BUCKTOWN — A plan to replace the Vienna Beef Factory along the North Branch of the Chicago River with a $40 million riverfront driving range is no more.
Drive Shack, Inc., a national chain, scrapped its plans to open a driving range, restaurant and bar at 2501 N. Damen Ave., a 32nd Ward staffer confirmed.
The property owner contacted the 32nd Ward office in February to notify the alderman that Drive Shack was no longer pursuing the project, 32nd Ward staffer Paul Sajovec said by email.
City leaders approved a waterway planned development for Drive Shack in early 2020. Louis Altamiranda, Drive Shack’s real estate development manager, previously told neighbors the project would create 250 construction jobs and 400 long-term jobs.
It’s unclear why Drive Shack pulled out of the project.
Neither attorney Paul Shadle, who represented Drive Shack last year, nor Drive Shack responded to requests for comment.
The future of the 9.3-acre Bucktown site is uncertain. Vienna Beef moved its factory in 2016 in Bridgeport, 3847 S. Morgan St., and closed its Bucktown museum and store last year. Vienna Beef did not respond to a request for comment.
One thing’s for sure: unless a new developer pitches a similar project, the community zoning process will re-start, Sajovec said.
That means that unless another driving range company wants to open in Bucktown, neighbors will likely have input on the site’s future.
“Unless someone else wants to develop the property under the same basic plan an entirely new zoning process will be necessary,” Sajovec said.
During a 2019 community meeting, neighbors said they were concerned about Drive Shack adding traffic to an already congested area.
In the time since city leaders approved Drive Shack’s zoning plan, a Chick-fil-A and Panera Bread opened near the intersection — adding to an array of fast food restaurants whose customers regularly clog the roads, neighbors said.
The long-dreaded Damen-Fullerton-Elston intersection underwent a $22.5 million reconfiguration in 2017, neighbors pointed out. They didn’t want the nightmare traffic scenario to return.
At the time, the Drive Shack team told neighbors the company hired an engineer at Kimley-Horn, a nationwide consulting group with a Chicago office, to perform a traffic study. As a result of the study, Drive Shack’s only planned entry way point would have been on Elston Avenue (Vienna’s existing access point on Damen Avenue would have been eliminated.)
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