BUCKTOWN — After years of sitting idle, a former vehicle emissions test facility on the city’s North Side is one step closer to a new life as a weed dispensary.
On Thursday, the Chicago Plan Commission approved a zoning amendment clearing a path for Baker Development Corporation to repurpose the single-story building at 1858 W. Webster Ave. and bring landscaping to the surrounding parking lot.
Under the $3 million adaptive reuse plan, the existing 9,000-square-foot building would be rehabbed with new exterior cladding. The rows of garage doors that once led to the testing bays will be replaced with new windows and a storefront-style entrance.
Closed in 2016, the old emissions facility was known to draw long lines and would back up traffic on Webster and Lister avenues. But because the weed shop is expected to draw far fewer cars, developers and city planners looked at the project as an opportunity to reduce the size of the parking lot and incorporate new landscaping.
Proposed improvements include planting roughly 30 trees on a new 7-foot-wide landscaped setback running along the property’s edge. The change will result in a double row of trees that will serve as a buffer between the site and the residential buildings on Lister. Meanwhile, parking will be reduced from 70-plus spaces down to 29, according to the development team.
“It’s basically a sea of asphalt today, we hope to dramatically improve that condition as we redevelop the property,” said Rolando Acosta, an attorney representing Baker Development, at Thursday’s meeting.
Chicago Department of Planning and Development Commissioner Maurice Cox praised the landscape plan as a model to be followed in other parts of the city in future redevelopment plans.
“In ways big and small, we are going to put the ‘park’ back in parking lots, throughout Chicago,” Cox