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Big Star Owner Says No Plan To Expand Across Street in Former Day Care

By Alisa Hauser | November 28, 2016 3:56pm
 The North Avenue Day Nursery at 1530 N. Damen Ave.
1530 N. Damen Ave. in WIcker Park
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WICKER PARK — The new owner of a vintage building across from Big Star reportedly wants the restaurant's ownership group to operate an eatery there, but the parent company of the popular taco spot says "we have no plans to expand into that space."

Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) said he met with the buyer of the building at 1530 N. Damen Ave. who thought a concept from One Off Hospitality, owner of Big Star and three other neighborhood restaurants, would be a good fit to replace the soon-to-shutter day care.

"The buyer said he would like to work with One Off and is committed to keeping the building basically as-is," Moreno said.

A spokeswoman from One Off Hospitality, however, said the company was not interested at this time in operating a restaurant in the building "but [is] excited to see what ultimately joins Big Star in the neighborhood."

Elsewhere on the block, in addition to Big Star at 1531 N. Damen Ave, One Off Hospitality also operates The Violet Hour, 1520 N. Damen Ave., next door to the building, and Dove's Luncheonette, 1537 N. Damen Ave.

Around the corner, One Off's Publican Anker, at 1576 N. Milwaukee Ave., plans to open on Wednesday. 

Located at the southwest corner of Damen and Pierce Avenue, the 112-year-old building went up for sale in July and was pitched in a brochure as a redevelopment opportunity or possible Transit-Oriented residential development due to its proximity to the CTA Damen "L" station.

Jon Morgan, a co-founder and managing principal at Interra Realty who was handling the bids, said on Monday that he has been asked to refrain from comment until after the sale is closed within the next few days. 

"The buyer is planning for an adaptive re-use as either retail or restaurant to my understanding. I am not sure if One Off is a prospective tenant that they are suiting, but it is certainly an ideal location for any restaurant group," Morgan said.

A listing on the Interra Realty website says the 9,800-square-foot building is "under contract." 

The North Avenue Day Nursery is set to close its building on Dec. 23 after 108 years of service, executive director Steve Koll told parents earlier this month.

Moreno said he supports the sale of the building.

"I am sorry to see them go, but I support the nursery's desire to make their critical mission financially whole by selling their property. I am also happy to see the new owners adaptively reuse the building, rather than pursue demolition," Moreno said.

Ed Tamminga, chairman of the Wicker Park Committee's preservation and development subcommittee, said the proposal for the building will be discussed at the group's next meeting on Dec. 20.

"It's not Landmarked and [new owners] are under no obligation to come [and meet with community group]. They may intend to modify zoning to do an addition. We have not had any feedback outside of a suggestion from Preservation Chicago that it would be nice to see if the building could be wrapped into the Landmark District, but that could take years to accomplish," Tamminga said.

The North Avenue Day Nursery — a nonprofit day care center that has been serving families since 1908 — will be closing on Dec. 23 following the sale of its building, Koll wrote in a letter to parents.

The North Avenue Day Nursery, a nonprofit daycare that serves children from age 2 to 12, was originally was part of Association House on North Avenue, a nonprofit group that relocated to Humboldt Park in 1999 when its century-old headquarters was turned into condos.

North Ave Day Nursery bought the building at 1530-32 Damen Ave. for $225,000 in 1988, according to county records. Illinois Bell telephone company had an office in the spot before it was a day care center.

The schools leaders cited changing demographics in the community and state budget cuts to affordable child care programs as reasons for the closure.

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