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Waukegan approves construction of small grocery story

Two relatively shallow lots Lewis Avenue will be developed for Sav-A-Lot Food Store plan threquired Waukegan City Council allow structure

Two relatively shallow lots on Lewis Avenue will be developed for a Sav-A-Lot Food Store, a plan that required the Waukegan City Council to allow the structure to be 10 feet closer to the sidewalk. | Dan Moran/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 8, 2014 6:12AM

After the departure of Jewel-Osco from both Lewis Avenue and Fountain Square over the years, Waukegan officials found themselves celebrating a smaller-scale victory this week when the City Council approved construction of a Sav-A-Lot Food Stores outlet near Lewis and Belvidere Road.

But at least one alderman expressed reservations about the plan, noting that sites like the Lewis Avenue Jewel and the former Kmart on Belvidere west of Green Bay Road have no found new tenants.

“We have so many open buildings right now,” 2nd Ward Ald. Thomas Koncan Jr. told the council on Monday, Feb. 3. “I’d just like to see us fill them before we start building again.”

Chicago-based IFF Real Estate Services is looking to construct the grocery at 561 and 635 S. Lewis, which contain a total of four lots that have been zoned for residential development in recent years

With a Walgreens to the north and Belvidere Mall across the street, a report from the city’s development staff to the council stated that a requested switch from residential to commercial zoning “will not be detrimental to the public welfare or injurious to other properties or improvements in the neighborhood.”

“The properties have remained vacant for many years because of the unique characteristics of the lot being long and narrow,” the report stated. “A number of proposed developments have come forward but never materialized because of the lot size.”

“IFF (has) found this lot to be suitable because the proposed grocery store is generally smaller in size than most grocery stores and is built to serve the surrounding neighborhood with fresh produce rather than the general population.”

The lack of depth on the lot prompted the developer to see a variance on the standard 15-foot setback from the sidewalk, successfully lobbing the council for a five-foot gap. Some aldermen balked at the request, but 3rd Ward Ald. Gregory Moisio was among those arguing “to get as much development as we can.”

“I, too, am a little concerned about the variance. That’s awful tight,” he said. “But I guess in my mind, I’ve just driven past that plot of land my whole life and I’ve always wondered ‘when are we going to get something (there)?’”

“What can ever go there, other than maybe another parking lot for (Jefferson Middle) School, which is not a (good) useage,” Moisio added, saying a new business “is more property tax, it’s sales tax, it’s jobs, it provides a service.”

Fifth Ward Ald. Edith Newsome said she supported the project because “I think it will bring jobs to this area, and it will bring a lot of traffic from North Chicago, because they don’t have a grocery store that’s close to that community.”

Mayor Wayne Motley lobbied the Judiciary Committee to send the plan forward for approval, touting the prospect of new development and telling Koncan at one point that “we will seek to fill” empty buildings around the city.

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