Chick-Fil-A, Panera coming to former Vienna Beef factory site in Bucktown

The sausage maker applied for permits for the first of two planned retail buildings at 1942 West Fullerton Avenue
By Alex Nitkin |
Research by Haru Coryne
June 19, 2019 03:00PM

Vienna Beef CEO Jim Bodman and the Vienna Beef Factory Store and Cafe (Credit: Google Maps)

Vienna Beef CEO Jim Bodman and the Vienna Beef Factory Store and Cafe (Credit: Google Maps)

Vienna Beef is moving forward with plans to build a Chick-Fil-A and Panera Bread at the site of its shuttered Bucktown hot dog factory.

Mid-America Asset Management, which Vienna hired to oversee the redevelopment of its nearly 9-acre riverfront property, applied for permits this month to begin construction on one of two buildings planned for 1942 West Fullerton Avenue, city records show.

The permits represent the latest step in a sweeping plan that Vienna put into motion in 2013, when it bought a vacant factory in Bridgeport and later moved its manufacturing operation to the South Side plant.

In 2015, at the height of a yearslong city effort to untangle the six-way intersection of Fullerton, Elston and Damen avenues, Vienna unveiled plans to erect a pair of retail buildings on a curved 2.5-acre island of property surrounded by the reconfigured roads.

One of the buildings will be fully leased by a Chick-Fil-A restaurant, and Panera will take about 6,000 square feet — roughly half the space — in an adjacent building.

Brokers are talking to “a number of inline (smaller) retail tenants” to take over the rest of the building, said Mike George, president of Mid-America Real Estate, which is overseeing leasing for the property.

Mid-America is scouting users for the larger, 6-acre parcel north of Elston Avenue that includes the vacant factory. Brokers are looking for a master-tenant who would demolish the factory building and “lease the land on a long-term basis,” George said.

He called the property a “great retail site” because of its access to the three major roads and its proximity to the 211,000-square-foot Riverpoint Center shopping strip just across the river. Mid-America originally pitched a grocer as a potential tenant.

Vienna and Mid-America aim to break ground on the new restaurants within the next few months, and construction is expected to take about a year, George said.

The Vienna Beef Factory Store and Cafe remains open at 2501 North Damen Avenue.

The property became tangled in an ethics snafu surrounding embattled Alderman Ed Burke (14th) starting in 2013, when Burke led the City Council in approving nearly $5 million in tax benefits for the sausage maker’s Bridgeport facility, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

After the vote, the sausage maker hired Burke’s property tax law firm, Klafter & Burke, to appeal the factory’s property tax assessments. Burke’s private business scored more than $300,000 in tax savings for Vienna, the Sun-Times reported.

Last year, Vienna padded its property with a roughly 7,400-square-foot slice of land at 1880 West Fullerton, which it acquired from the city for $765,000. The city had picked up the land as part of the streetscape overhaul, which was completed in 2017.