LOGAN SQUARE — A plan to open a cannabis dispensary in an old bank building on Milwaukee Avenue drew a largely favorable response at a community meeting Wednesday evening.
Several of the roughly 30 neighbors who attended the meeting, held at Minnekirken Church, 2614 N. Kedzie Ave., voiced support while also raising questions about parking, security and garbage pickup.
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), whose zoning approval is needed to get the project off the ground, said he is “generally in support.”
PharmaCann, a Chicago-based cannabis company that operates in multiple states, wants to open its first city dispensary in the Logan Square Trust & Savings Bank building at 2551 N. Milwaukee Ave.
If approved, the Logan Square dispensary would be the company’s fourth dispensary in Illinois. It currently runs dispensaries in suburban Arlington Heights, Ottawa, Aurora and Romeoville.
In November, PharmaCann won a total of three spots in the city’s recreational cannabis lottery: Two in the central cannabis zone and one in the northwest zone.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Matt Levine, director of new markets at PharmaCann, said the Logan Square project is “personal” for the company.
“I live about eight blocks south and 10 blocks east of here with my four- and six-year-olds,” Levine told neighbors. “This is local for us. We love this community and we understand this community and we’re excited for the opportunity.”
The Logan Square dispensary would be modeled after the company’s existing dispensaries, which have discreet signage.
“We don’t do pink neon pot leaves. We do subdued, more mature,” Jeremy Unruh, director of public and regulatory affairs at PharmaCann, said at Wednesday’s meeting.
Unruh said they anticipate hiring between 40 and 50 employees who will start at $17 an hour. Managers would make between $50-$60,000 a year.
“People who work here will be recruited from this neighborhood and will look like this neighborhood,” he said.
Unruh and his team also addressed security and social equity. They said PharmaCann works with First Watch, a security company that employs current and retired law enforcement officers, and currently runs a social equity program that aims to help inexperienced cannabis applicants get their proposals off the ground.
Licensed to grow in eight states, PharmaCann is considered a major player in the weed industry. The company also runs two cultivation centers in Illinois in addition to four dispensaries.
“We’ve been here doing this in Illinois for five years. I’m hopeful that our experience and approach to this will be a good fit for this neighborhood,” Unruh said.
Most neighbors at Wednesday night’s meeting voiced support even while they were raising logistical questions. But one neighbor flatly rejected the company’s proposal, asking if they’d be held responsible if someone who was “high on their pot” hurt someone else, to which Unruh said the company has commercial liability policies in place.
Other neighbors pushed back against the notion that the dispensary would hurt the neighborhood.
“You don’t have to go and purchase. If you don’t like it, stay away from it,” neighbor Susan Tokich said.
Joshua Weis, who lives in the bank building, said the dispensary would make a positive difference in his life.
“The accessibility is going to be a very positive change for me and my family,” Weis said, explaining that his aunt, a former Chicago police officer, has serious health problems and “has a hard time getting [cannabis] on her own.”
“[She] doesn’t really doesn’t really have a whole lot of understanding and leans on me for guidance. For me, this is great because it allows me a fast, safe, reliable way to help her.”
Some neighbors said a dispensary is preferable to a bar or a music venue. The building was being considered as the Double Door’s new home, but that plan fell through after neighbors rejected it.
Bruce Anderson, treasurer of Logan Square Preservation, said his group largely supports the proposal. He also noted that the old bank building, with its small windows and limestone front, wouldn’t be a good fit for a traditional retail store.
“I think it’s a good use because what’s the other use for that building?” Anderson said.
The building PharmaCann is looking to move into was built in 1922 for Logan Square Trust & Savings Bank. The Logan Square Medical Institute and pharmacy took over the building in 1970 and operated there until the owners sold the building in 2016.
The new owners, Mike Hagenson and Adam Saffro of the development and property management firm New Era Chicago, renovated the building and carved out six “artsy lofts” on the upper floors and retail space on the ground floor. The lofts rent for between $2,200 – $3,100 a month.
The dispensary would be located on the first floor of the building.
The earliest the dispensary plan could get city approval is May or June, according to Waguespack. PharmaCann needs special use approval from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals. The zoning change ordinance must then be approved by the city’s Zoning Committee and the full City Council.
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