By Bob Uphues
A Chicago alderman may have wanted to keep a Chick-fil-A fast-food business out of his ward, but North Riverside is ready to welcome the Georgia-based chicken sandwich chain to the southwest corner of Cermak Road and Harlem Avenue.
While Chick-fil-A has not yet asked the village for any zoning variances or permits, the company has submitted site plans for a 4,162-square-foot restaurant with double drive-thru lanes.
Alan Saposnik, the manager of the North Riverside Plaza shopping center, said the chain has not yet signed a lease for the corner property, but a deal is nearing completion.
"The negotiations are getting very close," Saposnik said. "Once that happens, the next step would be for the company to request a special use for the drive-thru. The hope is for that to happen in the next 30 days, but I'm not in charge of that; they are."
The company submitted the site plan to the village at this time in order to start the permitting process for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District storm sewer requirements, since such permission could take several months to obtain.
"They wanted to start that process while going through negotiations," said Saposnik.
Karen Byrne, who handles the village of North Riverside's building applications, said her understanding was that Chick-fil-A would like to begin construction in September. However, depending on the length of time it takes to obtain permits and clear the site, construction could be delayed until next spring.
According to Saposnik, Chick-fil-A does not like to do construction during the winter months.
The site plans on file with the village indicate the building that formerly housed Pearle Vision would be demolished to make way for the new restaurant. According to Saposnik, a newer version of the plans calls for two of the four curb cuts into the property — the one closer to Harlem Avenue on Cermak Road and one closer to Cermak Road on Harlem Avenue — to be removed.
A double drive-thru is shown running along the east side of the restaurant, with parking for about 30 cars located on three sides of the building.
The plans also indicate that up to three fuel tanks might be located below ground at the site, which was once a gas station. It is not clear whether the tanks are still there and need to be removed.
Chick-fil-A drew fire last fall from Chicago Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno, who protested the arrival of one of the chain's restaurants in his Northwest Side ward because of the company's support of groups that oppose marriage equality and gay rights.
The company makes no secret of its devotion to conservative Christian principles. All of the company's more than 1,500 locations, for example, are closed on Sundays. The company's founder, Truett Cathy, explains on his website that the practice is "a testament to his faith in God" and an illustration of the company's corporate purpose "to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A."
Chick-fil-A has five locations in the Chicago area, one on Chicago's Near North Side and four suburban locations.
The company did not respond to an email sent May 8 by the Landmark asking about their plans for the North Riverside location.