NORWOOD PARK — Neighbors and public officials swarmed the western edge of Norwood Park Friday to celebrate the long-awaited opening of the neighborhood's first Starbucks coffee shop.
The cafe, 6332 N. Northwest Hwy., was built with a drive-thru and 23 parking spaces to accommodate cars coming off the nearby intersection of Harlem Avenue and Devon Avenue. Its open design and high windows, boxing in 2,150 square feet of space for baristas and patrons, pour in natural light from the street.
"This has been an empty eyesore for so long, it's great to be able to bring something beautiful for what had been an ugly location for so long," said Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st) before employees cut the ribbon on the freshly-built brownstone.
The nearly 9,000-square-foot lot had sat vacant and hemmed by green construction fencing since 2010, after the closing of an adjacent auto dealership that had used the space for satellite parking.
In 2015, the developer Arthur Goldner & Associates proposed a coffee shop and adjoining retail space for the lot, which had previously been zoned for manufacturing, Napolitano said. Construction on the Starbucks began in August 2016, and workers broke ground soon after.
"The reception has been great so far," said Catherine Grimm Lauper, a district manager for the Seattle-based chain. "We're so excited to be a part of this community, and to get to know everyone here better."
Before the new branch served its first customer Thursday, any Norwood Parkers craving a cake pop or a caramel macchiato had to traverse the Caldwell Woods into Edgebrook, or travel up Northwest Highway until they hit suburban Park Ridge.
But by Friday, the coffee shop already had all the markings of a community hub, with neighbors holding meetings over lattes and clacking away on laptops.
The cafe's draw could even spill over to other to neighboring businesses like Trinity Pub, 5943 N. Northwest Hwy., according to the pub's owner, Inna McLoughlin.
"It's basically going to turn into a big social club, where teenagers will want to come after school and hang out," McLoughlin said. "It could attract more businesses here."
The new coffee shop is the latest stage in a steady transition for Northwest Highway, as hulking industrial sites give way to food and retail shops like Ada's Market & Deli, 6165 N. Northwest Hwy., and Be Juice'd, 6046 N. Avondale Ave.
"The residential side of Norwood Park has always been so beautiful and thriving, and the business district hasn't always reflected that," said Alyssa Triptow, director of the Norwood Park Chamber of Commerce. "But this [Starbucks] is a great gateway into the community, and we're hoping it's an anchor for even more businesses to come in after it."