A Lot of Contention: Residents Rebel Against the Masada Car Park

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The Masada storefront. Photo: Rachel Leb

Masada is an ancient fort located on a rock plateau near the border of Jordan and Israel where, according to legend, Roman troops laid siege to Jewish rebels who committed mass suicide rather than give themselves up to their enemies. A battle is also brewing over the fort’s namesake Middle Eastern eatery, slated to open soon in Logan Square. The owner plans to build a 17,000-square foot parking lot for the restaurant a mere spear’s throw from the O’Hare Line’s California stop.

Shadi Ramli, who also owns Wicker Park beloved Sultan’s Market, says the long-awaited Masada restaurant will finally open this spring, according to a recent story in DNAinfo. After he bought the building at 2206 North California, he was told that the city’s zoning code would require him to provide several off-street parking spaces, so he also purchased vacant land across the street, at the southeast corner of California and Stave, for a parking lot.

Nearby residents told DNA they object to open land being used to warehouse cars so close to an ‘L’ station, on a strip where there are a number of thriving restaurants and bars with zero offstreet parking. “Why does a restaurant directly across the street from a popular L station need a parking lot?” asked Jacob Marshall. “You can literally see the place from the platform! Such a waste.” Ramli said he has received dozens of emails to that effect, but the city’s zoning code gives him no choice.


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The lot at California and Stave.

However, as Steven Vance reported previously on Streetsblog, nearby establishments Revolution Brewing and the Radler beer hall were able to get out of their parking requirements by requesting a zoning change and getting a zoning waiver, respectively. Furthermore the transit oriented development ordinance passed last year allows Masada a 50 percent reduction in the amount of required parking because it’s within 600 feet of a transit station, 100 percent with an administrative adjustment.

1st Ward Alderman Joe Moreno, who has an otherwise strong track record on transportation issues, said he’s gotten plenty of negative feedback about the Masada lot from constituents, but he’s powerless to stop it because Ramli owns the land. Actually, it’s possible that’s not true. Ramli may still need to obtain curb cut permits from the Chicago Department of Transportation for the lot, and if the alderman asked CDOT not to issue the permits, the department probably would honor his request.

Instead, Moreno suggested Ramli add trees, landscaping and benches to the perimeter of the parking lot, and the space may become available for public uses like a farmers market. Whether you see that as making lemonade out of a lemon or putting lipstick on a pig is a matter of perspective, but one thing is clear. There’s absolutely no reason a restaurant located across the street from a Blue Line station needs offstreet parking, and Moreno should block the lot if possible. That would force Ramli to put the land to a more productive use or sell it to someone who would.

  • oooBooo

    article says California and Stave.

    The google map link goes to 2182 North Stave Street. Official address, your guess is as better than any.

    For “just fine” I wasn’t speaking as a lawyer, I was speaking as some guy on the interwebs. Rather unfair to hold my language to the details and exactness of your profession. I became slightly familiar with tank removal when the place I parked was tore up to remove tanks 20 years ago. But that’s it, a cursory knowledge they had to be removed, the dirt treated/removed etc. That site has since been redeveloped.

  • Please critique ideas, not people. Future personal attacks will be deleted. Thanks.

  • Jim Mitchell

    IEPA does have a record of a leaking underground storage tank (LUST) incident; they identify the property as 2151 N. California and the tank owner/operator as AP Partners. The LUST incident occurred in 2002, and the incident does appear to have been remediated to then-current standards for no restrictions on use, with a no further remediation (NFR) letter issued in January 2003. There are no records of any additional LUST incidents. Although I’d certainly do a lot more due diligence before advising anyone to purchase this property (e.g., to hunt down any issues with the rumored industrial/manufacturing use), it does look as if the former gas station operations were probably properly addressed, at least as required by IEPA remedial objectives regulations at the time. (This assumes the reported LUST incident was the only one present at the site and, as oooBooo has noted, that there were no releases prior to the 2002 incident that went unreported and uninvestigated).

    The curious may have a look here: http://epadata.epa.state.il.us/land/ust/LIT-Display.asp?INCIDENT=20020969

  • Jim Mitchell

    Looking at the property a little bit on the Cook County Recorder’s website, it appears that a developer did try to get this property rezoned for residential in order to build what would have been a 5-story residential building with 51 tenant parking spaces and two small parks at the north and south ends of the property. At least that was the plan, but during the real estate bust years of 2007-08, that plan appears to have fallen apart. The developer’s lender foreclosed on the mortgage; Amli ultimately purchased the property out of foreclosure in 2012.

    If you want to poke around, here’s a link: http://12.218.239.81/i2/default.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

    The property’s official addresses are 2129, 2143, 2145 and 2147 North California Avenue; PIN #s 13-36-227-001, -002, -003, and -004. In particular, have a look at the “RESTRICTION” placed on the property on 4/4/2005 using the “View Images” tab; this is where you can see what the developer’s (failed) plan would have included.

  • JAG

    “According to legend”

    You mean according to well documented historical fact with a ton of archaeological evidence to back it up.

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