More than 50 neighbors came out on Monday to express concerns about an events venue on their block. Credit: Alisa Hauser/Block Club Chicago

BUCKTOWN — A plan to transform the long shuttered Marc Jacobs boutique into a venue for weddings and other events did not appear to sit well with dozens of Bucktown neighbors at a community meeting on Monday.

“So it’s midnight, a Saturday night wedding and they are doing the hora to their heart’s content but it’s keeping me up. Who do I call?” asked Jill Levy, whose condo is located steps from the building at 1714 N. Damen Ave.

Elizabeth Gomez, director of community outreach for Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), whose office facilitated the meeting at the proposed venue, which would be called Prery, told Levy she could call 911 if it’s a Saturday night. Or she could possibly call the building owner, Gomez said, noting owners of some establishments that are open late give cell numbers to immediate neighbors.

Levy was among some 50 residents who came out to hear building owner and Prery founder John Krenger’s plan for the events venture that would host private parties, weddings, cultural events, retail pop-ups and more gatherings.

Residents listen to a presentation from the owners of Prery. Credit: Alisa Hauser/Block Club Chicago

Noise, litter and lack of parking were neighbors’ main concerns based on a litany of comments. 

Read Prery’s full plan of operation here.

Krenger needs Waguespack’s and the community’s blessing to get a public place of amusement license, which would allow for music and special events on the premises. He’s also seeking a deal on parking and wants Prery — at the southwest corner of Damen and St. Paul avenues —  to be considered as a transit-oriented business that’s exempt from having to provide parking spaces since it is less than 1,350 feet from the CTA Damen Blue line. 

The 4,000 square-foot Prery space features tall glass windows, an open floor plan punctuated by beams and high ceilings in the century-old building. It would have a capacity of 500 people, though Joe Barker, Prery’s director of security, pointed out that with tables and other structures, much less people would be able to fit into the venue.

At several times throughout the hour-long gathering, Prery team members emphasized that it will not be a concert venue. 

Duane Perolio, a resident of a 124-unit condo building just to the north of the proposed Prery, said that crowds lingering late at night could pose a problem. “I’d love to have a great business here but I don’t want to be kept up at night with people leaving and all the congestion outside.”

The venue would close by 2 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. on Sunday. Krenger, who has owned the building since 1985, agreed to stick to a plan of operation that prohibits several things including ever seeking a 4 a.m. license.

Only licensed caterers would be able to serve food and beer on the premises and a security guard would patrol to augment six interior security cameras and nine outdoor cameras.

Sarah Demet, a resident of the 1700 block of North Wolcott, which is just east of the proposed Prery, said after the meeting that she fears “event spillover” and folks who drive to Prery’s events seeking our parking on her block. 

l-r: Joe Barker, Dylan Castle and John Edgar, members of Prery’s sound, security and events management team talk with the crowd. Credit: Alisa Hauser/Block Club Chicago

Waguespack’s chief of staff Paul Sajovec said the number of required parking spaces for Prery would be determined by the Department of Planning and Development in a forthcoming “parking determination letter” but in general, if the space were retail it would need to offer four parking spaces. 

At the end of the meeting, Gomez said she and Sajovec would send all the residents’ feedback to Waguespack.

“I just want to be clear, the alderman hasn’t made any decisions, he’s interested in what neighbors have to say. … Our job here is to go back to the alderman and share the concerns that were brought up, which I feel like they are all fair,” Gomez said.

Gomez added, “I think everyone in this room can agree we want to see a successful business in here. What we also want to make sure is that the people who are living here are having the right quality of life. The plan of operation is a big deal for us, we have owners who don’t want to do a plan of operation. These guys do and are willing to work with us and the community. We can amend it, if you want to make sure trash is picked up within two blocks [of the proposed venue] we can add that to the plan,” Gomez said. 

After the meeting, Krenger said he’s glad the meeting brought a large turnout and “a lot of good concerns” that he believes can be resolved.

“We look forward to getting through this and addressing the concerns. With the right ceiling and heavy curtain window treatments, sound can be resolved,” Krenger said. 

As for the worries over parking spilling onto residential streets, Krenger said, “Most people use Uber for restaurants and entertainment to avoid parking and the cost of meters. I really think we can work together with the concerns brought to the table and make this work for all.”  

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