LINCOLN SQUARE — A controversial plan to bring an Amazon Fresh grocery store to a prime Lincoln Square intersection is dead after a deal between the developer and property owner fell through, according to Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th).
Vasquez first notified neighbors in early 2021 about developer Hubbard Street Group pursuing a two-story development at Fifth Third Bank’s 4800 N. Western Ave. property that would have featured a first floor grocery store.
The developer would not disclose the name of the store, which upset local residents. Finally, when Vasquez threatened to downzone the property, Hubbard confirmed to the alderman’s officer that the mystery grocer was indeed Amazon.
But Hubbard still wasn’t able to answer additional questions about Amazon Fresh’s plans in the neighborhood because of a non-disclosure agreement, Vasquez said.
That lack of transparency kept the ward’s community zoning process from moving forward and last month the deal was scrapped, Vasquez said.
“Because of the concerns that neighbors had we required both the developer and Amazon to answer certain questions as it relates to supporting local businesses, or what they could do to be community partners,” Vasquez said. “Ultimately, Amazon was not able to answer our questions even though they were given a sufficient amount of time.”
In a statement, Fifth Third Bank spokesperson Gemma Bolech said developer Hubbard terminated its contract to develop the property at Lawrence and Western.
“The bank was not involved with any additional plans the developer was pursuing for the property,” Bolech said. “We continue to investigate other options for this location, but no decisions have been made.”
Representatives from Hubbard Street Group and Amazon declined to comment.
The developer was initially able to skip aldermanic review by breaking up construction into two phases, city officials previously said. The move angered residents, who questioned why the community was being shut out of the process.
Neighbor Ellen Shepard started a petition last year demanding a community meeting with the developer and was part of the group of Lincoln Square neighbors and business owners critical of the secrecy around the proposal.
She applauded Vasquez for listening to neighbors and “sticking to his guns” to force more transparency from Hubbard about the now-canceled project.
“I think Ald. Vasquez decided he wanted to play this out strategically and it sometimes left him in a really uncomfortable position,” Shepard said. “But he waited and it sounds like waiting was the exact right thing to do.”
Had the project moved forward, it would have threatened nearby grocers including Gene’s Sausage Shop and Delicatessen, 4750 N. Lincoln Ave., or Savory Spice Shop, 4753 N. Lincoln Ave., said Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber Executive Director Rudy Flores.
The neighborhood also has four full-sized grocery stores less than a half mile from the proposed Amazon Fresh, including neighborhood favorite HarvesTime Foods, 2632 W. Lawrence Ave., Flores said.
“There really isn’t a need in our community, like there are in so many other parts of our city, for another grocery store,” Flores said. “But the Fifth Third property is still a mostly unused site and we do support redeveloping it. We’d just like to be part of the conversation on what a tenant might look like that complements the current mix of businesses.”
Before the deal fell apart, Hubbard Street reached out to developer Related Midwest about building affordable housing on the site, Vasquez said.
Representatives from Related Midwest were not immediately available for comment on the future of this affordable housing.
“The unfortunate part is that, to my understanding, that affordable housing is not moving forward either because the developer [Related Midwest] and Fifth Third also weren’t able to meet each other’s terms,” Vasquez said.
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