesses in the area," Arena said. "So by making the zoning change, it puts us in a position to start having this conversation sooner."
Even under the smoothest of circumstances, it will likely be at least another two years until the new dealership is built and operating, Marino said.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here.