AVONDALE — The first Portillo’s on the city’s Northwest Side could be open by the end of next year, according to representatives for the restaurant chain.
The chain, famous for its cake shakes, Italian beef sandwiches and hot dogs, wants to open its third city location at 3357 W. Addison St., which is currently being used as a taxi outlet.
Chicago-based developer GW Properties is working with the chain on a plan that would allow the restaurant to take over the Avondale site.
The site currently sits in one of the city’s Planned Manufacturing Districts, which only allows for manufacturing and industrial use.
GW Properties needs the support of Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, whose 35th ward includes the site, and neighbors to amend the manufacturing district to open the restaurant there. The amendment would only serve as an exception for that particular site and would not impact the rest of the district, officials said.
The developer, along with representatives for the restaurant chain, pitched more than 50 neighbors at John B. Murphy Elementary School at 3539 W. Grace St. last Thursday.
According to Mitch Goltz, owner of GW Properties, the 9,900-square-foot restaurant project would cost $15 million. That cost includes the restaurant construction as well as the land, site work, architectural work, permits and other related costs.
It would be comparable in size to the chain’s existing locations but it would offer more parking (128 spaces) and a longer drive-through.
“This is a very unique property for Portillo’s. They’ve been looking for many years [at opening] on the Northwest Side of the city,” Goltz told neighbors.
“There are plenty of uses that would be far more disruptive to the neighborhood. You can put a truck stop there as of right now,” he added, referring to current zoning. “We believe this project will not only be creating jobs, but it will also be more conducive to the environment it’s in.”
Some neighbors said while they love the food at Portillo’s, they’re worried about adding traffic to the already-congested area.
The proposed parking lot would be “about four or five times [larger] than the Chinese Buffet and other similar drive-through restaurants in the area,” according to 33-year-old neighbor Matt Gomez.
“The residents in the neighborhood suffer from a ton of backed up traffic. Your facility would contribute to it more due to the rising rates during [peak] hours,” Gomez added.
In response, traffic expert and consultant Luay Aboona said: “There’s no doubt this is a more heavy use” than the taxi outlet. “It’s a fact. We’re not denying that. Just because we’re adding density doesn’t mean we can’t be accommodating.”
Neighbor Renee Martinez, 48, who lives four houses down from the site, said she would’ve liked to see the chain take over either the Kmart site or the CVS site — both of which are newly-vacant.
“I love Portillo’s, I’ve kinda been willing it to the neighborhood — just not there,” said Martinez, referring to the taxi outlet site.
“We have so many busy pockets already. I’m not a fan of creating another busy pocket. I would rather see it established in a spot that’s already built for such a thing.”
Asked why Portillo’s can’t take over those sites, Peggy Hart, head of real estate for Portillo’s, said the chain looked at both locations, but neither allowed for “proper circulation for the drive-through.”
Ramirez-Rosa said Family Dollar will be taking over the CVS site. The Kmart site doesn’t have a new tenant yet, Ramirez-Rosa said, but he expects to meet with interested retailers soon.
As part of Ramirez-Rosa’s community-driven zoning process, the alderman asks residents to fill out comment cards and submit them at the end of community meetings.
Of the more than 50 people who showed up, 27 wrote that they supported the plan, 10 wrote that they supported it with conditions and six wrote that they opposed it, according to the alderman.
“My issue is while the design is great, they’re still a large McDonald’s,” said Gomez, who lives within 250 feet of the site. “It’s a suburban development they’re forcing into an urban setting.”
Another neighbor asked if the Portillo’s employees would earn living wages with health benefits. A representative from the chain said all employees, both part-time and full-time, will start at minimum wage with benefits.
Hart, the Portillo’s executive, said her team chose the Avondale location for its proximity to CTA stops, including the Addison Blue Line station, as well as big box retailers.
“We are excited by the community. We love the residents. We love the passion of the community. We’re not just opening a store — we’re investing in the community,” she said.
Goltz said they’re aiming to break ground on the project early next year. Construction is expected to take about nine months, he said.