Former Salt n’ Pepper to become a dispensary

According to Block Club, Marigrow, the company behind the Nature’s Care cannabis dispensary in the West Loop, is eyeing an expansion to Lincoln Park.

Marigrow is asking for a zoning change at the former Salt n’ Pepper diner, 2573-81 N. Lincoln Ave., so it can move forward with plans to renovate it into Ümi, a 7,970-square-foot dispensary.

Leaders from the company presented plans for the dispensary during a community meeting Tuesday and were met with mixed feedback from neighbors.

Some praised the proposal for giving use to an “eyesore” vacant store, while others said they were worried about safety and the dispensary’s proximity to Jonquil Park, which sits around the corner.

“We’d have a 7-Eleven, a liquor store and a dispensary right next to each other and all next to a park,” one neighbor said. “That park is always filled with people; they scatter and end up in the alleys and stuff. How can you guarantee safety? Telling someone you can’t smoke pot in the park is not enough.”

Another neighbor suggested a marijuana dispensary doesn’t belong in a “family neighborhood” such as Linocln Park.

“I really wonder about the direction of our city, where it seems like the only businesses we seem to be bringing into our community are these types, as opposed to other types of businesses that enhance the community,” he said. “This is a bedroom community. It’s called Lincoln Park for a reason, [and] I just don’t think this fits in our community.”

Marigrow’s leaders assured neighbors they don’t want anyone consuming the dispensary’s products in the park. At every transaction, customers will be reminded they’re not allowed to smoke in the park and the dispensary’s security patrols will monitor the area, said CEO Akele Parnell.

“We don’t want to see that sort of behavior in the park,” Parnell said. “We don’t want to see any litter or things like that in the park, too, so we’re using additional security to help ensure people aren’t consuming cannabis or alcohol in the park.”

Marigrow’s team also told neighbors the dispensary’s presence in the neighborhood is likely to improve safety, rather than increase crime. The dispensary is partnering with SMG Security Holdings to provide two to three armed guards who will patrol inside and around the dispensary.

“The additional security personnel that are armed in the area will deter crime, so those guys are walking around, and we’ll beef up the cameras toward Jonquil Park,” said Gary Little, Marigrow director of operations. “We’ll have 24-hour surveillance. That’s a pretty big benefit.”

Other security measures include minimizing cash transactions, checking people’s IDs to make sure they’re at least 21 years old, using a bank-grade vault, 24-hour video surveillance that’s linked to the Police Department, panic buttons and a community feedback hotline, Little said.

Some neighbors said they appreciated Marigrow’s security efforts and expressed support for the project.

“Salt n’ Pepper has been an eyesore for years, and vacant, decaying properties don’t help property values,” one neighbor said. “Entrepreneurs coming to make Lincoln a more robust street is a great thing. They have a very robust security and retail plan, and I agree that increased activity and security presence deters crime, not increases it.”

If the zoning change is approved by the City Council’s Zoning Committee, Marigrow will be able to move forward with a special use permit application, which is required to open a cannabis dispensary at the location.

Another meeting will be held during the special use process, which Parnell said will be another chance for neighbors to bring up comments or concerns about the business’s plan of operations.

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