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River North, Gold Coast, Near North Side

Landmarked River North Bar Would Become Weed Dispensary Under Plan

The art deco Veseman Building at 444 N. LaSalle St. most recently housed English, which closed in 2013.

The proposed site for a weed dispensary once held the bar English.
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CHICAGO — One of the largest cannabis operators in the state wants to open their first Chicago dispensary in a landmarked building in River North.

PharmaCann, which is headquartered in Chicago but has yet to open a dispensary in its own backyard, shared their plans to convert a vacant building at 444 N. LaSalle St. into a four-story dispensary and event center.

The art deco Veseman Building was landmarked in 2007 and most recently housed English, a bar that closed in 2013. It currently sits alone on LaSalle but a new 12-story office tower is set to be built and will wrap around the potential dispensary.

The company plans to lease the entire building and the space is big enough to allow for internal queueing, which sets them apart from other companies hoping to open in the area, Jeremy Unruh, co-founder and director of regulatory affairs for PharmaCann, said at a meeting at Maggiano’s Little Italy in River North Thursday night.

The third floor of the building would be set aside for overflow crowds and to hold community events. Company officials said they have no plans to turn that space into a weed consumption lounge if and when Chicago passes an ordinance to allow it.

Unruh told Block Club they won’t be making major changes to the building, and hope to bring it back to life.

“We don’t intend to make any changes to the facade of that building other than to replace the English sign with a [Verilife sign],” he said. “…We will do as little to the interior as we have to, because it’s a construction timeline issue.”

PharmaCann will open the dispensary under its Verilife brand.

The landmark status has the potential to cause delays in construction at a time when the dispensary will be in an all out race against its competitors to build out the facility ahead of inspections from state regulators.

In addition to PharmaCann, Cresco Labs, MOCA Modern Cannabis and Greenhouse Group all have filed applications with the Zoning Board of Appeals to open dispensaries within 1,500 feet of each other in the coveted neighborhood, but only one of the dispensaries will be allowed to open under state law because of their close proximity. The board could approve of all four, setting up the construction battle.

If the dispensaries receive a special-use permit from the zoning board, they can begin the build out of their pot shops in preparation of an inspection of the property by state regulators, a last step before a license can be finalized.

RELATED: 4 Weed Dispensaries Want To Open Within Blocks In River North, But Only 1 Will Be Allowed

“The guidance we’ve gotten from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation…is that 1,500 foot flag gets planted when you get your operational certificate after you build your facility out, after you have staff. You could take a delivery the next day and open the day after,” Unruh said.

Greenhouse Group will hold a meeting for it’s desired 612 N. Wells St. at 6 p.m. Friday at 350 N. Orleans St.

The companies will appear before the zoning board on March 6.

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