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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

Ukrainian Village Gas Station Halted After Community Pushback: ‘Nobody Wants A Gas Station Here’

Cubby Mart Inc. was seeking special permission from the city to build a gas station at Grand and Western avenues. After overwhelming opposition from neighbors, the project will be canceled.

The vacant lot where a gas station is proposed to be built near the intersection of Grand and Western avenues in West Town on Oct. 19.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — A gas station derided by neighbors will not come to a busy Ukrainian Village intersection after the developer abruptly announced Wednesday he would not move forward with the project.

More than 50 neighbors packed a community meeting held by Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) Wednesday to oppose the proposed development, which would have installed three gas pumps and a one-story convenience store at the southwest corner of Grand and Western avenues.

Developer Zafar Hussain, operating under the name Cubby Mart Inc., was behind the project.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The vacant lot where a gas station is proposed to be built near the intersection of Grand and Western avenues in West Town on Oct. 19, 2021.

After a brief presentation from the development company at the meeting, neighbor after neighbor stood up to share their concerns, ranging from the station’s impact on public health to safety and traffic patterns. The proposed site is two blocks from Smith Park and about four blocks from Mitchell Elementary School.

“Each day, more than 400 kids are educated less than 1,000 feet away at Mitchell School … they’re playing outside or opening windows to have ventilation in their classrooms. Less than a thousand feet in another direction is Smith Park. Every day, hundreds of children attend after school care, year-round programs,” said neighbor Kris Hesidenz. “You’re putting everybody in jeopardy by allowing a gas station to be approved for this neighborhood.”

The meeting comes after Scott McKenna and his partner Michelle, who asked not to use her full name, organized a petition against the development this fall. The couple live a few doors down from the proposed site. McKenna said Wednesday the petition had received more than 200 signatures.

“Nobody wants a gas station here. Nobody,” said Joe Glorioso, who has lived in the neighborhood for 61 years. “I know almost everyone and everyone that I’ve spoken to is like, ‘big thumbs down.’ So I just want to let that be public.”

“I love this neighborhood a lot. I love the community character, and everyone in this room who’s here understands the importance of conversations like this. And while I appreciate the dialogue, I adamantly oppose the location of this gas station in its current location,” said Lesley Roth, who lives near the planned site.

Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
Neighbor Joe Glorioso speaking at a community meeting for a proposed gas station at Grand and Western avenues on Dec. 1, 2021

In order to proceed, the Cubby Mart Inc. needed special approval from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

Chicago’s zoning code requires special use approval for new gas stations. But Cubby Mart was also seeking a variation because the lot size was 11,240 square feet, whereas city code requires a minimum of 20,000 square feet for gas stations.

Nicholas Ftikas, an attorney representing Cubby Mart, said Wednesday the company expected to have a hearing in front of the Zoning Board of Appeals early next year.

But after the outpouring of opposition at Wednesday’s meeting, Burnett announced he would have a “hard time” supporting the project when it goes in front of the city, which is composed of mayoral appointees.

That’s when Hussain stood up and shocked neighbors by saying he wouldn’t move forward with the project. The room immediately burst into applause and cheers, with neighbors expressing surprise and relief.

“I will not do this project. I promise you that,” he said. “This is not the right thing. I want to do something more positive … alderman, I will not do this project.”

Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
Developer Zafar Hussain addressing neighbors at a community meeting for a proposed gas station at Grand and Western avenues on Dec. 1, 2021

After the meeting, Hussain said he no longer plans to purchase the property at Grand and Western for any use. Ftikas confirmed the company’s application for special use with the ZBA would be withdrawn.

“Once I feel the whole community, I knew that this is not my project,” Hussain said. “If the community is not happy, I don’t want to do it.”

For neighbor Michelle, who helped organize the petition, relief that the gas station won’t be built is “an understatement.”

“I honestly don’t know what we would have done because if I’m not comfortable living there, I wouldn’t want to rent it so someone else could live there, or sell it to someone else can bring their family there,” she said. “It’s a community that’s invested in the quality of life here. People aren’t just upset about it for the sake of being upset. It’s a legitimate hazard to the community with no benefit.”

Burnett agreed the developer made the right decision to stop the project.

“He read the tea leaves. That’s why I wanted him to come and hear what the people had to say,” Burnett said.

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