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Irving-Central Starbucks Decision Delayed For Traffic Study, Alderman Says

By Alex Nitkin | April 21, 2017 1:27pm | Updated on April 24, 2017 5:33am
 A strip mall including a drive-thru Starbucks would replace a long vacant lot at the corner of Irving Park Road and Central Avenue, according to a proposal submitted by developer Sumac.
A strip mall including a drive-thru Starbucks would replace a long vacant lot at the corner of Irving Park Road and Central Avenue, according to a proposal submitted by developer Sumac.
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CHICAGO — The developer of a Starbucks drive-thru planned for a busy Portage Park intersection has agreed to give city planners more time to study the site before the proposal goes up for approval, Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) said Friday.

The city's Zoning Board of Appeals had been scheduled to consider the proposal, first drawn up last year by developer Sumac for the intersection of Irving Park Road and Central Avenue, during its meeting on Friday. But Sposato and Sumac leaders elected to push the vote back until the board's May 19 meeting in order to give city transportation officials enough time to finish a traffic study on the site, the alderman said.

The plan has divided neighbors since a finalized blueprint for the site circulated earlier this month, with the Portage Park Neighborhood Association citing traffic safety concerns in their call for more members to speak out against it.

Association president Patricia Conroy took the delay as a sign that the developer noticed her group's campaign to collect "hundreds" of letters decrying the plan, she said Friday.

But Sposato said neighbors should see the move as a bureaucratic delay, not a sign that the developer or city officials are backtracking.

"This isn't a matter of anyone getting cold feet," Sposato said. "We all just decided it would be best to take some more time to make sure we have the safest possible plan, that works for everybody."

Sposato said Friday that the constituents he's heard from "overwhelmingly" support redeveloping the vacant concrete lot, which he's repeatedly called an "eyesore." The developer will accept tweaks from city officials, but the time for community input has passed, the alderman said.

And while the neighborhood association has been vocal in its opposition, Sposato pointed to a handful of other local groups — including the Portage Park Chamber of Commerce and the newly-formed West Portage Park Neighbors Association — who support the plan.

The West Portage Park Neighbors published a letter they'd received from the developer last week agreeing to install "no left turn" lanes at the property exits, writing in an April 14 Facebook post that the promise "hopefully ... puts this issue finally to rest."

But it doesn't settle the debate for Conroy, who said Friday that such signs are "not enforceable" and wouldn't prevent drivers from making left turns into the property, which "is more dangerous for pedestrians, if anything."

Conroy's group will continue to solicit letters of opposition while it waits for the project to be reconsidered, she said.

The plan marks a 7,245 square-foot "commercial building" with a smaller "coffee shop with drive thru" next door. [Sumac]