With a cannabis dispensary on the way for Harlem Avenue, local officials are now trying to address parking and traffic circulation in and around the site. | Bob Uphues/Editor

Riverside’s first adult-use recreational cannabis dispensary could open its door to the public as soon as August, according to Village Manager Jessica Frances.

Star Buds IL, which opened a dispensary in southwest suburban Burbank in January, recently began interior demolition at 2704 Harlem Ave. after being granted a permit by the village of Riverside. Signs on two sides of the building’s exterior announce “cannibis (sic) dispensary coming soon.”

An attempt to reach Ahmad Joudeh, one of two brothers who are Star Buds IL’s principals, was not successful.

The cannabis company is leasing the property from its owner Dr. Milad Nourahmadi, who also owns the strip mall at 2720 Harlem Ave. Once the dispensary has been open for one month, the village of Riverside intends to sell the property at 2710 Harlem Ave., which sits between 2704 and 2720 Harlem Ave., to Nourahmadi.

The plan is to convert that vacant parcel at 2710 Harlem Ave. into additional parking for 2720 Harlem Ave., and also set aside some parking spaces in that lot for the dispensary.

Because cannabis dispensaries are allowed by right in the Harlem Avenue commercial zoning district, Star Buds will not need any zoning relief.

Work to convert 2704 Harlem Ave. into a cannabis dispensary has set a number of other wheels in motion, specifically regarding parking and traffic circulation in and around the commercial properties.

Riverside trustees agreed on May 18 with a recommendation by Frances to temporarily allow employees of the strip mall businesses to park during business hours on Longcommon Road while the parking lot at 2710 Harlem Ave. is built.

Employees of Nourahmadi’s Shining Smiles dental practice have been parking in the lot at 2704 Harlem Ave. However, as the dispensary nears completion, those employees will be displaced. 

Because work on the parking lot at 2710 Harlem Ave. will not start until at least one month after the dispensary opens, those employees are going to need an alternate location to park.

Frances said residents of the 500 block of Longcommon Road would be notified multiple times of the plan, once it’s finalized, and that it will only be for employees via permit. Asked how long the temporary on-street parking arrangement might last, Frances guessed three to four months.

Village trustees gave Frances the go-ahead to seek bids for the construction of a curb and gutter bump-out on the north side of Berkeley Road just east of the alley running behind the commercial properties.

In 2020, in order to prevent cut-through traffic, the village made Berkeley Road one way going east from the alley and placed “do not enter” signs at Harlem Avenue. While that helped reduce cut-through traffic, it also meant residents of the townhomes in the 2600 block of Harlem Avenue had to use Longcommon and loop back on Byrd Road to access their properties.

With the dispensary parking lot having street access off of both Harlem Avenue and Berkeley Road, the plan is to revert to two-way traffic on Berkeley Road west of Harlem Avenue. 

The curb and gutter bump-out on the north side of Berkeley Road will prevent westbound traffic past the dispensary driveway. The arrangement will also once again allow townhome residents easier access to their homes.

In addition, Star Buds has asked for additional offsite parking for their eight to 10 employees who will be working at any given time.

One idea was to cut out a section of the parkway on the south side of Berkeley Road between the dispensary driveway and the Harlem Avenue sidewalk to allow four diagonal parking spaces.

However, trustees were not thrilled with that idea because it would mean removing two mature trees in the parkway. Frances said another option could be notching the parkways on both the north and south sides of Berkeley Road to create two parallel parking spaces on each side of the street.

It was not clear whether that would also require any tree removal or potentially damage tree roots. The parallel parking option also costs about double the diagonal parking option, Frances said, although Star Buds reportedly has expressed willingness to pay for the improvement up to a certain amount.

 Trustees are expected to consider the Star Buds parking request again at their next meeting on June 15.