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Ravenswood One Step Closer to Mariano’s Grocery Store

A proposed retail development that includes a Mariano’s Fresh Market grocery store on a Sears parking lot in Ravenswood is inching closer toward approval.

A rendering of a proposed Mariano's grocery store in Ravenswood. Via Ald. Ameya Pawar's office.

The developers and architect of the Ravenswood Station, a proposed two-floor retail facility at Lawrence and Ravenswood avenues, presented plans for the $43 million project to the public for the first time at Thursday night’s 47th Ward Council Meeting.

About $4 million—or 10 percent of the total project’s cost– will come from a city tax increment financing subsidy from the Ravenswood Corridor TIF District, Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) said at the meeting.

Two more community hearings are scheduled before Pawar decides whether to move the project forward by sending it to the City Council for approval.

Pawar voiced his support for the project located in his ward at the meeting, saying it would be an “economic engine” for the area. Pawar said there is a lot of development that needs to happen in the ward, especially along Lawrence Avenue.

“Lawrence Avenue is a stretch of our ward that is in need of revitalization,” he said to a packed audience at All Saints Episcopal Church, 1757 W. Wilson Ave.

The propose development–on a vast Sears parking lot for its department store a block away–would create at least 156 temporary construction and 200 full-time, retail-related jobs, according to projections from the project’s developers, Barrett & Porto, and Sy Taxman, CEO of the Skokie-based Taxman Corp.

Some thought the Ravenswood Station project wasn’t going to happen, as Sears was initially reluctant to sell its property, the Sun-Times reported earlier this year.

If approved, the Mariano’s grocery store–which would be located on the second floor of the building–will be slated to open in 2013. The developers could not say at the meeting which other retailers are interested in leasing all, or part, of the first floor.

Pawar said the development will regenerate the $4 million in TIF money back into the community in only four years.

“Over the long term, you are turning, what is essentially a totally unproductive piece of land, into something that is productive,” Pawar said.

But Ron Lindenau, Ward Council member from the River Path Neighbors Association, which represents the area from Western Avenue to the Chicago River and Montrose Avenue to Irving Park Road, asked what projects in the ward wouldn’t get a TIF subsidy because of the Mariano’s.

“Is any project losing out?” Lindenau asked Pawar.

Pawar answered “no,” adding he’s already set aside $2 million in TIF subsidies for three of the schools in the ward: Amundsen High School, Chappell Elementary and McPherson Elementary.

Mariano’s is new to the Chicagoland market, opening its first store in Arlington Heights in 2010. Four Mariano’s stores operate in the Chicagoland area.

The store has many of the same departments as other grocers, such as a deli, bakery and produce section, but it also offers a sit-down sushi bar, salad bar, an Italian coffee shop that serves gelato and a full-service pharmacy.

This year a Mariano’s opened in the Roscoe Village neighborhood, at 3350 N. Western Ave.

Robert Gatz, who lives at Ravenswood and Berteau avenues, enjoys shopping at Mariano’s. He drives to the one on Western Avenue, but would be happy if one is built closer to his home. Then he could walk or ride his bike, he said.

“Let’s face it,” Gatz said at the meeting. “There aren’t a lot of really cool retail stores around here. I am very grateful that they’re putting this together.”

The facility will have minimal street-parking spots. Its 200 parking spaces will be on the roof of the facility.

April Plous, a Lincoln Square resident, said she is concerned about her safety on a rooftop parking lot.

“As a woman, I feel very vulnerable and scared on rooftop parking,” Plous said at the meeting. “It’s unpleasant. Maybe men don’t feel that way, but women do, and that’s why women would rather park on the ground, no matter what.”

In response, Taxman, one of the developers, said, “The issue with any type of structured parking is one of creating an atmosphere that is safe.

“Our job, as mangers of the property, once it’s developed, is to first create that safe environment…by a presence of authority,” Taxman said. “And there will be a presence of authority at this location.”

The Ravenswood Station development will be discussed at two more community hearings on Dec. 15 and 19. The location and time of those hearings are still to be determined. The slides from the architect and developers’ presentation can be found online.

Pawar said he will use the input from the three meetings to make his decision on whether or not to move the project forward.

If Pawar approves it, the development proposal will go to the city’s Plan Commission, then the Council’s Zoning and Finance Ccommittees, before a full City Council vote.


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