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Lincoln Park, Old Town

Lincoln Park Dispensary, Metra Station Rehab, Nobody’s Darling Expansion Get Key Zoning Approvals

All projects advanced Tuesday could go in front of the full City Council for a final vote as soon as Wednesday.

A rendering shows Marigrow's plans for an Ümi cannabis dispensary in Lincoln Park.
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LINCOLN PARK — A recreational marijuana dispensary has moved one step closer to opening on a prominent Lincoln Park intersection.

Marigrow, the marijuana company behind the Nature’s Care cannabis dispensary in the West Loop, is seeking to convert the former Salt n’ Pepper diner, 2573-81 N. Lincoln Ave., into Ümi, a 4,970-square-foot dispensary.

The City Council’s zoning committee Tuesday greenlit a zoning change sought by the dispensary, as well as the expansion of a popular Andersonville bar, a renovation of a downtown Metra station and numerous other developments across the city.

All projects could go to the full City Council Wednesday for final approval.

The Lincoln Park dispensary has so far garnered mixed reactions from neighbors, with some expressing concern about its proximity to Jonquil Park across the street. Others have welcomed the takeover of the former diner, which has sat vacant for many years.

Marigrow CEO Akele Parnell said in November customers will be reminded they’re not allowed to smoke in the park. The dispensary’s security patrols will monitor the area, he said.

Ald. Timmy Knudsen (43rd) took a neutral stance on the dispensary, stating in a Jan. 13 letter to the Zoning Committee that he was leaving it up to the committee to determine whether the zoning change was appropriate.

This came a day after Gabriel Gillett, president of the Wrightwood Neighborhood Association, sent a letter to the alderman stating the organization did not support or oppose the project given the mixed reactions it drew from the community.

Like all dispensaries, Marigrow must still win approval from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, which is separate from the City Council’s zoning committee.

An additional community meeting will be held during that process, Parnell told neighbors last fall.

Credit: Kathleen Hinkel/Block Club Chicago
Bars have always been de facto community spaces for the queer community. Bartender Felicia Van Kampen mixes a cocktail on June 23, 2022, at Nobody’s Darling. Nobody’s Darling — a small, Black-lesbian-owned queer bar in Andersonville — was recently named one of 20 national semifinalists for a James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program.

Nobody’s Darling Expansion

A popular LGBTQ bar in Andersonville was granted a zoning change to expand into a neighboring storefront.

Owners of Nobody’s Darling, 1744 W. Balmoral Ave., are seeking to roughly double their bar’s size to accommodate an influx of customers.

The expansion plans include creating a 10-foot opening in the wall separating the two spaces. The new side would have a smaller bar and additional tables and seating, owners said last month.

The expansion would increase Nobody’s Darling’s capacity from 65 to about 110.

The Black-woman-owned bar, which caters to LGBTQ women, opened in May 2021, taking over a space that once held one of the city’s last remaining lesbian bars, Joie De Vine.

If approved by City Council, work on the expansion could begin early this year and take two to three months, owners said.

Credit: Metra/Provided
A rendering of an entrance to Metra’s Van Buren station in Grant Park, which the agency is seeking to renovate

Van Buren Street Station Renovation

The zoning committee also advanced a proposal by Metra to undertake a multi-year renovation of its Van Buren Street station in Grant Park.

The commuter rail agency plans to replace uneven platforms and upgrade lighting, add a new entryway on the east side of Michigan Avenue and perform numerous other fixes.

The renovation will also add two additional ADA-accessible entrances to the station. It currently only has one accessible entrance.

Designed in 1896, the station is one of the oldest in the Metra system, according to the agency.

“Core elements of the renovation will include the restoration of historic elements in the waiting area, the pedestrian tunnels, and station access,” according to a project overview on Metra’s website.

Metra is also seeking a review of the project from the Chicago Plan Commission.

If fully approved, construction is expected to behind in 2024 and finish by 2027, according to Metra.

The zoning committee also approved numerous other changes and developments Tuesday, including construction of a high school and renovations to a synagogue in West Ridge and the conversion of the former Otis Elevator factory in Pilsen to rental units.

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