The Jefferson Park Free Press

Volume VI                            News and Commentary                                 Issue II

 December 16, 2011

Copernicus/Gateway Theatre to Become the Aragon West? By Robert Bank

The Copernicus Center’s president, Gregg Kobelinski cries that his Copernicus/Gateway Theatre is desperate for a 7-story 299 car garage; without it Kobelinski says, JAM Productions and Live Nation will not book acts at the Copernicus/Gateway Theatre. JAM and Live Nation book acts as diverse as rappers Kanye West and Jay-Z, to the melodic harmony of Donny and  Marie. JAM operates the Riviera Theatre near Broadway and Lawrence, and the Vic Theatre on Sheffield near Belmont; both venues offer little if any parking. In comparison, the Copernius/Gateway Theatre lot can hold close to a100 cars, plus the Copernicus/Gateway often uses the empty lots across the street which can hold another 100 cars. JAM and Live Nation are currently promoting the upcoming thrash metal band MegaDeth concert at the Aragon, which has capacity for up to 4000 concert goers, and again virtually no parking. So what’s the problem with parking at the 2000 seat Copernicus/Gateway Theatre? I asked the folks at JAM why they are so demanding for parking at the Copernicus/ Gateway Theatre when they don’t even have parking at their own facilities. To my surprise JAM sources I spoke to told me parking wasn’t an issue when talking to the Copernicus/Gateway people, as a matter of fact, JAM folks don’t remember parking ever coming up in conversation. What JAM people told me they found inadequate about the Copernicus/Gateway was that it lacked dressing rooms and a catering area for the performers. Furthermore, they went on to say that JAM is primarily interested in filling its own venues, the Vic and the Riviera. So why is Gregg Kobelinski telling everyone his Copernicus/Gateway Theatre can’t be viable as a JAM and Live Nation venue without a 7-story 299 car parking garage? Gregg Kobelinski aside from being the Copernicus Center’s president and the Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce president, is also a Parkway Bank board member just like his pal Jimmy Kozonis, a long time Parkway Bank board member. Jimmy Kozonis is also the owner of the 9-story Veterans Square office tower on Milwaukee Avenue next to the Jefferson Park C.T.A. terminal. Jimmy Kozonis has been telling anyone and everyone how badly Jefferson Park needs a 7-story 299 car garage. He will tell you he can’t fill his office tower with tenants because he doesn’t have enough parking; but then why does he rent out garage spaces to commuters for $10.00 a day CASH ONLY? (Why cash only)?

Mr. Kozonis and his shills from the Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce (the Chamber has been stacked with officers from Kozonis’ owned businesses Delko Contruction, Mega Realty and Parkway Bank for years) will tell you that local retail businesses are desperate for a 7-story 299 car parking garage, but the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association’s (JPNA) TIF and Zoning Committee did an 8-day, 3 times a day study, and found 184 to 253 on street parking spaces available at anytime of the day, usually at 2-hour pay boxes. Lipps, Higgins and Lawrence remain empty all day, and even on busy Milwaukee Avenue parking spaces routinely open up. That study left egg on Kozonis and the Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce faces, but they wiped it off quickly and came back with another excuse, local businesses need EMPLOYEE parking and are desperate for a 7-story 299 car parking garage. Now we are expected to believe the employees that do not already have parking behind their places of business are going to fork over $10.00 every day for the privilege of parking several blocks away; they can park several blocks away now, and for free! And hey, isn’t the Jefferson Park C.T.A. bus, Blue Line and Metra “Transportation Center” all about taking public transportation to work?   The latest excuse: the Copernicus/Gateway Theatre needs parking for concert goers and, is desperate for a 7-story 299 car garage.

The Copernicus’ Gateway Theatre was built in 1930, and is “grandfathered” in, it does not have to meet newer zoning code parking regulations, but even if it did, those standards are easily met. The Chicago Zoning and Land Use Ordinance only requires 1 parking space for every 10 seats which means the 2000 seat theatre would need 200 parking spaces, but since the Copernicus/Gateway is near the C.T.A. Metra, it could qualify for a 50% reduction  which brings us back to only 100 parking spaces needed, which the theatre already has. Either way, the Copernicus/Gateway Theatre was confident enough in their parking situation that they walked away from the closing table when the City agreed to sell their lot across the street to Copernicus, for $1.00 ! Yes that’s O-N-E  DOLLAR! The Copernicus balked at the O-N-E  DOLLAR  sale that would have brought them 20 more spaces, because a condition of the sale was that Copernicus landscape and install a sprinkling system to maintain the shrubbery. This is one of the two parking lots the City originally paid $1.4 Million dollars for and that Jimmy Kozonis was suppose to reimburse the City for, but he reneged after his 10--story condo project was soundly rejected by Jefferson Park residents.

 

 


Every time we disprove one reason, they just come up with another. What doesn’t change is Kozonis’ desire to up-zone the many lots that he has reduced to rubble over the years, so he can add taller buildings than the currently allowed 4-stories. Squeezing in more density, will just lead to more traffic congestion and a poorer quality of life for the residents of Jefferson Park.

 


And now sadly, they’ve even got our rookie alderman, John Arena recently saying, Jefferson Park needs parking, and we are desperate for a 7-story 299 car parking garage!   Wake up John Arena!  Jefferson Park residents do not want high density and the increased traffic it would bring.

 

 

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Volume II                          News and Commentary                           Issue IV