ROGERS PARK — The Zen Leaf dispensary in Rogers Park is looking to move from its original location to a larger spot within in the Gateway Center Plaza on the Evanston border and next to the Howard Street CTA terminal.
The proposed relocation comes after an earlier attempt to move into the closed Leona’s restaurant at 6935 N. Sheridan Road was protested by neighbors and eventually nixed by Ald. Maria Hadden (49th).
The leaders of Zen Leaf, which is now at 7305 N. Rogers Ave., need city approval to move into a storefront at 7541 N. Clark St., according to Hadden.
Moving out of the Rogers Avenue spot would allow Zen Leaf to expand, taking it out of a more residential setting and into a prominent space in a commercial development.
Hadden’s office will host a community meeting on the topic 6 p.m. March 8. To register to attend the virtual meeting, click here.
Zen Leaf’s parent company, Verano, bought what was then known as Green Gate Dispensary in 2021. Green Gate opened as a medical-only dispensary on Rogers Avenue before recreational pot was legalized.
After buying the pot shop, Verano sought a more prominent flagship location for the dispensary, officials said at a community meeting. The company proposed moving into the former Leona’s restaurant. But Hadden, after hearing from neighbors, asked Verano to consider other locations where its presence could benefit nearby small businesses.
The Clark Street location fronts the street and is part of the large Gateway Centre Plaza that holds a Jewel and LA Fitness, among other businesses.
The new site is 4,800 square feet and includes 100 parking spaces in the rear of the facility, Hadden’s office said.
“With its proximity to multiple transit options, its central location, and the ample on-site parking available, the owners feel that this location will ideally meet the needs of its customers and patients,” Hadden wrote in her weekly newsletter. “It will also fill a currently vacant storefront in a critical commercial corridor in the ward.”
The dispensary would neighbor Aspen Dental. Prior to that, the building contained Ethiopian Diamond and its sister business, Diamond Room Banquets.
Ethiopian Diamond opened on Clark Street in 2010 but closed in 2019. The restaurant’s owner sold the building to a property investor, records show.
The banquet hall portion of the business has been vacant for years.
To open a dispensary at the location, the city will have to amend the planned development for the Gateway shopping center to allow for a medical and recreational dispensary, according to Hadden’s office. That would eventually require a City Council vote.
Dispensaries looking to open new locations also need a special use permit from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, separate from the City Council approval process. The property owners will apply for a planned development amendment in March with the hopes of opening in the new location by the end of the year, Hadden said.
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