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Zoning Plan Would Limit Stores On E. Lakeview Blocks

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Clark, Diversey and Broadway

The intersection of Diversey Parkway, Clark Street and Broadway, as seen in 2009. (Credit: Adam Harrington/CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – As a Borders bookstore in the East Lakeview neighborhood prepares to close, a planned zoning change on the adjoining blocks would limit the size of any store that opens in the future.

The City Council Zoning Committee is set to meet Thursday at 10 a.m. Among several items on the agenda is a zoning change proposed by Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) that would downzone one side each of the 2800 blocks of North Broadway and North Clark Street.

The blocks would change from B3-2 and B3-3 community shopping districts – which have no limit on the size a given store can occupy – to B1-2, which limits the size of any business to 25,000 square feet.

The measure would only affect the east side of Clark Street and the west side of Broadway.

The purpose of the proposed zoning change is to bring the blocks into conformity with the building that now houses Borders at 2817 N. Clark St., as well as a Central Savings bank, according to the Zoning Committee agenda. The Borders store has entrances on both Clark and Broadway.

The zoning change would also restrict the opening of establishments serving alcohol, prohibiting bars, but permitting alcohol for table service at restaurants. There are no bars currently operating on the affected sides of either block.

The Clark Street Borders store is expected to close by April, after 16 years in business. Black and yellow “Store closing” signs have already been posted in the windows, along with discount offers. No future plans for the store have been discussed.

But the affected block of Broadway north of the Borders store is occupied by one large retail complex, which has several vacancies and was the subject of a community outcry late last year when a rumor spread that a Wal-Mart might move in.

The Broadway at Surf complex opened in 1997, and is designated for big-box retail. It is now occupied by a Bed, Bath and Beyond; a Cost Plus World Market; a T.J. Maxx; a Sprint Store; and a Palm Beach Tan salon, as well as a Midwest Orthopaedics clinic.

But the complex also has four vacant storefronts, and in December, reports in the Sun-Times and Crain’s Chicago Business indicated that Wal-Mart had signed a letter of intent to move into a still-vacant space formerly occupied by a PetSmart store.

The rumored Wal-Mart was to occupy 30,000 square feet for a new “neighborhood market” format store selling groceries and general merchandise. This size would be 5,000 square feet larger than the proposed new zoning restrictions would allow, although Wal-Mart announced earlier that its “neighborhood market” stores could range from 20,000 to 30,000 square feet.

But the point was declared moot long before any discussion of zoning changes.

At a December community meeting, Tunney read a statement saying Wal-Mart had not signed a lease or letter of intent at the Broadway at Surf building. The retailer only said it was evaluating “a number of potential opportunities.”

Later, the Sun-Times reported that Wal-Mart might be interested in some of the old Borders sites. In addition to the East Lakeview store, Borders is closing stores in Uptown, in Beverly, on North Avenue and in the Lincoln Village shopping center, along with 10 suburban locations, after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

So far, the only confirmed plan for a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market is at the Presidential Towers, 555 W. Madison St.

The block of Clark Street that would be affected by the zoning change is lined with a hodgepodge of businesses, housed mostly in prewar buildings with residential space on the upper floors.

Among the businesses on the block are Leo’s Custom Leather, Gramophone Records, La Crêperie and Sushi 28 restaurants, Apartment Savvy, and the McKillip Animal Hospital. The Lakeview Neighborhood Health Center, a city-operated medical clinic, also takes up a long stretch of the block.

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