The Chicago City Council voted unanimously, April 21, to approve zoning changes that will allow Oak Park-based Capri Development to build Galewood’s second Starbucks at 2001 N. Harlem Ave. But that is only the first step in what could be a long approval process.

The coffee shop would be located roughly a mile north of the Starbucks at 7112 W. North Ave., currently the only Starbucks location not just in Galewood but anywhere in Austin. 

Capri Development, which also developed the North Avenue location, is planning a layout similar to the Portage Park Starbucks location at 4155 N. Cicero Ave., with indoor seating, a patio with outdoor seating, and a drive-thru wrapping around the building.

The zoning change cleared the city council’s Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards, April 20, before going before the full council the following day.

According to Paul Kolpak, attorney for the project, the Zoning Board of Appeals still needs to approve the drive-thru, but Capri Development owner Mathew Cairo said the city is pushing the development to build the coffee shop closer to the sidewalk and reconfigure the drive-thru. Until that issue is sorted out, the project won’t go before the zoning board. 

Cairo said that, if it does clear the zoning board, he expects to start construction “pretty much immediately” and finish within 150 days.

While the West Side has a few independent coffee shops, none of them are in Austin. The closest Starbucks location to Austin is in the Hermosa neighborhood, at 1941 N. Cicero Ave. 

Capri Development is a commercial developer that works with retail clients to design and develop properties to meet their needs. Cairo said Starbucks wanted the location based on the traffic studies. 

The new Starbucks would be built on the currently vacant lots at 2001 N. Harlem Avenue and 1716-1718 W. Armitage Ave., which were zoned for manufacturing and residential use, respectively. 

Kolpak told the zoning committee that, even before the pandemic, Starbucks had been pivoting toward drive-thru facilities. 

“Their position is they want to open stores, they want to get people in and out,” Kolpak said. “They want to come up with a different design where, if the drive-thru is backed up, you can pull [up your order on a phone app] and they’d bring coffee to you.”

During his April 21 virtual monthly community meeting, Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th), whose ward includes the Harlem site and the North Avenue Starbucks, said the city and the developer are still negotiating over the site layout and the location of the drive-thru. 

Cairo said the issue was that the city wanted the coffee shop “touching the sidewalk,” which, is not conducive to a coffee shop with a drive-thru, he said. 

Since the city already approved the Portage Park Starbucks, he argued, it made no sense for them to reject a similar design. 

Taliaferro said he supports the Harlem Starbucks, noting that it might reduce drive-thru traffic at the North Avenue Starbucks location. He also said now that he has “a good point of contact” with Starbucks, he is trying to get it to open locations elsewhere in the 29th Ward. 

Both Taliaferro and Cairo said the city has given them no indication about when the application would go before the zoning board.  

Judith Alexander, head of The North Avenue District Inc., said that, in the morning, the line of cars using the North Avenue Starbucks’ drive-thru often stretches “a few blocks east.”

“I think it would be nice to take some pressure off the drive-thru,” she said. “I guess the drivers that are going to be turning north on Harlem, they would go to that other Starbucks, which strikes me as a good thing.” 

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Igor Studenkov

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Growing Community Media newspapers in 2012, then from 2015...

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