LINCOLN SQUARE — A controversial plan to bring an Amazon Fresh grocery store to a prime Lincoln Square intersection died after a deal between developer and landlord failed, according to Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th).
Vasquez first notified neighbors in early 2021 that developer Hubbard Street Group was pursuing a two-story development at the 4800 N. Western Ave property. of Fifth Third Bank which would have featured a grocery store on the first floor.
The promoter did not want to divulge the name of the store, which upset the residents. Finally, when Vasquez threatened to dezone the property, Hubbard confirmed that the mysterious grocer was indeed Amazon.
But Hubbard was still unable to answer additional questions about Amazon Fresh’s plans in the neighborhood due to a nondisclosure agreement, Vasquez said.
That lack of transparency prevented the neighborhood’s community zoning process from moving forward and last month the deal was scrapped, Vasquez said.
“Due to concerns from neighbors, we asked the developer and Amazon to answer some questions about supporting local businesses or what they could do to be community partners,” Vasquez said. “In the end, Amazon was unable to answer our questions even though they had enough time.”
In a statement, Fifth Third Bank spokeswoman Gemma Bolech said developer Hubbard had terminated its contract to develop the Lawrence and Western property.
“The bank was not involved in any additional projects the developer was pursuing for the property,” Bolech said. “We continue to explore other options for this location, but no decision has been made.”
Representatives for Hubbard Street Group and Amazon declined to comment.
The developer was initially able to skip the alderman’s review by splitting construction into two phases, city officials have previously said. This decision angered residents, who questioned why the community was excluded from the process.
Neighbor Ellen Shepard started a petition last year demanding a community meeting with the developer and was among a group of neighbors and Lincoln Square business owners who criticized the secrecy around the proposal.
She applauded Vasquez for listening to neighbors and “sticking to his guns” to force Hubbard into more transparency about the now canceled project.
“I think Ald. Vasquez decided he wanted to play this strategically and it left him in a really awkward position at times,” Shepard said. “But he waited and it seems like waiting was exactly the right thing to do.”
If the project had moved forward, it would have threatened nearby grocers, including Gene’s Sausage Shop and Delicatessen, 4750 N. Lincoln Ave., or Savory Spice Shop, 4753 N. Lincoln Ave., said Rudy Flores, executive director of Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber.
The neighborhood also has four major grocery stores within a half-mile of the Amazon Fresh project, including neighborhood favorite HarvestTime Foods, 2632 W. Lawrence Ave., Flores said.
“There really isn’t a need in our community, like there is in so many other parts of our city, for another grocery store,” Flores said. “But the Fifth Third property is still a mostly unused site and we support its redevelopment. We’d just like to be part of the conversation about what a tenant that complements the current mix of businesses might look like.
Before the deal fell apart, Hubbard Street approached developer Related Midwest to build affordable housing on the site, Vasquez said.
Representatives from Related Midwest were not immediately available to comment on the future of this affordable housing.
“The unfortunate thing is that, to my knowledge, affordable housing is not moving forward either because the developer [Related Midwest] and Fifth Third were also unable to meet each other’s terms,” Vasquez said.
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