CITY HALL — A long-brewing proposal to build a Starbucks coffee shop with a drive-thru in the west Portage Park neighborhood cleared a crucial hurdle on Friday, laying the groundwork for construction to begin by summer.
The city's Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously to grant developer Sumac a permit to build the drive-thru at the intersection of Irving Park Road and Central Avenue, facing the southwest entrance to Portage Park. Managers of a "national sandwich chain" have expressed interest in a 7,245-square-foot commercial building set to be constructed next to the coffee shop, an attorney representing the developer said.
Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) said he was "ecstatic" to see the project approved, declaring victory over a "crappy, dilapidated" vacant lot he's long pledged to see redeveloped.
"I think it's going to be a great for the community, and boost the economy around there," Sposato said. "I think we'll be seeing new businesses coming up and down — everyone knows what happens to an area when a Starbucks moves in."
The plan was originally scheduled go before the board last month, but the developer delayed its hearing to give city transportation officials more time to study its potential impact on traffic, Sposato said. Sumac commissioned its own study and concluded that the coffee shop "won’t have an adverse impact on traffic in the area," according to a consultant who spoke Friday.
The plan includes a 7,245-square-foot "commercial building" that could accommodate a "national sandwich chain," according to the developer. [Sumac]
First unveiled last year, the plan met a mixed reaction among neighbors, some of whom — like Portage Park Neighborhood Association president Patricia Conroy — said the site's two planned driveways could spell a safety hazard for cars turning in from the wide streets.
Conroy testified Friday that a recent spat of new drive-thru restaurants in the area have “chipped away at our streetscape and made our area less safe for pedestrians.”
The proposal also drew opposition from Robert Quezada, the owner of Portage Grounds, whose cafe at 5501 W. Irving Park Road stands on the same block where the Starbucks would be built. Quezada and the owners of Perkolator Cafe, 6032 W. Irving Park Road, have both aired fears that the Seattle-based chain could scoop away their customers.
But the proposal also claimed a long list of supporters, including David Feller, the president of the West Portage Park Neighbors Association.
“The development of this parcel will provide a much-needed boost to West Portage Park," Feller told the board Friday. "It will provide a meaningful anchor that will attract additional businesses.”
The board also heard endorsements from Portage Park Chamber of Commerce president Ted Szabo, and from Friends of Portage Park president Jennifer Dianovsky, who said the coffee shop would appeal to "moms and nannies" who want to grab a cup of coffee on their way out of the park.
Sumac executives had hoped to build the coffee shop in time to pour lattes by the end of 2017, but that was before last month's delay, Sposato said.
A separate proposal to build a Starbucks drive-thru in the Six Corners Shopping District was also due to come before the board on Friday, but that decision was delayed until July due to "issues about landscaping," according to a spokesman for Ald. John Arena (45th).