A prime West Loop retail site sits empty, with just a few vestiges of its former longtime incarnation as a popular day care site. Now, some parents are asking questions about reports that the site is under consideration as a marijuana dispensary, and whether that played a role in the sudden conversion.
"Come February 19th, we got a letter and an email saying they were shutting down on the 28th of February," says parent Ania Kuna. "I think nine days notice is not sufficient enough for children and families and the staff to move to another location or even look to another school."
Kuna was left asking relatives to care for her daughter. But she said what raised her concerns even more, was when fellow parents began getting word of what may be going into the now-vacant site.
"From what I heard from other people, was that it was going to be a cannabis dispensary," she said. "And doing some more research, is how we got to the bottom of it---that it is one of the locations that is under consideration for a cannabis dispensary."
A little of that same research by NBC5 Investigates revealed that she was correct. A company called Windy City Cannabis has requested zoning opinion letters for four downtown sites, among them the now-vacated day care property at 1140 W. Madison.
Nothing is imminent, as the city's Zoning Board of Appeals told NBC5 that Windy City has not applied for a special use permit for the site. They also have not held a public hearing to get input from neighbors, something which would be required before any consideration is given for a dispensary at the West Madison location.
Neither the attorney for Windy City nor their media spokesman responded to requests for comment.
A woman working in the realty office for the building, Red Sky Capital, would say only that "the day care is leaving" before hanging up the phone.
The manager of the day care center, which is operated by a Canadian firm known as Kids and Company, told NBC5 that the Madison location had been operating on a month-to-month lease which they inherited from a prior owner, and that they have managed to absorb most of the families into their other downtown locations.
She said she did not know if the cannabis reports, which she had also heard, played a role in the lease termination.
As for Ania Kuna, she indicated she is more concerned with the notice she received---than the possibility that cannabis will soon be dealt out of her daughter's former school
"If you want to make money, that's fair," she said. "I think there should have been a little better process to give notice to the families and staff.