CTA Belmont Bypass proposal hits Lakeview businesses, residents

In Beer on Clark at 3401 N. Clark St. Thursday afternoon, a shade before happy hour, two young men in black shirts and baseball hats watched the waning innings of the Sox game.

They looked as lifeless as the blown-out Sox.

Mike Trojan, 28, and Todd Leadingham, 42, the bartender and operations manager respectively, watched somberly from the bar as the daylight shone in from their open window, reminiscing on how much they loved it here.

“Someone just walked in last week and served us some notice, something about a bypass,” Leadingham said. “It said they were going to estimate the value of the bar, buy it at that value, then tear it down.”

The city announced last week a $320 million proposal to build the Belmont Bypass, which would elevate Brown Line trains over Red and Purple Line trains and to reduce delays and clogs at the track intersection. Sixteen buildings north of Belmont in Lakeview may be razed to make way for the bypass, eliminating businesses and relocating residents.

Trojan shook his head, disapprovingly. “My whole life just changed, just like that,” Trojan said.

“This is my livelihood, man,” Trojan said. “I’m happy with my job, I love it here. I don’t want to leave.”

Pete Patel, 33, a 2004 graduate from DePaul’s business school, who works at Gold Crown Liquors, 3425 N. Clark St., said a woman in a black suit came in and served him an envelope and curtly told him the news.

He said he had to ask her to repeat herself five times before it sunk in.

“I said to her, ‘you’re doing what now? I don’t understand, what’s happening here? This is happening when?'” Patel said. “I like it here, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. You’re not just taking the business, you’re changing my whole life.”

Patel said the woman told him “we can help you relocate somewhere within a 50 mile radius, if you’d like.”

The border of Wisconsin is roughly 55 miles north from Gold Crown Liquors.

Leadingham said the CTA gave them a two-year notice, but the city wants to start buying property sooner.

“$320 million dollars,” Leadingham said. “Where is the city getting this money? Where did all this come from, it still feels like it didn’t even happen yet.

“I don’t know, man. Maybe I’ll move down to Phoenix, open up a bar down there or something,” he said.

Leadingham has been at Beer on Clark for four years and Trojan for two.

“We’re a legit business,” Leadingham said. “We pay our taxes, we pack this place and bring in a ton of revenue for the city. Great customers – love my coworkers – it’s just a damn shame.”

Darrin McMiller, 42, is a union worker for the Chicago Traffic Management Authority (TMA) for five years now. He was on traffic duty at the intersection of Clark and Roscoe.

“It ain’t right man,” McMiller said. “It’s ain’t fair to be putting people out of jobs. Who’s going to pay for those employees? The owners are getting paid and the workers are getting screwed.”

McMiller said he thinks the property is going to be devalued because of the Belmont Bypass proposal news.

“The city gonna buy it from them cheap, too,” McMiller said. “They gonna give them a price and say ‘take it or leave it.'”

Anne Costopoulos, 65, watched her father run the property at 3425 N. Clark St. since the early 70s.

“I remember I was four years old when my dad had this property,” Costopoulos said. “My son has been doing this since he was 15 years old. This was supposed to be passed down to my grandkids. I just can’t believe this.”

Costopoulos said the leasee recently put money into renovating Gold Crown Liquors.

Costopoulos and Patel were meeting to talk about the news that turned their worlds upside down.

“My son has three kids in school right now, one of them, his daughter, is in college,” Costopoulos said. “This business was supposed to be for his family and we were so proud of that. “We thought we were going to be here forever.”

Costopoulos, Leadingham, and Trojan all unanimously said they were proud to be a part of this stretch of the neighborhood.

The business owners and other residents of the neighborhood are invited to attend community meeting on May 22, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the Town Hall Police District headquarters, 850 W. Addison St.

Costopolous was still dizzied by the news that her 30-year family business might be gone by 2017.

“There isn’t anything to say or do about it,” she said.

She somberly walked behind the counter of Gold Crown Liquors. “I just don’t know what we’re going to do…”

She trailed off, repeating: “I just don’t know what we’re going to do…”

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