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Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles received a $5,800 façade improvement grant from City Council on Dec. 10, bringing the project nearly to a close. The façade has already been completed, and the restaurant is slated to open by year end.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, called the request a good example of the City’s façade-improvement policy. “If something is there that wasn’t before, then you are doing economic development,” she said.
Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, disagreed. “I’ll obviously be voting no on this,” she said. “Again, a business gets in trouble and they’re back here asking for more money.” She then demanded a detailed construction budget, saying that Paul Zalmazek of the City’s economic development staff had not produced it.
Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said she “had a problem” with including the façade in the initial budget, then asking for a façade grant after construction was completed.
Picking up on that theme, Ald. Burrus called the request “double dipping,” adding, “We can’t keep saying yes to every business that shows up with a good story. This body has to say ‘no.’”
Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, speaking about both Chicken and Waffles and Curt’s Café, reacted by saying, “I don’t mind us having questions [about projects but] we begin to feel unfriendly.”
These are businesses “wanting to come into our community,” she said, adding that the tone in Council is sometimes not welcoming.
As for the façade-improvement request, Ald. Holmes said, “I don’t see how we have an issue with this.” She said that Alds. Burrus and Fiske were “getting it mixed up” in that the construction loan and the façade requests were completely separate issues.
Alderman Peter Braithewaite, 2nd Ward, agreed, saying, “I, too, am very concerned with the tone and language used toward a business looking to come into our community. He then read from the City’s website the rules for façade improvement requests.
Council voted 7-2 in favor of the grant request.