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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park

Developer Of Mystery Lincoln Square Grocer Still Won’t Speak To Public Even After Alderman Threatens Downzoning

“The lack of concrete information or willingness to communicate without being coerced is troubling," one neighbor said.

The Fifth Third Bank in Lincoln Square on March 30, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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LINCOLN SQUARE — A developer that wants to bring a corporate grocer to a central Lincoln Square intersection continues to frustrate neighbors with silence about the project, even after the local alderman has pushed a zoning change that would force the builders to publicize their plans.

Developer Hubbard Street Group is pursuing a two-story commercial development at the Fifth Third Bank building at 4800 N. Western Ave. that would include a national grocery store chain taking up the entire second floor. The first floor would include a smaller footprint for the bank, parking and a small section for the grocer, according to city officials.

No formal plans have been submitted to the city, but the plans have outraged neighbors who say a corporate grocer in that area would threaten locally-owned businesses and that they are fed up by the developer’s refusals to share any information with the community. Many nearby business owners have suspected the retailer could be an Amazon Fresh, prompting them to circulate a petition to demand a public hearing for the project.

RELATED: Lincoln Square Neighbors, Aldermen Frustrated As Developer Stays Mum On Grocery Store: ‘We Don’t Like The Fact You’re Avoiding This Process’

The developer has been able to bypass city oversight so far by invoking a non-disclosure agreement and breaking up construction into two phases, city officials previously said. Vasquez introduced an ordinance in February to downzone the property to a category that would force the developer to get aldermanic approval before moving forward.

Still, Vasquez told neighbors this week that Hubbard leaders only have indicated some interest in agreeing to a become a planned development — which also would require advanced review from the alderman — “rather than being forced into one.”

“We did not get any answers from them in regards to the concerns from small businesses,” Vasquez said at a town hall. “Which is the first concern we started hearing about.”

Hubbard declined to answer Block Club’s questions regarding Vasquez’s comments, when they planned to host or join a public meeting, or if the zoning change would impact their current plans for the site.

Vasquez told Block Club that while downzoning is one of many options on the table right now, he’d prefer the developer simply come to the table to share its with plans with him and the community.

“Typically, I would not take a step like that. There are concerns about other people using a downzoning ordinance to keep out affordable housing,” Vasquez said. “I’m concerned someone else in the city will use this case as an example later on when they’re trying to squeeze out affordability to say, ‘It’s not about that; look at what Vasquez did in the 40th.’”

Neighbor Ellen Shepard, who launched the petition for a public meeting, says Vasquez proposing a zoning change had the desired effect of showing them how serious the community is about wanting transparency about the developer’s plans. 

“We need a meeting where the developer is presenting their plans and where the public has real input,” Shepard said. “The lack of concrete information or willingness to communicate without being coerced is troubling.”

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