AVALON PARK — Six years after Sears shut down its long-standing Avalon Park location, at least part of the building is set to be remodeled into a self-storage facility.
On Sept. 5, the city approved a building permit to convert the building’s interior at 1334 E. 79th St. into a residential self-storage facility. Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) was unaware a permit had been granted before Block Club reached out Tuesday, according to Alvin Rider, her director of community engagement.
The buildings is owned by Farpoint Development, according to property and LLC records. Harris had been trying to partner with Farpoint to bring a grocer, retail outlets or restaurants to the space instead, Rider said.
“Ultimately the deal did not work, so [Harris] really can’t hold up the developer for any longer,” Rider said. “We can’t stop [the developer who] waited almost two years to see if we could find something the community wanted.”
It is unclear whether the entire two-story property will be used converted into a self-storage facility, when it could open or what company would operate it. Farpoint Development founder Scott Goodman, former founding principal of prominent developer Sterling Bay, did not respond to several requests for comment.
The developer does not need a zoning change to complete the interior work, confirmed Peter Strazzabosco, spokesman for the city’s Department of Planning and Development.
Until 2013, the building housed one of the “oldest continually operating” Sears stores in Chicago.
The building was designed with a “signature tower,” also found at its former Lawrence Avenue location in Lincoln Square and others built in the 1920s.
Worlee Glover, a Chatham resident who lives about a mile from the site, said rumors abounded that the site could become a Sears data center or even an Amazon distribution facility.
Glover said he would’ve preferred either option were true rather than another storage facility, which he said are already prevalent in the community.
He also would’ve supported something similar to Harris’ plan, with restaurants or more retail options for the neighborhood — as long as it wasn’t another big-box store.
The redevelopment highlights the importance of community organizing, said nearby resident Brittney Gault.
It’s great that the space won’t remain vacant, Gault said, but she would’ve preferred the community was more involved in the developer’s plans.
“However, I understand the rights of property owners,” she said. “If [a storage facility] is what’s profitable and in the best interest of property owner — of course” they can build it.
Ultimately, she said the experience was a lesson in the importance of pooling community capital.
Gault said she will continue to work with the incubator she owns, WorkSouthEast, to ensure her neighbors have more power to influence future projects on the scale of the former Sears.
“We’re fighting at the grassroots, but how do we break in when we don’t have $5 million laying around?” Gault said. “At the end of the day, private investment dollars have put up the capital up to make it happen.”