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Developers reveal 9.3-acre North Branch driving range and entertainment complex

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The Bucktown proposal would replace the Vienna Beef hot dog factory at Damen and Elston

A three-story building with cars pulling up out front. There is an enclosed outdoor patio with bistro lights and a large sign reading “Drive Shack.”
A rendering of Drive Shack’s Bucktown proposal 2501 N. Damen Avenue.
Courtesy 32nd Ward

As Chicago’s North Branch Corridor prepares to welcome massive megadevelopments like Lincoln Yards and the River District, one group of developers wants to bring an upscale driving range to the rapidly-changing swath of former industrial land along the Chicago River.

The 9.3-acre proposal would replace the Vienna Beef factory. The hot dog manufacturer will maintain control of the property and offer it to Drive Shack under a long-term lease agreement.

On Wednesday night, at a community meeting hosted by Alderman Scott Waguespack (32nd), Bucktown neighbors got their first look at Drive Shack’s plan to build a dining and entertainment complex with 102 heated driving range bays at the northeast corner of the realigned Damen-Elston-Fullerton intersection.

Here, developers envisions a new three-story building designed by architecture and engineering firm Kimley-Horn. It includes indoor and outdoor dining areas and will be joined by a new 10-foot-wide riverwalk stretching from Fullerton to Damen. The plan calls for 336 surface parking spot, accessed from a curb cut on Elston Avenue.

“I think feedback overall was pretty positive,” 32nd Ward chief of staff Paul Sajovec tells Curbed Chicago. “There were lots of questions and constructive feedback about landscaping, the fencing, and the riverwalk and how it relates to the site’s urban context and the river.”

Traffic management remains a work in progress, according to Sajovec. The Chicago Department of Transportation has asked the developers to complete additional assessments. Meanwhile, Alderman Waguespack continues to collect feedback on the project and hasn’t ruled out holding additional meetings.

Although the Drive Shack project is shorter and less dense than what current zoning allows, its developers will need to enter a Waterway Planned Development agreement with the city due to its riverfront location. The process helps ensure that developments near the river include city mandated setbacks and riverwalk. The project filed its zoning application with the City Clerk in September, Crain’s reported at the time.

The Drive Shack team hopes to go before the Chicago Plan Commission in December and get final approval from Chicago’s Zoning Committee and City Council in the subsequent months. Under a “best-case scenario” timeline, the Bucktown project would score its building permits in the spring or summer and open in late 2020, says Sajovec.

An overhead diagram of an intersection. At its top-right corner, and next to a river, there is a crescent shaped building next to a green driving range. The development is surrounded by parking spaces.
A site plan for Drive Shack’s Bucktown golf facility.
Courtesy 32nd Ward