SAUGANASH — Officials cut the ribbon Sunday on a new picnic pavilion and parking lot expansion outside Whole Foods Market in Sauganash, 6020 N. Cicero Ave., fulfilling a long-planned companion to the decade-old grocery store.
The 20-foot-wide canopy extends 145 feet into the property from Cicero Avenue, joining 71 new parking spaces and 34 trees. Chairs, tables and a pair of new bike racks will soon complete the effort, officials said.
Whole Foods has also agreed to pay for a new traffic light at the intersection of Cicero and Glenlake avenues, a boost Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th) said would create a "significant community benefit."
"Of course there's more space for cars, but we're expecting a lot of pedestrians to take advantage too," Laurino said at Sunday's ribbon-cutting. "The way it's set up, you can come straight in off the sidewalk."
Jeffrey Becker, who manages the Whole Foods branch, called the project part of the company's "longer-term dream" for the adjacent lot.
The space had originally been slated for a condos, but that plan was scrapped after the recession hit in 2007, Becker said. It remained an empty gravel lot until 2015, when Whole Foods took the unusual step of buying the property.
Becker imagines the pavilion playing host to farmers markets and community fundraisers, as well as "movie nights, musicals and barbecues," he said. His staff would maintain a permanent bags setup for any passersby who want to play, he added.
"This is Day 1 of Whole Foods Market Sauganash 2.0," Becker said. "We're excited to start that next chapter."
The pavilion joins 71 new parking spaces and 34 new trees. [DNAinfo/Alex Nitkin]