Condo plan could have transforming effect on Downtown Edgebrook
by BRIAN NADIG
A proposal to construct a four-story condominium building on a vacant lot at 5306 W. Devon Ave. has prompted a discussion of whether changing the low-rise, low-density character of Downtown Edgebrook would be beneficial for the community.
“This is going to be a very tall building, compared to what Edgebrook is today. Is this what we want for Edgebrook?” asked 41st Ward Zoning Advisory Committee member John Andersen.
About 20 residents attended the committee’s May 4 meeting.
The proposed “Bicycle Flats of Edgebrook” would be built on a 25-foot-wide lot that is located between a restaurant and an office building, and there would be two living units per floor, with the option of one of the first-floor units being used as a storefront or a work/live arrangement. Plans call for bicycle storage inside the building and bike racks in front..
Committee member James Hankin said that some residents have expressed concern that other property owners on Devon would seek a similar zoning change and that eventually there would be a series of taller structures in the business district, creating a “canyon effect.”
“With your 25 feet, you’re trying to squeeze a lot in there,” committee member Marc Pelini told developer Tim Pomaville of Ambrosia Homes.
A resident who lives behind the the site told the committee that the low-density landscape of the neighborhood appeals to families. “We move to Edgebrook because we don’t want to live around 200 people on a block. People choose Edgebrook because they don’t want to live next to an apartment building. We don’t want to live next to a four-story building,” the man said.
Edgebrook Community Association president Jeff Manuel said that residents like the small-town charm of Edgebrook. “It has the name of ‘Mayberry,’ and it has the hokiest parade in the world,” he said.
Pomaville told the committee that many of the buildings in the business district were built in the 1940s and 1950s and have had no significant upgrades made to them. He said that new construction would add some vibrancy to the district and that his project would generate more foot traffic on Devon, benefitting the stores.
Pomaville said that he also would pay up to $24,000 to help have a Divvy Bikes ride-sharing station in front of the building. He said that it typically costs about $55,000 for a station and that Divvy operators are “partnering with more and more private developers like us.”
Edgebrook Chamber of Commerce executive director Andrea Simon said that the chamber would welcome the increase in visitors to the shopping district. “I think this is a very nice concept for our neighborhood,” she said of the project.
It would not be economically feasible to reduce the number of units, whose asking price would be about $350,000, said Pomaville, who is planning to move his family to Edgebrook this spring. He said that he does not want to compromise on the quality of construction materials which he plans to use for the condominium project.
Committee member Liz Griffiths asked Pomaville to consider setting back the fourth floor of the building so that it would have the appearance of a three-story structure to passers-by.
Under the proposal the units would be marketed to those who would commute via a bicycle or public transportation. Three parking spaces behind the building are planned, and while the zoning code normally requires one parking space per unit, that requirement would be reduced because of the site’s proximity to the Edgebrook Metra Station, 5438 W. Devon Ave.
A woman who lives behind the site told the committee that more parking was needed for the project because even if the occupants of the building used public transportation for their daily commute, they likely would like have a car to use on the weekends for grocery shopping and other activities. She said that metered parking on Devon and residential permit-only parking on Spokane Avenue would make it difficult for the condominium owners to park in the area.
“It appeals to someone who is not driving,” Pomaville said of the project. “I don’t see someone with two cars buying here.”
Committee chairman Mike Emerson said that he is intrigued by Pomaville’s proposal in part because the project would appeal to both first-time home buyers and the area’s empty nesters who want to downsize their home but remain in Edgebrook.
Pomaville said that a bike-centric development makes sense given the construction of the southern extension of the North Branch bike and pedestrian trail, which will connect Edgebrook via the trail to Indian Woods, Forest Glen and Mayfair. He said that an increasing number of people are not only using bike trails for recreational purposes but for their commute to work.
Pomaville’s proposal calls for the 3,000-square-foot property to be rezoned from B3-1, which permits no more than one residential unit on the site, to the less restrictive B2-3, which waives the requirement on ground-floor commercial space in a business district.
Also at the meeting, discussion on a proposed five-unit residential building at 6556 N. Milwaukee Ave. was deferred. The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 1, at the Olympia Park fieldhouse, 6566 N. Avondale Ave.