PORTAGE PARK — A proposed commercial shopping development at the former Peoples Gas site near Six Corners has neighbors worried it could bring a suburban feel to the community and hurt local businesses that have already struggled during the pandemic.
The proposed “Shops at Six Corners” at 3955 N. Kilpatrick Ave. would house an Amazon Fresh grocery store, a Burlington clothing store, a Panera Bread restaurant with a drive-through facility and up to 36 residential apartments, according to updated renderings shared with neighbors at a virtual meeting this month. Nadig Newspapers was first to report on the updated renderings and proposed tenants.
The project is looking to have between 10 and 14 new businesses with five retail buildings that could also house offices and restaurants.
Developer GW Properties is behind the project, which was introduced in late 2020 to the city’s Department of Planning and Development and community organizations, according to a city letter sent to the developer.
The project was originally submitted without a residential component, but after objections from several community groups and the city, who called for more mixed-use space and more density, the developer updated the proposal with the added apartments, which would sit on the Milwaukee Avenue corner of the site.
After the updated renderings were shared on social media and at the second meeting, neighbors expressed concerns that not enough was changed from the initial proposal. Many worry that the design still does not have enough apartments or commercial storefronts for local businesses.
“We need density. We need more people,” said Ellen Hill, a nearby resident and a concerned homeowner who opposes the project. “Houses are selling in 12 hours and that’s great but we are just flipping stock, not bringing in new people.”
The city’s Department of Planning and Development previously withdrew its support of the project because of its all-commercial use and its congested transportation design that showed only one level of parking spaces and multiple entrance points, according to the January letter sent to the developer. The department recommended access be allowed on Kilpatrick Avenue only and that the site use multi-level parking structures to minimize surface parking.
The updated renderings show the new residential component and less parking spaces but no change in the site’s access points.
A spokesperson for the city department said it has not seen the updated proposals.
Steve Held, a founding member of the Six Corners Organizing for Progress & Engagement neighborhood group, said he worries the development will not bring enough foot traffic to local businesses in the area, especially having big-name chains like Amazon and Panera.
SCOPE was one of the groups who signed on to the January letter from the city opposing GW’s plans for this development — and Held said his group still opposes it because it does not prioritize additional residential density, which he said is a necessary ingredient to revitalize the Six Corners district.
“Very few things have been able to [be] sustained [in the area],” Held said. “There has been a lot of turnover and it’s frustrating that there’s this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that was never envisioned in the master plan.”
In 2013, the city’s planning department created a Six Corners Economic Development Master Plan to help planning committees attract more business and retail to the area, plan for redevelopment and upgrade pedestrian safety, among other things.
While the proposed Peoples Gas development would bring retail and redevelopment to the area, some neighbors worry it’s not in the best interest of the community. The city plan also calls for more residential dwellings and outdoor space to increase density and foot traffic.
The proposed project has two outdoor spaces, one with a gazebo and a Divvy bike station, that the developer said were inspired by the master plan of the nearby project known as The Point.
The Six Corners Association also opposed the original proposal, but president Amie Zander said she now has mixed feelings about the updated design. She said she is excited for the development and the potential for more food and grocery options but she said the design looks too much like the suburbs.
“36 [apartments] is good, the tenants are good,” Zander said. “All of the pieces are there but we want to see it look a little more urban. It looks like a suburban strip mall and we don’t live in the suburbs.”
Like Held and other neighbors, she worries that people driving to use the commercial space won’t explore the neighborhood and support the longtime businesses that have been hit hard by the pandemic.
But Sam Davis, owner of Distinct Bath and Body shop at 4046 N. Milwaukee Ave., welcomes the proposed project to the neighborhood because of its sit-down food options and retail density, and said it could draw new people to the area.
“More density is a wanted thing,” Davis said. “If you think about the infrastructure of Six Corners, it’s built to have density. Back in the day, people used to talk about how this was a bustling area. It’s designed for that.”
Zander said she grew up in the Six Corners area and agrees with Davis — she wants the bustling shopping district to be revitalized, but the plan needs to be more cohesive.
For years, neighbors have pushed for more density and foot traffic to come to the area and fill vacant lots, especially to the busy corner. After sitting empty for nearly four years, The Point at 4747 W. Irving Park Rd. will become a 10-story senior living facility with 258 residences called The Clarendale. Construction began in March after years of setback and contention.
It will also have 215 parking spots and 45,000 square-feet of retail space anchored by an Aldi grocery store to the corner of Milwaukee Avenue, Cicero Avenue and Irving Park Road.
Across from the site, the former Sears at Irving Park Road and Cicero Avenue was slated to be turned into a 400-unit apartment complex but after the property owners sold it to Novak Construction in August of last year, the project’s future remains in limbo.
GW Properties did not immediately return requests for comment.
The developer, which has worked on similar large-scale retail developments in the suburbs with some of the same tenants as proposed at the Peoples Gas Site, is also behind plans to redevelop the 107-year-old Hollander Storage & Moving site in the heart of Logan Square to add boutique offices, restaurants and retail to the rapidly changing neighborhood.
Northwest Side neighbors told Block Club they hope to have a larger community meeting with the developer to have their concerns addressed and push for a “significantly altered” plan that better addresses the community needs.
The proposed development is still in the early stages but would require community and aldermanic approval, a zoning change and City Council approval.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.