CITY HALL — A developer has scored city approval to build a Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru at 4102 W. Peterson Ave., setting into motion a plan for a four-building retail park linking up with a bike path in the Sauganash business district.
The city's Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously Friday to grant developer Shai Town Realty a special-use permit for the drive-thru service, removing the last major hurdle for the 1.3-acre-sized project, according to Anthony Casaccio, an attorney representing the developer.
"The Dunkin' Donuts has always been the first piece of the puzzle before we can get traction on the other spaces, which would be a mix of retail and food service," Casaccio said. "[The businesses] have been incredibly patient, so [developer] Shai [Wolkowicki] is going to be pulling permits to start construction as soon as possible."
The latest version of the plan includes a single driveway entrance from Peterson Avenue. [Shai Town Realty]
Wolkowicki spent nearly two years molding the plan based on feedback from neighborhood groups and the office of Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th), including with a last-minute tweak to remove one of two planned driveway entrances from Peterson Avenue, Casaccio said.
The 1,850-square-foot coffee shop will "not be a cookie-cutter Dunkin' Donuts" but will sport a masonry design that gives it a unique look, the attorney said.
Multiple businesses have shown interest in the other three buildings, which would be spaced out across two parking lots, Casaccio said. Two of the structures — measuring 3,000 and 3,500 square feet, respectively, are being envisioned as "sit-down" restaurants with outdoor seating, he said.
Companies vying for the third space, marked at 1,600 square feet, include a salon, a "general retailer" and a medical office, according to commercial real estate broker Adam Bell. Bell's firm, Imperial Realty, has been tasked with finding tenants for the new buildings.
The new dining destinations will fill a "pretty large market hole for restaurant operations" in Sauganash, Bell said.
"With the amount of traffic going through that area, you'd think it would look more like the Lincoln Avenue corridor in [suburban] Lincolnwood," Bell said. "So we've been working with the community for a long time to liven up the look of Peterson and bring in some businesses, so that they're looking at something more appealing there than just a rundown gas station."
A single vacant storefront would be demolished under Wolkowicki's plan; the rest of the project site is currently taken up by an empty concrete lot.
Wolkowicki is also exploring ways to give patrons easy access to the elevated Weber Spur trail, which traces the western boundary of the site. Slated to open later this year, the bike path will replace a long-defunct train line linking Elston Avenue in Mayfair to Devon Avenue at the city's northern limit.
The developer is also planning an "impressive amount of landscaping" for the site, Casaccio said, including flower beds, shrubs and more than a dozen new trees.
"He's trying to make it as much of an outdoor space as he can, in a way that really invites people at those restaurants to sit outside," Casaccio said.
Developer Shai Wolkowicki plans to plant shrubs, flower beds and more than a dozen trees on the property. [Shai Town Realty]