Chick-fil-A, the Georgia-based, fast-food, chicken sandwich chain, has signed a lease to occupy the southwest corner of Harlem Avenue and Cermak Road in North Riverside and may be open by early 2014.

Alan Saposnik, manager of the North Riverside Plaza shopping center, confirmed the lease was completed last week. The building that formerly housed Pearle Vision at that corner was demolished, June 18, to make way for the new 4,200-square-foot restaurant, which will have a double drive-thru and parking for about 30 vehicles.

On June 27 at 7 p.m., the North Riverside Zoning Board of Appeals and Plan Commission will meet jointly in the council chambers of the Village Commons, 2401 Desplaines Ave., to discuss two zoning variation requests from Chick-fil-A.

The company seeks a variation for the building setback on the Cermak Road side of the building. The zoning code requires a 40-foot setback from the north property line, while plans call for a setback of 37 feet. The company is also seeking a variance for its signage.

No roadblocks to those requests are expected. Chili’s received a similar setback variation when that building was pitched back in 2007. The village routinely grants sign variations for commercial developments.

According to Karyn Byrne, who is the village’s code enforcement officer, Chick-fil-A has expressed an interest in breaking ground in September and opening as early as February 2014.

However, Saposnik said he could not confirm that timetable since there is still a site issue that needs to be addressed related to underground fuel tanks that are still buried on the property, which was once home to a gas station.

Three tanks are still reportedly underground, but Saposnik said he couldn’t speculate on what it might take to clear the site for construction.

“Until you open up the ground, you don’t know for certain,” Saposnik said.

Plans submitted to the village last week also show that street access to the Chick-fil-A restaurant will only be directly available from the southbound lanes of Harlem Avenue south of Cermak Road.

Three other curb cuts that presently exist for that property — two on eastbound Cermak Road and on Harlem Avenue close to Cermak Road — will be closed to traffic permanently. Access to Chick-fil-A will also be available through the plaza parking lot from the west.

Red Lobster very close to lease

Meanwhile, over at the North Riverside Park Mall, both sides are very close to a lease agreement that would bring Red Lobster to the outlot at 7515 Cermak Road, which once housed a medical office building.

 

Mall General Manager Harvey Ahitow said he expects the lease to be signed within the next 30 days. Once that happens, he said, the existing one-story building will be demolished and replaced with a new restaurant.

 

While timetables are loose without a lease in place, Ahitow said the restaurant chain would like to have exterior work largely finished before winter with the hope of opening in spring of 2014.

 

On the same date Chick-fil-A will get a hearing before the joint zoning board/plan commission, June 27, Red Lobster will also be appearing before both groups to obtain a recommendation for a variance to the sign code.

 

Another proposed outlot restaurant, to be located in the north parking lot of Sears, remains mired in lease negotiations. The same company that owns both Olive Garden and Red Lobster, Darden Restaurants, would like to build a LongHorn Steakhouse at the site.

 

That deal is bogged down in negotiations between Sears and the other anchor stores at the mall, J.C. Penney and Carson Pirie Scott.