Although a new business is good news for the 'hood, there are issues with this. The short version is they want to tear down the existing building (the Payless) and build a new one, offset from the street, with a parking lot on the corner. Not only will this be ugly, it will increase traffic which is a safety concern on that corner.
The Alderman has taken a couple steps to try to stop this. She has refused a zoning change (which I think they can get around with a site adjustment) and put a hold on any new packaged goods licenses (but that is only a temporary fix as it will eventually have to be lifted in order for any new business to open in the 'hood). The more letters to the Ald. office to show support to stop this, the more leverage her Chief of Staff has to fight it.
If you oppose the plan, please shoot an email to her office.
Here is a copy of the letter I sent. Please feel free to plagiarize.
Dear Ald. Mell and Mr. Fritz:
Thank you for posting the information about the proposed Walgreens at Kimball and Lawrence on the 33rd Ward website. I wanted to reach out and let you know I am opposed to Walgreens tearing down the existing building in order to build a new one. I am also opposed to a new building that is offset from the street and has a parking lot with an entry on Lawrence.
Although I am pleased that Walgreens is interested in coming to the neighborhood, this kind of development is not what our neighborhood needs. The current plan will:
- Take away from the unique character of Albany Park and give us that generic “strip mall” feeling;
- Increase traffic at an already congested corner, both during construction and after, by placing a parking lot on a walking street;
- Decrease safety in the neighborhood for pedestrians as that corner is always filled with people catching the El or the bus; and
- Waste recourses and energy by building a new structure, when the existing structure is sound.
Although I understand the current structure has some unique challenges to conversion due to the fact that it is a building with two additions, instead of a single building, Walgreen’s has a reputation for adapting old buildings for reuse into new stores. It has opened stores which fit into the character of the neighborhood in Chicago, Oak Park, New Orleans, DuPont Circle, and Key West (see links below). Before any design is finalized, the community would need to see concrete information as to how adaptive reuse for this site was considered and why it was ruled out on this site. “Just because” is not an acceptable answer.
I would hope you would work with the owners to ensure that Lawrence Avenue does not devolve into another strip mall. The proposed plan would also be counterintuitive to the Special Service Area (and anticipated improvements) just approved for Albany Park.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about my concerns.
Key West: http://www.publicprivatepassion.com/2013/08/funky-mixed-useadaptive-re-use-projects.html
New Orleans: http://stirlingproperties.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/grand-opening-of-new-walgreens-marquee-store-on-magazine-street/