LINCOLN SQUARE — Binny's Beverage Depot is a no-go for the Lawrence Avenue Sears redevelopment.
Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) won't support the waiver Binny's needs to get a liquor license. The waiver is needed because of the site's proximity to McPherson Elementary, according to Jim Poole, the alderman's chief of staff.
The former Sears at 1900 W. Lawrence Ave. is across the street from McPherson, 4728 N. Wolcott Ave., and state law prohibits the issuance of liquor licenses to businesses located within 100 feet of a school or church, though there is a procedure in place to grant waivers when approved by the institution in question.
In late December, the alderman's office told Springbank Capital Advisors, which purchased the former Sears for $9.5 million, that there was a "lack of consensus" from the McPherson community regarding the waiver, Poole told DNAinfo via email.
After some back and forth to determine whether the Binny's proposal could be altered to meet the school's approval, Springbank was notified Monday that Pawar wouldn't support the waiver, Poole said.
With the community split on Binny's, Pawar told DNAinfo he wasn't going to ask state legislators to "carry the ball" forward and introduce a bill in Springfield to pass the waiver.
"That's a big 'ask.' I don't make those asks if the community is not unanimous," Pawar said. "We want to make sure it's a home run. If there's no consensus or it's mixed, half and half is the same as 'no' to me."
Representatives from McPherson's community declined to list their objections to Binny's but affirmed their opposition to having the liquor store across from the school.
Common complaints regarding alcohol sales near schools include the presence of advertising inappropriate for young eyes, as well as litter and nuisance behavior.
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.
The Sears building, which closed in August, dates to the 1920s, and at the time of its sale was the oldest brick-and-mortar store still standing in the once-dominant retailer's chain. Prior to Springbank's purchase, Pawar had stated his opposition to any development plan that would demolish the structure, arguing instead for re-use.
Springbank's redevelopment of the property will include more than 40 apartments, four of which will be built as duplexes in the building's tower, according to a recent report in Crain's Chicago Business, along with more than 30,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.
"We will work with them to find an alternative tenant(s) for the commercial space," Poole said.
Reaction to the Binny's proposal was split on both DNAinfo's Neighborhood Square comment site and social media.
While some said that Binny's and its wide selection of wines, in particular, would be "a welcome and amazing addition to the neighborhood," others argued that there are already enough places to purchase alcohol in the area.
Several neighbors posed the alternative of a large clothing retailer, along the lines of Marshall's, T.J. Maxx or Nordstrom Rack.
Springbank told the Chicago Tribune that attracting tenants capable of occupying such sizeable square footage is challenging, a reality that has some neighbors concerned.
"Better to have a great store like Binny's than an empty space," one resident posted to Facebook.
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