WICKER PARK — Two sisters want to open a cannabis dispensary across from the Polish Triangle in Wicker Park, working alongside a major player in the city’s pot industry.
The still-unnamed dispensary is seeking a required zoning change for the building at 1212 N. Ashland Ave., formerly home to an Aldo Sale Shop and a Chase Bank.
Fifty-one percent of the business is owned by sisters Loretta and Priscilla Foster, who have been awarded a social equity cannabis dispensary license by the state of Illinois. They are partnering with the owners of Chicago-based cannabis company Dispensary 33, which operates dispensaries in Andersonville and the West Loop.
Dispensary 33 owner Bryan Zises said at a community meeting Monday the company is providing technical support like management and security, hiring help and other assistance.
Dispensary 33 is not providing financial backing “as a corporate entity,” Zises said. But while the proposed dispensary would have its own name with the Foster sisters as majority owners, Zises said Monday he, his brother, and another partner have a significant financial stake in the business.
“We did provide some financial assistance to make the applications, we put in a significant number of balls in the lottery,” he said. “And really to just be perfectly blunt, in order to get a property that is as beautiful as this one … I’m going to put a personal guarantee on this property’s rent. And so my house, my mortgage is on the line here.”
Zises says business decisions at the Wicker Park dispensary will ultimately fall to the Fosters.
“I absolutely did a lot of help and I’m going to continue to do a lot of help, but it’s not [Dispensary 33], and at the end of the day. No matter what, the Fosters are still the ones who are going to be making, with our help, final decisions, in consultation with us,” he said.
Dispensary 33 will also provide design and layout guidance for the space. That’s being overseen by architect Jaime Magaliff with Steep Architecture Studio, who has worked with the company on other locations.
“One thing we really focus on is customer flow, and how to design that in a way that creates a linear, station-based process that quickly moves customers through the space without any bottlenecking or backtracking,” Magaliff said at Monday’s meeting. “So we like to have a designated entrance for customers and a designated exit for customers. We also feel that from a security perspective this keeps everybody moving in the same direction.
The proposed dispensary still has multiple hurdles to clear. If granted the requested zoning change, they’d then need to apply for a Special Use permit, which requires a separate layer of City Council review.
Zises predicts it would then take another three to six months to acquire additional permitting and to build out the space.
“This is a best case scenario, and anything can go wrong and set us back months and months. One we get to the permitting/build out phase, then it’s knowable. It’s not going to be a big buildout, we’re just doing interior stuff,” he said.
The dispensary would not have parking, and instead would rely on foot traffic and the nearby Blue Line station and bus stops.
Ald. Daniel La Spata’s (1st) office is seeking community feedback on the dispensary proposal. Neighbors can weigh in here.
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