LOGAN SQUARE — Play, an independently-owned toy shop on Logan Square’s Milwaukee Avenue, is slated to close for just a few days at the end of the month. Owner Ann Kienzle is planning to give the shop a fresh coat of paint, repair displays and install new countertops, among other things.
Kienzle is, at least in part, preparing for Logan Apartments, the massive luxury apartment and retail complex opening directly across the street on the old Megamall site.
“Everyone, me included, is attracted to something new and shiny. We definitely want to make sure we look our best and put our best foot forward,” the shop owner said.
When it opens this spring, Logan Apartments will offer 220 apartments, a small-format Target and a retail roster that includes Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, Big Wig Tacos, Jersey Mike’s Subs, K-Fire Korean BBQ and Verizon.
What impact the massive complex, Logan Square’s largest, will have on the area’s existing small businesses remains to be seen. Small business owners and managers have mixed feelings ahead of the opening. Some are excited. Others are cautiously hopeful. A few just want the complex to open so the construction-related parking restrictions will end.
“I’m trying to be cautiously optimistic that it’ll bring some foot traffic,” Kienzle said. “I don’t look forward to having a mass market across the street that has toy aisles, but we know the neighborhood well and serve the neighborhood well.”
Meg Wolf works at another small shop directly across the street: Cloud Vapor Lounge, a CBD and vape shop at 2497 N. Milwaukee Ave. Like Kienzle, Wolf’s excitement is tempered by uncertainty.
“We are very hopeful that this is going to bring a lot of traffic in the area. … I really hope these small businesses on the strip can survive to watch that happen,” Wolf said.
According to Wolf, the parking restrictions along Milwaukee Avenue are seriously hurting Cloud Vapor Lounge and other small businesses along the stretch. Wolf estimates her shop has seen its business slashed in half since last summer when the restrictions went into effect.
“We [serve] a lot of people who are disabled. There is no parking for them to enter my store right now,” she said.
David and Julia Cruz, owners of the liquor store Your Happy Place Liquors at 2501 N. Milwaukee Ave., said they’ve also taken a big financial hit as construction crews dominate the stretch of Milwaukee Avenue. As a result, people avoid the area.
“It’s been painful,” David Cruz said. “Usually we really have to dig deep to find the negativity, but oh my god, it’s been hard to find some positivity when they close down the streets and you can’t park there.”
David Cruz said he can’t wait for the complex to open so the parking restrictions are lifted.
“I’m excited. I’ve talked to other business owners and they’e ready — if it ever happens,” he said.
Jack Garland, manager at New Wave Coffee at 2557 N. Milwaukee Ave., said the parking restrictions haven’t impacted the neighborhood coffee shop too much. Most New Wave patrons walk to the shop, he said.
More broadly, Garland said he’s looking forward to the complex opening. He said some people he knows are “dreading” it, but that he’s just focused on being welcoming.
“It’s important to allow it to happen at this point … and take care of the [new neighbors] and make sure they feel welcome here,” Garland said.
Garland added that it’ll be convenient to have a Target across the street for quick grocery runs.
Target makes David and Julia Cruz nervous. If Target were to lift the liquor moratorium on the block, Your Happy Liquors would be in serious trouble, the couple acknowledged.
“We’re just praying that the alderman or whomever stays true to the way it was when they said there was a liquor license moratorium in the area,” David Cruz said.
Wolf takes issues with the luxury apartment component. She said she wishes the complex offered the affordable housing units that are desperately needed in the gentrifying neighborhood. A spokesman for Fifield Companies, the developer behind Logan Apartments, said the developer has committed to reserving 22 apartments as affordable housing units.
“We have a housing crisis, rent is too high. And we’re not doing anything about it. We’re not doing anything about it in Logan Square,” Wolf said.
David and Julia Cruz said they’re teaming up with other small business owners in the area on a welcome packet for residents of Logan Apartments so they’re acquainted with the existing small businesses from day one.
Julia Cruz said they’re doing it to keep the small business community vibrant — “to keep it as it is now,” she said.
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