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Pause In The Parking Lot

Let's start with the good news. When the Forty Acres Fresh Market construction permit was sent to zoning for expedited review on June 2, I had concerns that the city would have a very different definition of expedited than I do. However, for the first time in history the city of Chicago completed a process in less than 1 business day.

The not so good news is that zoning's speedy response was not an approval. Zoning channeled a Russian ballet instructor and gave corrections. On everything.

Bicycle racks. Anticipated use of tenant space. Site plan. Loading spaces. Fix. Fix. Fix.

Thankfully, most of the corrections require more specific notes to be added to the submitted plans. But there was one correction that is not so simple. The parking lot.

Technically, beyond showing proof of driveway permit, the parking lot itself is fine. However, zoning requires landscape islands within the parking lot. If there is one thing this city is gonna do, it's going to put green space any and everywhere it could possibly fit.

While there are ample trees and shrubbery designed for the perimeter of the lot, our drawings do not include the interior landscaping found in almost all large Chicago parking lots. Why? The parking lot ain't that big to begin with.

There are two options.

  1. Follow the city's request, include parking lot landscape islands and trees, and lose two or three parking spaces.

  2. Keep the design as it is, apply for an administrative adjustment, and add at least 45 days to the permit application for zoning approval.

The path of least resistance in the short term is to throw some landscaping into the parking lot and keep the permit process going. However, losing up to the three parking spaces in an already small parking lot that will be shared with another retailer will not be good for customers, employees, traffic patterns, or suppliers using the lot in the future.

Adding another 45 days to the application process is no one's idea of a good time either. The longer it takes for this project to break ground, the more construction costs will increase. This includes building materials and the cost of capital, as we cannot close on our financing without the permit.

When neither option is good, the best longterm interest must prevail. Though we've been waiting for a permit since August 2022, we are choosing to wait even longer and go for the administrative adjustment.

So for the next 45 days, let's park (pun intended) all store opening questions and let's enjoy what we do have for now: The Austin Town Hall City Market is open!


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