LINCOLN SQUARE — Work is expected to begin this month on the redevelopment of the former Lawrence Avenue Sears, but reports that a Binny's Beverage Depot is set to eventually occupy the ground floor retail space are premature.
In interviews with Crain's Chicago Business and the Chicago Tribune, David Trandel, chairman and chief executive of Springbank Capital Advisors, which purchased the Sears property at 1900 W. Lawrence Ave., tipped Binny's as the planned mixed-use development's anchor tenant.
But a waiver is needed because state law prohibits the issuance of liquor licenses to businesses located within 100 feet of a school or church. The Sears property falls within that distance from McPherson Elementary, 4728 N. Wolcott Ave., which Trandel acknowledged.
A waiver procedure is in place, requiring action by the state legislature, according to Jim Poole, chief of staff for Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th).
When asked about the announcement, a Binny's spokeswoman told DNAinfo: "We have nothing to confirm at this time." Trandel did not respond to a request for comment.
Paulina Meat Market, for one, obtained such a waiver after receiving approval from a nearby Buddhist temple. Even with the temple's blessing, it still took six months for the market's waiver to clear the General Assembly, a fact Gov. Bruce Rauner notably referenced when pushing his Turnaround Agenda during a visit to the shop.
In the case of Binny's and the Sears development, the 47th Ward office is taking the temperature of the McPherson community first before broaching the issue with other neighbors.
"We would need clear consensus from McPherson; McPherson is critical for the waiver," said Poole, adding that he expected representatives from the school to weigh in shortly.
He was quick to note that any decision about the license should not be viewed as a referendum on Binny's. A "whole universe" of uses, including restaurants, would require the same scrutiny, said Poole.
"This is not just about Binny's," he said.
Common objections to alcohol sales near schools include the presence of advertising inappropriate for young eyes, as well as litter and nuisance behavior.
"Parents have reasonable concerns," said Poole. "These are all valid things to talk about."
In 2015, Lincoln Square neighbors beat back a bid from the Mr. Nice Guy head shop to open fewer than 150 feet away from Queen of Angels school on Western Avenue.
If Binny's earns a thumbs up from McPherson, the next step would be to present the proposal to residents of the area surrounding the former Sears and obtain their feedback, Poole said.
Assuming these neighbors give their seal of approval, the waiver application would then move to Springfield for passage.
"It's months and months of process," said Poole.
Along with more than 30,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, the redevelopment of the Sears property will include more than 40 apartments, four of which will be built as duplexes in the building's tower, according to Crain's.
Asbestos abatement and interior demolition will get underway this month, Trandel told Crain's.
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