The vacant health care center at 3320 S. Ashland Ave., Chicago, will become a 24/7 Taco Bell drive-through under a special use application recently submitted to Chicago’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

Cardenas Vows Downzoning in Wake of Planned 24/7 Taco Bell Drive-Through

Published August 6, 2021

12th Ward Alderman George Cardenas has stated his opposition to a proposed 24/7 drive-through development at 3320 S. Ashland Ave. in Chicago's McKinley Park neighborhood, as well as his intent to downzone this stretch of South Ashland Avenue to subject future development there to more scrutiny.

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The proposed build-out of a Taco Bell restaurant is the subject of a special use application to Chicago's Zoning Board of Appeals filed by Shaan 33rd Ashland LLC, an entity of the same development team behind the 24/7 Dunkin’ drive-through a block away at 3256 S. Ashland Ave and the new 24/7 Dunkin’ drive-through under construction at 3560 S. Archer Ave., Chicago.

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With a couple exceptions, “I’ve ordered zoning to downzone to RT-4” on the west side of Ashland Avenue from 3300 to 3900 S. Ashland Ave., Cardenas said. This will allow residential construction like two-flats, but subject other uses to ward and community scrutiny and approval, he said.

Car-Centric Zoning

3320 S Ashland Ave Taco Bell drive through proposal landscape planThe landscape plan for the proposed Taco Bell restaurant at 3320 S. Ashland Ave., Chicago, displays the prospective layout of the building, drive-through and parking lot.The proposed Taco Bell site is currently zoned C1-2: an identical zoning designation as the property of the Dunkin’ restaurant under construction across from the 35th/Archer Orange Line El station at South Archer Avenue and South Leavitt Street.

As previously reported here in the McKinley Park News, the City of Chicago did not contest a developer lawsuit regarding the Dunkin’ drive-through at Archer and Leavitt, noting that C1-2 zoning allows for drive-throughs and other car-centric use to be built by right.

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“C1 permits more intensive, more auto-oriented commercial use types,” states the Chicago City Code.

Community Meeting In August

As proposed in the special use permit, the restaurant will operate a drive-through service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with its dining room open for in-restaurant service 6 a.m. to 3 a.m. seven days a week.

Liliana Escarpita, Cardenas’ chief of staff, said that the 12th Ward will be scheduling a community meeting later in August to present and discuss the development. “Adjacent residents must have a say in the process,” she said, and the 12th Ward will request more detailed development drawings and information to present to the community.

The proposed Taco Bell site has been vacant for years, formerly housing an outpatient health care center. It rests across an alley from the Chicago Fire Department Engine 39 station and almost across the street from the ¾-acre Kucinski-Murphy Park.

"Taking Advantage"

Although the majority of this stretch of the west side of Ashland Avenue has car-friendly C zoning, it is also one of the central thoroughfares affected by the City of Chicago’s Equitable Transit Oriented Development (ETOD) ordinance expansion, which states a priority for development away from car-centric use.

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Cardenas called the proposed drive-through a bad fit for this location and said that developers may be “taking advantage of a process that is very archaic.”

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“What happened at Dunkin' donuts should not happen anywhere,” he said. “The same thing should not happen here.”

Representatives for the proposed Taco Bell development had not yet replied to inquiries about the project as of the time of publication of this article.

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