WEST RIDGE — Plans to redevelop the former Bakers Square location in West Ridge were unveiled Monday, with neighbors weighing in on what they’d like to see on the site.
Earlier this month, Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) announced that developer GW Properties had plans to demolish the Bakers Square building at Western and Touhy avenues to make way for a new retail complex.
The complex would house a Starbucks and a Wingstop, with about 4,700 square feet available to other tenants, GW Properties Principal Mitch Goltz said at a meeting Monday held inside the doomed Bakers Square. The restaurant has been closed for months, so organizers brought space heaters because the heat was turned down. A security alarm also rang throughout the presentation.
Plans for the development call for an 8,500-square-foot building to be erected towards the Touhy side of the property. The building would be set back from both Western and Touhy, with 47 parking spaces in front of the complex. The Starbucks will also offer drive-thru service.
GW Properties has developed retail locations all across Chicago, including the $15 million Portillo’s coming to the Northwest Side. Goltz said the intersection of Western and Touhy is a prime location for retailers like Starbucks, and that his firm is aggressively pursuing other tenants for the remaining space.
At the meeting over the proposed development Monday, neighbors weighed in on what else they’d like to see at the intersection, as well as their concerns with the development.
Neighbors mentioned a litany of businesses they’d like to come to Western and Touhy, including: Al’s Beef, Halal Guys, Wendy’s, Portillo’s, Trader Joe’s, Panera Bread and residential dwellings. Others wanted a use similar to Bakers Square, which shuttered the West Ridge location in summer 2019 and declared bankruptcy last month. Another family friendly restaurant would be warranted, some said.
“When we go out to eat, we don’t go to fast food, we go to slow food,” West Ridge resident Robert Radycki said. “Why can’t we have something like that here?”
The economics of the restaurant and retail world have changes, with national chains like Bakers Square having difficulty. Fast casual places are more in-demand, and are better fits for the highly trafficked intersection at Western and Touhy, Goltz said.
“These types of [retail] centers are what’s needed in the city,” he said.
Others said they want a development that doesn’t negatively impact traffic, and a development that is more urban centric and less car friendly.
“Thoughtful communities are trying to get rid of drive-throughs,” West Ridge neighbor Marshall Eames said. “This is going to turn in to a typical strip mall, which is not what we want.”
Goltz said his firm is proposing a development that would fit on the property while luring retailers not already in the area.
“We’re not going to put forward something that looks nice but isn’t feasible,” he said.
The development would need a rezoning and a special use permit for the drive through. Silverstein, who would have to sign off on the zoning change, said she will work with the developer to make sure residents’ ideas for other tenants are vetted.
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