NORTH PARK — Family-owned businesses at the corner of Foster and Kimball avenues could be displaced under a developer’s plan to tear down a commercial strip and replace it with a four-story apartment building.
The single-story corner property at 3352-3358 W. Foster Ave. has five tenants, including two restaurants, a corner store, a hair salon and a flower shop, all family-owned. Developer Murad Fazal and his partners bought the property about a year ago and want to combine it with another property to build 36 apartments and ground-floor retail.
A dental office on the property is not in use, Fazal said.
Fazal has offered his tenants long-term leases and the option to return once the development is complete, he said. Two have taken him up on this offer, he said.
“We want to fill our spaces, and we’re willing to work with them to get them back in,” Fazal said.
But others worry they will be forced to relocate or will lose money while waiting for the building to reopen.
“I understand he’s the owner and he can do what he wants with his property,” said Maria Zarabia, co-owner of Look’s Chicago Beauty Salon. “The problem is we’re working here and paying the rent here already.”
Zarabia said she learned about Fazal’s plans during a May 25 virtual meeting hosted by the Hollywood-North Park Community Association. Her salon has operated out of the 3352-3358 W. Foster Ave. property for 15 years.
If Fazal’s plan moves forward, she said she’ll have to move somewhere with similar rent, which isn’t easy to find. Zarabia also said she would have to pay to move the salon’s equipment and update her business licenses.
“He said the building could take two years to build, and he’s offering us a lease if we want to return after it’s built. But why would we leave because of his construction, find a new location where we open and then pay to move everything back here after two years being open somewhere else?” Zarabia said in Spanish.
Taqueria Las Flores owner Jazmin Flores sent an email to customers earlier this month sharing her fears the business will have to move out of North Park. Flores and all her staff live in the neighborhood. She grew up working at her father’s restaurant, Taqueria El Asadero in nearby North Center.
Flores decided to open her own restaurant in 2019 and was happy to find a location so close to home. Many of her father’s regulars came to support her new businesses when she opened, and she’s grown her fan base since then, she said.
Flores has also built ties to the community by donating lunches to Peterson Elementary School, sponsoring Frederick Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center’s athletic teams and hosting bilingual storyteller events at her restaurant for children, she said.
Flores was devastated when she learned of the developer’s plans via a text from a friend, she said.
“I survived COVID pandemic. I’m surviving inflation. Then there’s a developer who’s like, ‘Oh, hey, get the f— out,’” Flores said. “But I would love to stay here for the next five to 10 years.”
Flores also worries she’ll have to start “from zero” somewhere else, and she wouldn’t be able to afford the rent in the new building’s retail space.
“And it’s not like the new building is going to be built according to the needs of my business, either,” Flores said.
Mitesh Patel, the owner of Foster Grocery & Dollar Plus, said he is frustrated at Fazal’s plan and concerned it will stall his chance to retire.
Patel became the owner of the corner store about four years ago and planned to sell the business soon, and join his family in Georgia. He had a buyer lined up, but that person backed out when Fazal’s plans became public, Patel said.
Fazal “has offered me a spot, but I’m the last person from my family here running this business. I want to sell it and get out of this. I know I’m gonna lose a lot of money now,” Patel said. “I mean, there’s no point for me to just stay here without the business, anyway.”
The owners of Merla’s Kitchen and Tea Rose Flower Shop, owned by the same family on the Kimball side of the building, declined comment.
Fazal and his partners have been in the area for 20 years, operating the Subway at 3346 W. Foster Ave., just east of the building they’ve proposed tearing down.
“We’ve always had employees trying to get apartments in that area,” Fazal said. It “seems there’s a huge shortage of nicer apartments, sort of something that’s bigger, that’s a little bit more modern. We feel that there is a demand for some larger units in that area.”
The property is less than 1 mile from the Kimball Brown Line stop and a short walk from four bus stops near the Foster and Kimball intersection, Fazal is asking Ald. Samantha Nugent (39th) to support a zoning change so the building would qualify as a transit-oriented development, he said.
This would allow Fazal to construct the apartment and retail building without including parking spaces, he said.
“… We’re not proposing to get rid of the commercial piece,” Fazal said. “We’re just looking to add some apartments and, at the end of the day, make it look nice.”
Fazal hopes to secure approval for the plan this year. He could begin demolition about a year later.
Nugent said she is reviewing the proposal’s “overall viability” and asking for community feedback before making a decision.
“My concerns for this project are these businesses could come back to the building, but he couldn’t promise that rent for the leases wouldn’t go up,” neighbor Kyla Klein said. “And they would have to vacate the whole time that the construction is underway. If that’s the case, they might as well just find a new place and not come back at all.”
The association will host another virtual meeting about the proposal 7 p.m. Wednesday. Go to the group’s Facebook page for more information.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: