During a meeting on Oct. 16, the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously approved a special use permit that will allow Clave9 Chicago LLC to open a craft cannabis cultivation facility in a warehouse at 5851 W. Dickens Ave., near Austin’s northern border. 

The company won’t sell any cannabis on site; rather, it will grow and process the cannabis plant and sell the resulting product to other companies, with the product delivered in secured trucks.  

Company representatives said the impact on the surrounding community will be minimal. They told board members that they’ll install filters to make sure the odors created as part of processing won’t affect the surrounding community, especially residential properties further north.

The warehouse is located in the Armitage Planned Manufacturing District, which encompasses the industrial businesses on both Montclare and the Austin/Galewood sides of the Milwaukee District North railroad tracks. The warehouse was last home to the Midwestern Recycling company. 

Under city zoning laws, all cannabis businesses have to apply for special use permits. In Clave9’s case, the company had to apply for separate permits to grow and process the cannabis. Both applications came before the zoning board on Oct. 16.  

Stewart Blankenhorn, who will be serving as one of the company’s managers, told the board that the company held three community meetings in July, both online and in-person. Only two people showed up to both, he said. 

Blankenhorn emphasized that they are taking measures to ensure the community isn’t negatively affected by the facility and that cannabis remains secured in every stage of the process. The trucks will drive into newly built internal docks. 

“All parking will be internal, all loading will be internal,” Blankenhorn said. “No supplies will be delivered outside, and no product will be loaded for shipping out outside.” 

Blankenhorn also said that all entrances will require a keycard or a typed code to get in, and the building will be under constant surveillance. In addition, the Illinois State Police will have live access to the cameras, he explained.  

He said that the company plans to start with 5,000 square feet of growing space — the most the state allows for growing in the first year. After that, the company will have the option of adding 3,000 square feet a year before maxing out at 14,000 square feet. 

Blankenhorn said that they ultimately plan to double the growing space, but the growth would be contained entirely within the footprint of the existing building. 

Once processed, the product will be stored in vaults and they will check the inventory on a regular basis. Even the waste from the process, Blaneknhorn said, will be kept locked and disposed of by a company that will mix it with other waste to render it inert. 

Bankenhorn said that they expect to  initially hire 25 employees, with the goal of hiring 20 more as the growth space is expanded. 

Clave9 also agreed to repair the parking lot facing Dickens Avenue, as well as add a sidewalk and landscaping. Michael Blue, the consultant for the project, told the board that the landscaping and exterior improvements, along with the safety and security measures, would be beneficial to the surrounding neighborhood. 

The zoning board didn’t ask any questions and unanimously approved the application. 

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...