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Uptown in the News  

Thursday, February 7, 2008
Movie theaters, more parking slated for Uptown
Uptown will get more entertainment and parking, if a development deal opposite the Aragon gets OK
By Anna Jackson

The owner of the Aragon Ballroom has teamed up with an Uptown resident and developer to build across the street from the historic ballroom. The new construction will transform a vacant lot at 1063 W. Lawrence into a 110-foot building housing retail space, a nine-screen movie theater and a 500- car parking garage.

James Gouskos, owner of Lawrence Properties Inc. and Luis Rossi, owner of the Aragon purchased the property from Berke Trust last month for $4.6 million. Gouskos hopes to break ground within a year. He said the project will cost approximately $20 million and take up to 10 months to build.

The development will bring much needed parking to the area for nearby music venues like the Aragon, the Riviera Theater and the Kinetic Playground, said Gouskos.

“No one is doing any type of parking plan to benefit the community,” he said. “Without parking, these [businesses] can’t be here.”

The story was first reported in Crain’s Chicago Business.

But Gouskos promises the forthcoming development will be more than a parking structure. He is working with Glen Ellyn-based PPKS Architects Ltd. To ensure the building fits into the historic neighborhood.

In addition, Gouskos said the structure needs to be self-supportive when there are no concerts going on and adding new retail opportunities will help transform the Four Corners into more of a destination for shoppers.

“This will bring a lot of new people here who don’t really know what Uptown is,” he said.

Glenview-based Kudan Group Inc. is marketing triple-net leases in the proposed development, at $20 to $30 per square foot. Agent Marcus Sullivan said the group has already had some interest in the site and is targeting boutique grocers, restaurants and retailers for the location with the goal to sign leases before building begins.

“Rents are reasonable… and the parking is definitely a big draw,” Sullivan said.

Sandeep Malhotra said the proposed development would be very positive for both the neighborhood and the business he co-owns. In 2006, Malhotra and his business partner opened Marigold Restaurant, 4832 N. Broadway, only to learn firsthand how much trouble parking was for his patrons who travel to the Indian eatery from the suburbs.

“Parking tends to be tough on concert nights,” he said.

The restaurant now has a valet service, but a little extra parking couldn’t hurt, he said. And Malhotra is excited that a theater and additional retail spots could bring more foot traffic to Uptown and keep residents spending in the neighborhood.

“Overall, I’d like to see residents have the option to not have to leave the neighborhood to spend money.” Malhotra said.

But some Uptown residents are not as thrilled about the development. On Uptown Update, a community blog, a few residents sounded off about the proposed Lawrence Avenue development.

One resident with the username “Bluestreak” wrote: “Development is great but if they overdevelop for a neighborhood not really made for it, it turns it into an overcrowded traffic nightmare. Lawrence won’t be able to handle it.”

Gouskos acknowledges that some residents will take to change more than others, but he said he is meeting with community groups and keeping an open door – and ear – to his neighbors’ concerns.

Still, he is confident that the final structure will benefit both shoppers and residents alike.

“I think it’s going to have a very good effect on the community,” he said.

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