Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post
An impromptu update of a handful of concerns in Garfield Ridge was offered at the September meeting of the Garfield Ridge Civic League, by business owner Al Cacciottolo.
The meeting was held at the TCF Bank branch at Archer and Austin. About three dozen people attended.
Perhaps the most visible of the handful of stagnant properties in the neighborhood is the old Garfield Ridge Trust & Savings Bank, 6353 W. 55th St., long an eyesore at the southeast corner of Archer and Narragansett.
“Here’s the problem with that building, and I’ll tell you why,” Cacciottolo told the GRCL audience. “The gentleman that owns that building paid a lot of money for it…$2.5 million. That building is now for sale for $1.9 million. That building is a total wreck inside. They’ve had major damage. I was in there about a month ago. It’s really bad inside. They had 20 feet of water in the basement, so there are mold issues. It’s going to take a lot of money to refurbish that building. I would rather see it just knocked down and something brand-new go up.”
Without revealing specifics, he said that several suitors—including a not-for-profit--have been looking at the 50-year-old building, and something could happen soon.
Cacciottolo said one thing that hampers commercial growth in the community is “the same old problem: everybody who owns property on Archer thinks it’s worth a million dollars. It’s hard to open a new business on Archer when you have to pay a million dollars for a piece of property and then put in another million in repairs.
“I tell you--I know if I had two million dollars, I’d be on a beach somewhere,” he joked, drawing chuckles and “Me, too” from a number of people.
Cacciottolo praised 23rd Ward Ald. Michael R. Zalewski and 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn for what he called their diligence in pressuring several property owners to get moving on developing their properties or sell to someone who will.
Several people at the meeting noted signs of hope on Cicero Avenue, especially near 65th Street, after years of stagnation.
“When it came to Cicero Avenue, nobody wanted to be a pioneer,” Cacciottolo said. “Everybody was waiting, waiting, waiting. So then development exploded in Bedford Park (on the west side of 65th and Cicero). And now that the City of Chicago has loosened some of its reins on its regulations, things are starting to happen on the other side of the street. So now there’s going to a hotel on the east side of Cicero, at about 65th Street—and then a hotel at 53rd and Cicero. A Lou Malnati’s [pizzeria] is near 66th and Cicero.
“You watch,” he continued. “Now that these things are starting to happen on Cicero Avenue, everyone and his brother are going to want to get in on it. There will be businesses flocking to Cicero Avenue.”
Cacciottolo reiterated what 23rd Ward Ald. Michael R. Zalewski said publicly earlier this year—that an ALDI concept store will be coming to the southeast corner of Archer and Harlem sometime in 2017.
He said that the recently-shuttered Joe & Frank’s Market building will be razed, along with two other buildings immediately south on Harlem Avenue, as well as “a couple of [nearby] homes” that have been purchased.
The result will be an L-shaped parcel that includes a “brand-new ALDI concept store, similar to the one at 132nd and LaGrange Road,” Cacciottolo said, “It’s going to be nice, it’s going to be clean, set back with plenty of parking. It will be a good addition to the neighborhood.”
He also said that the traditional warehouse-style store operated by ALDI at 5775 S. Archer (near Archer and Lorel) will be closed when the new one is open.
In response to a request for comment, ALDI Valparaiso Division Vice President Matt Thon ended months of silence on the issue and wrote, "We are committed to opening an ALDI store in Chicago at Archer Avenue and Harlem Avenue, with construction currently planned to begin in spring 2017 and an anticipated opening by the end of 2017.
"People have always known ALDI for its great quality at low prices and simple, efficient shopping experience. That hasn’t changed, but we have listened to our customers to provide even more of the products they feel good about. We offer an incredible variety of fresh produce, delivered daily to our Chicagoland stores, as well as USDA Choice meats, the liveGfree gluten-free product line, the SimplyNature line of products free from over 125 artificial ingredients and preservatives and our Never Any! line free from antibiotics, added hormones and animal by-products.
"We feel good about helping our customers save up to 50 percent on their grocery bills, and we look forward to continuing to serve the Chicago community."
“At Archer and Cicero, where Brandy’s [restaurant] used to be is going to be a Starbucks and a Corner Bakery,” Cacciottolo said, as the audience broke into smiles and nods of approval.
In response to a question Cacciottolo said that the shuttered Danny’s Pizza, 6021 S. Archer, will re-open later this year or possibly in the spring as a pizzeria owned and operated by its former competitor, Villa Rosa Pizza, 5786 S. Archer.
The shuttered Tina’s Pizza, 5440 S. Narragansett, should re-open within weeks as a restaurant/bar, he added. The husband/wife owners are local: “He’s a fireman and she’s a phenomenal Italian cook. They’ve gutted the whole inside, and it’s really going to be nice.”
The next GRCL meeting is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19 in the community room at the TCF Bank branch at Archer and Austin. All Garfield Ridge residents and business owners are invited to attend.
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