by BRIAN NADIG
Several development proposals near the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue, Irving Park Road and Cicero Avenue and the role that subsidies could play in the success of some of those projects were discussed at the Oct. 6 meeting of the Six Corners Association.
“Six Corners is on the cusp of major development,” association executive director Kelli Wefenstette said at the association’s community leaders roundtable luncheon. “In a year from now, it could look drastically different than it does now.”
Those projects call for a Binny’s Beverage Depot, Retro Fitness and possibly a pancake house inside the former Bank of America building at 4901 W. Irving Park Road, a Culver’s restaurant on the site of a former tire shop at 4939 W. Irving Park Road and a retail center on the site of the former Bank of America at 4747 W. Irving Park Road.
Also, in neighboring Old Irving Park, a mixed-use development at Irving Park and Avondale Avenue will include a Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria carryout store, Potbelly’s Sandwiches and Bow Truss Coffee.
Alderman John Arena’s director of economic development Anthony Alfano said that the developer for the Binny’s project initially requested $4 million in tax increment financing subsidies to pay for some of the infrastructure improvements on the property but that the request has been lowered to $2 million.
Arena does not take subsidy requests lightly and that to be considered developers must show that their project would provide a community benefit, Alfano said. The Binny’s project would include the conversion of a rear alley into a public plaza and the preservation of the former bank’s 300-seat, second-floor theater, he said.
“There really are not a lot of 300-seat theaters in the city,” Alfano said. Plans call for the theater to be made available for use by community organizations, he said.
The Chicago-based Clark Street Development initially sought $12 million in TIF subsidies for a proposed retail center on a nearly 4-acre site at the southeast corner of Irving Park and Cicero and that request was later reduced to about $5 million, Alfano said. “Now they’re asking for zero TIF,” Alfano said. “It’s still set to be a $40 million investment in the community.” An anchor tenant for Clark Street’s proposed retail project has not been announced.
It also was reported that TIF subsidies are being considered for the redevelopment of several underutilized buildings on the east side of the 4000 block of Milwaukee, including the former Mr. Steer’s Steakhouse. The Condor development company recently acquired those properties and a brewpub is among the new uses being considered for the block, Alfano said.
It also was reported more that $3.5 million in TIF grants through the city’s Small Business Improvement Fund have been used to renovate storefronts at Six Corners.
Also at the meeting, it was announced that the association is planning to install on-street bike corrals, additional public art and other improvements to help make Six Corners a destination. “We want to make it a place people want to come to,” Wefensttee said. “Make it a place people feel safe and comfortable.”
The association also is looking making an existing walkway that runs behind the Klee Plaza between Cicero and Milwaukee more visible to shoppers. One recommendation calls for painting the public sidewalk that leads to the walkway.
It also was reported that the Chicago Ballet Center, 4024 N. Cicero Ave., is constructing a new dance studio on the top floor of the four-story Portage Lofts building at 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave., which also houses the National Veterans Art Museum, the Filament Theater and the Inside Out Art Studio and Mask Shop.
Association board member Jackie Intress, who serves as Filament’s outreach manager, said that it is very unusual to have a building in a city neighborhood dedicated to such a wide variety of art uses.
Arts Alive Chicago president Cyd Smillie said that these art uses have played a key role in attracting new businesses, such as the Community restaurant that open earlier this year at 4038 N. Milwaukee Ave. “Community is here because of Filament,” she said.
The association is sponsoring a “Halloween Treasure Hunt” and “Costume Coven,” which includes spooky games and mask making, on Saturday, Oct. 31. A schedule of activities and times is available at www.sixcorners.com.