BRONZEVILLE — Plans for a new gas station on the border of Bronzeville and Washington Park aren’t going over well with residents who are organizing to stop it from opening.
The eight-pump gas station would be built at 76 E. 51st St., which is currently being used as a parking lot by residents.
Owner Mohammed Abdallah, who operates nearly a dozen gas stations in the area, opened a location at 71st Street and Western Avenue six months ago. Abdallah told residents at a virtual town hall hosted by Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) this week that the station will offer a range of fuels including ethanol blends such as E85 and E15 that he said are in “extremely high demand” at his stations.
The gas station’s design would match the neighborhood architecture and feature a 24-hour convenience mart that would sell groceries and prepackaged healthy foods, but no alcohol. It would be staffed by a maximum of two to three employees during peak business hours.
Abdallah told residents that like his other stations, the new location will provide “quality and value” to the neighborhood and give back to the area through donations and programs.
Dowell stressed she has no say on the matter but wanted to make sure residents were able to weigh in.
The plan is set to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals on Jan. 20.
Neighbors living near the site say it makes little sense to build another gas station when there’s a Citgo station a block away. In fact, there are at least a half dozen gas stations within two miles of the proposed site. There is not a gas company brand linked to the proposed site yet.
Jeremy Lehman, who lives near the site, said gas stations in the area have been a magnet for criminal activity. Lehman said he’d rather see a development with homes and stores built instead.
Another resident who wished to remain anonymous said that they and others are prepared to sell their condo units if the gas station is built.
Abdullah faced similar opposition in September 2021 when he unveiled plans for a filling station at 6700 S. Western Ave. at a community meeting in which residents also shared safety concerns about loud music, loitering and trash.
Louis Outlaw, a 30-year resident of the area, told Block Club he plans on attending the Jan. 20 zoning board meeting to protest the plan. He agrees with Lehman that the site is better suited for retail and apartments and believes a gas station would only serve to disrupt the “renaissance” this part of Bronzeville is experiencing.
“We don’t need another gas station here. We have at least 10 in the area. Another gas station would be like having 10 nail salons. You just don’t need another one,” said Outlaw, a retired fireman.
When asked what he would say to residents who oppose the idea of a new gas station, Abdallah said he would turn the question back to them.
“Would they rather keep the lot empty for another 50 years, not to be developed? There are huge benefits through developing this site, the property taxes that will be created, the property taxes that will be reduced, the jobs that will be created. Or [we] can just leave it empty for another generation to come,” Abdallah said.
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