By Morgan McDevitt
June 9, 2009 – Neighborhood and community groups continue to discuss a proposed residential development at Diversey and Lakewood Avenues that will likely include a tribute to a longtime Chicago business that once occupied the site – the Peerless Confections Company.
After 90 years in business the candy manufacturer closed its doors in April 2007. The building at 1254 W. Schubert Ave. was demolished a couple of months later, and then re-zoned as a residential development, according to Paul Sajovech, an aide to Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd).
Fenton Booth of Ogden Partners Inc. purchased the land in Feb. 2008 for a proposed residential development of single-family homes and apartments. Booth said the development would also include a park and community garden at the corner of Lakewood and Schubert Avenues.
Booth’s plan of first-floor retail and apartments encountered some resistance at a meeting with Wrightwood Neighbors and West DePaul Neighbors Association. Community members said they were concerned about the scope of the development and the impact on street parking, traffic congestion and property values, said Sajovech.
“Many of the people in this neighborhood have lived here most of their lives and they want to see homes just like theirs [single-family homes] going up across the street,” said Allan Mellis, a 30-year resident of the neighborhood and past president of the Wrightwood Neighbors Association.
The Wrightwood Neighbors Association called for fewer apartments and condominums, but priced in the $400,000 to $1.8 million range to encourage diversity, said Mellis.
While Booth proposed the park, it was Mellis who proposed the name “Peerless Park,” a tribute to the candy factory that once stood on that corner.
“To honor the company, the fence around the area would have replicas of the hard candy they used to manufacture,” said Mellis.
Mellis planned and planted community gardens like the one proposed for the Peerless site for more than 10 years as a board member of NeighborSpace, an organization that promotes and protects community gardens and parks.
“We approached NeighborSpace and came up with the public park idea for our development,” said Booth.
Mellis hopes NeighborSpace will encourage new residents to properly care for Peerless Park as a way of honoring the former candy factory.