WRIGLEYVILLE — If Cubs fans are allowed to return to Wrigley Field this year, they still won’t be able to scarf down a post-game meal at Culver’s because plans for the long-awaited Wrigleyville location have “fallen through,” according to the local alderman.
Once touted to become the first Chicago location of the Wisconsin-based franchise, fans of cheese curds, concrete mixers and butter burgers have been teased with a Culver’s location in the Cubs backyard since 2014.
Since then, the city’s first location opened in Bronzeville, a second opened in the Six Corners Shopping District in Portage Park and a third is expected to open in this spring in Ravenswood — though neighbors also waited a long time for any updates on the project. A fourth Culver’s is planned for Pullman.
Hopes for the Wrigleyville spot received a boost in December 2019 when City Council members approved a zoning change for a 47-foot-high, mixed-use building at 3500 N. Clark St. that would house Culver’s on the ground level and add 18 residential units to the floors above.
But Thursday afternoon, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said at a city committee meeting those plans are effectively dead. The franchisee of that location no longer is part of the joint venture developing the project, Tunney’s chief of staff Bennett Lawson said.
Tunney made the announcement about the Wrigleyville site just before he and other aldermen on the city’s Committee on Economic and Capital Development approved a $371,000 tax break for yet another location of the popular fast food joint to open in the Far Southwest Side.
Franchisee and co-owner of the Wrigleyville development, Justin Obreicht, confirmed Friday the property is being sold.
“COVID was the biggest thing,” he said. Without baseball games and without an idea of when that’s going to change, he said that “changed the economics of the situation.”
Obreicht said he has no immediate plans to open elsewhere in Wrigleyville or in the city.
Tunney has not met with the remaining development team about their plans for the site but the 2019 zoning change is still in effect and allows for another restaurant or other retail use.
But if the developers substantially change their plans, such as adding a floor, they would need to head back to City Council to be re-approved, Lawson said.
Lawson wouldn’t speculate on what might replace the future home of butter burgers, but said a new restaurant along Clark Street in Wrigleyville is “something we can handle.”
A Culver’s spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Back in 2015, Obriecht told DNAinfo the restaurant could open sometime during the 2016 Cubs season, but he wasn’t banking on the baseball season to stay in business.
“We just kind of look at the baseball games as gravy on top. We really feel like this fits well with the neighborhood. There aren’t very many good options that are quick and easy,” he said.
When Culver’s executives broke ground on the Portage Park location in 2017, CEO Joe Koss said Ubreicht was aiming to start construction at the Wrigleyville location by the end of that year.
“It’s a unique property in Wrigleyville,” Koss said. “It’s part of a whole redevelopment there, so it’s a pretty involved project that [Obriecht] is trying to work through.”
Fans were prevented from entering the friendly confines of Wrigley Field in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
If they return in 2021 and are craving a popular chain, Raising Cane’s is set to open 3700 N. Clark St. The chicken joint has yet to announce an opening date, but is currently hiring workers.
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