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Lincoln Park, Old Town

Old Town Neighbors Say They Want A Grocery Store, Historic Preservation As Prime Intersection Gets An Overhaul

Architect David Adjaye, known for projects like the The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC, will be lead designer in the Old Town overhaul.

Shell Gas Station, 130 W. North Ave.
Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
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OLD TOWN — Neighbors are pushing developers to bring a grocery store to the area as they begin overhauling several Old Town buildings.

Developer Fern Hill Company, alongside Moody Church, is transforming five sites on LaSalle Drive, North Avenue and Wells Street, including the former Treasure Island grocery store.

The properties include:

  • The BP Gas Station at 1647 N. LaSalle Drive
  • The Shell Gas Station at 130 W. North Ave.
  • The parking lot at North Avenue and LaSalle Drive
  • The Walgreens at 1601 N. Wells St.
  • The vacant Treasure Island on Wells Street

More than 1,400 people submitted comments about how the sites should be redeveloped through a community engagement website launched in November. With that feedback, developers pinpointed five common themes.

Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
The vacant Treasure Island retail space on Wells Street.
Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
Walgreens, 1601 N. Wells St.

In addition to a grocery store to replace the Treasure Island that closed in 2019, neighbors said they want to preserve and enhance Wells Street’s historical character, and make it easier for people to connect in public open spaces.

Residents also said they worried about the increase of violent crime and thefts, and the Wells Street nightlife scene moving further north.

“Your participation in our community engagement process has been incredibly insightful and a testament to how active and invested the Old Town community is in their neighborhood,” Nick Anderson, founder and president of Fern Hill, said in a joint statement with Mike Ellch, principal at Fern Hill.

The website’s next phase of community feedback, which began last week, asks neighbors to answer questions about each individual property.

First up is the Shell Gas station. Developers want neighbors to weigh on the station’s positive or negative community benefits, what new uses could be explored for the space and other general comments.

Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
The parking lot at North Avenue and LaSalle Drive

The development team will also get feedback through a combination of in-person and virtual meetings over the next several months, Anderson said.

Fern Hill held its first meeting in September, during which the team introduced architect David Adjaye, known for projects like the The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC, as the lead designer.

Adjaye told neighbors he and his team “know Chicago very well and are big fans of the city.”

“Chicago has this extraordinary heritage of architecture, and Old Town was sort of the roots of that,” Adjaye said during the virtual community meeting. “The neighborhood has beautiful two- to three-story, Victorian-style architecture, which is why that part of the city is so distinct.”

The meeting was a chance for the developers and architects to introduce themselves to the neighborhood, Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) said. No design plans have been created.

“This is a blank canvas right now as we start,” Hopkins said at the time. “You all are invited to pick up a paintbrush. Let’s decide together what we want to happen here in conjunction with Moody Church and Fern Hill.”

Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
The BP gas station, 1647 N. LaSalle Drive.

Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.

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