THE GAP — Bronzeville now looks like it will be first in a race between neighborhoods to open the first Culver’s in Chicago.
Franchise owner Baron Waller said Wednesday there were some delays that pushed back the planned February opening to the summer, but construction is now set to start within the next month near 35th Street and Martin Luther King Drive in the Lake Meadows Shopping Center.
“I’m excited to be the first in the city, but I want to get the work started,” Waller said.
He said work was delayed because it took longer than expected for the restaurant and property owner, Draper and Kramer, to secure building permits.
Waller, who also owns Culver’s franchises in suburban New Lenox and Lockport, said he expects the Chicago location to be busier and will be hiring more people than at the other locations.
He said he plans to hire 70-75 people for the restaurant, with a focus on hiring from the surrounding community.
The race is not over, though, with plans to build Culver’s in Wrigleyville and Portage Park also underway.
Culver’s has been trying to expand into Chicago since at least 2014. The Wrigleyville location at 3500 N. Clark St. has been delayed multiple times, and construction is expected to start sometime this year. The Wriglyville location had not secured building permits as of Wednesday.
A development in Portage Park's Six Corners Shopping District at 4901 W. Irving Park Road also is expected to start construction in the spring, but is a much larger project that is expected to take longer to complete than the stand-alone restaurant in Bronzeville.
Paul Pitas, a spokesman for Culver's, said the company is "cautiously optimistic" that the Bronzeville location will open first.
In January, the city also approved the sale of city-owned land near Midway Airport for another Culver’s expected to open in 2018.
The Wisconsin-based chain known for its butter burgers, custard and cheese curds already is well established in the suburbs, and Illinois is its second-largest market outside of Wisconsin. The chain now has locations in 24 states, mostly in the Midwest and northern Plains states.