Maywood Board Debates Proposed Popeyes Restaurant

Sunday, July 19, 2020 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Debate among Maywood Board of Trustees members over a proposed Popeyes Fried Chicken restaurant that developers want to build in a high-traffic area in the village got heated before the board ultimately voted in favor of moving the development process along.

During a regular meeting on July 14, the Maywood Board of Trustees voted 4-3 to allow village staffers to work with the village attorney on a redevelopment agreement with Xsite Real Estate, a commercial real estate firm based in Burr Ridge that wants to build a Popeyes on a vacant, village-owned lot located at the corner of First Avenue and Ohio Street in Maywood.

Xsite is currently working on turning the vacant northwest lot on the corner of First Avenue and Lake Street, next to the Soldiers’ Widows Home, into a multi-tenant minimart that the firm hopes will attract a family restaurant. In 2018, the village board approved a redevelopment agreement with Xsite to develop that northwest corner, but the firm has yet to break ground. The board granted Xsite an extension for the redevelopment agreement in April.

But the proposal for the Popeyes didn’t sit well with some board members, who thought that the location, which sits near one of the most visible commercial corridors in the village and is considered a “gateway” into Maywood, was too important for yet another fast food restaurant.

“We must move away from chasing projects [to] chasing a collective vision for Maywood,” said Maywood Trustee Isiah Brandon during the July 14 meeting.

Brandon, along with Trustees Nathaniel Booker and Kimyada Wellington, voted against the motion to move the development process forward.

“I am not excited and happy about this particular proposal. They”need to aim much higher for this particular property,” Brandon said, adding that “to even talk about going into another development agreement on another piece of property [when] we haven’t even begun to break ground on another prime location you have held since 2018 is not good business for Maywood.”

Maywood Trustee Nathaniel Booker said that Maywood already has a Popeyes located at 1019 W. Roosevelt Rd.

“We have a plethora of other fast food, greasy restaurants,” Booker said.

But representatives from Xsite and David Myers, Maywood’s community development director, pushed back against Brandon’s characterization of the process.

“Xsite has been here working diligently […] attempting to get various uses for this particular space,” Myers said. “Many people did not want to take a chance with the restaurant use.”

Brett Paul, the vice president of Xsite, told board members that the COVID-19 pandemic has halted many expansion plans.

Bill Paul, Xsite’s founder and CEO, told the board that the restaurant industry had “been really hit hard” even before the pandemic. Now, the restaurant and real estate industries are in even worse shape, he said.

Bill said that Xsite contacted 50 retailers and had difficulty gaining any traction.

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“If you had difficulty trying to have someone commit prior to the virus and now [with] the virus? It’s almost impossible,” he said. “It’s almost impossible. I hate to be the bearer of bad news.”

The parcel at the corner of First Avenue and Ohio Street in Maywood, where Xsite Real Estate wants to develop a Popeyes. | Image by Google Earth/Renderings by MRV Architects 

Bill added that, complicating things even more, the parcel of land where his firm wants to build the 3,000-square-foot Popeyes — the restaurant would include a drive-thru and 29 parking spaces — is the fact that the small size of the space limits the number of possible suitors.

“[That parcel] is not big enough to accommodate anything else other than a drive-thru type of operation,” Bill said. “You can’t build a strip.”

Xsite representatives said that the prospective Popeyes would be owned by the company that owns the nearby Burger King at 49 W. Lake St. They estimated that the new restaurant would bring in roughly $15,000 to $20,000 a year in property tax revenue and around $2 million in annual sales, 1 percent, or $20,000, of which, the village stands to receive in sales tax revenue.

In response to Brandon’s comments, Charles H. Walsh, of Walsh Partners in Elmhurst, said that the potential sales and property tax revenue connected to the prospective Popeyes is rare in an economic climate where business activity is slow.

“In a matter of three months, the real estate market has shut down dramatically,” Walsh said. “At this point right now, we have an opportunity to [develop] not only on [the northwest corner of First and Lake] which is coming together beautifully, [but] with [the parcel at First and Ohio] you’re looking at probably around $15,000 to $18,000 in real estate taxes once we’re done and you’ve missed out on 10 years of that and I’d take advantage of that.”

“We’re trying to convince you to let’s go forward with both properties,” Bill said. “I think it’s a feather in Maywood’s cap that things are happening despite what’s going on across the country.”

Brett said that Xsite plans to break ground on both the Popeyes and the minimart across the street on the northwest corner of First and Lake this fall, with a planned completion date for both projects scheduled for early spring 2021. Bill said that the Popeyes would create about 50 jobs.

Not long before the vote was taken, Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins, who cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the proposed Popeyes development, apologized to the Xsite representatives before lambasting trustees who voiced opposition to the proposed development.

“I apologize to you,” she told the developers. “I say to the board, I don’t think you’re listening and I don’t think you’re hearing. They made a statement. We’re in the virus and you have places that are closing down and you’re not listening … If you look at the news, nothing is going on right now and you have an opportunity to get something. Something is better than nothing, but if you don’t want something that’s fine.”

Myers said that the development meets the village’s zoning requirements, but would still need a special use permit to allow for the proposed drive-thru. The board still needs to vote on the final redevelopment agreement once that document is drafted by village staff.

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