Condo plan sparks discussion


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.

"This is going to be a very tall building, compared to what Edgebrook is today," 41st Ward Zoning Advisory Committee member John Andersen said. "Is this what we want for Edgebrook?"

The proposal calls for the 3,000-square-foot property to be rezoned from B3-1, which permits one residential unit on the site, to the less restrictive B2-3, which waives the requirement of ground-floor commercial space in a business district. 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 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 in the building and bike racks in front.

Committee member James Hankin said that some residents have expressed concern that the owners of other properties on Devon would seek a similar zoning change and that eventually there would be a number of taller structures in the shopping 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 near the site said that the low-density character of the neighborhood appeals to families. "We move to Edgebrook because we don’t want to live around 200 people on a block," the resident said. "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."

Edgebrook Community Association president Jeff Manuel said that residents like the "small town" character of Edgebrook. "It has the name of Mayberry, and it has the hokiest parade in the world," Manuel said.

Pomaville said that many of the buildings in the commercial district were built in the 1940s and 1950s and that they have had no significant upgrades made to them. He said that new construction would add vibrancy to the area and that the building would generate more foot traffic on Devon, benefiting local stores.

Pomaville said that he also would pay up to $24,000 to 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 chamber members would welcome the increase in visitors to the shopping district. "I think this is a very nice concept for our neighborhood," Simon said.

Pomaville said that would not be economically feasible to reduce the number of units. He said that he does not want to compromise on the quality of construction materials that 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.

The units would be marketed to people 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, the requirement would be reduced because of the proximity of the site to the Edgebrook Metra station, 5438 W. Devon Ave.

A woman who lives near the site said that more parking would be needed for the building because even if the occupants of the building use public transportation for their daily commute, they likely would have a car to use on the weekends shopping and other errands. The woman 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. "I don’t see someone with two cars buying here."

Committee chairman Mike Emerson said that the building would appeal to both first-time home buyers and to empty nesters who want to downsize their home but remain in Edgebrook.

Pomaville said that a bike-centered development makes sense with 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 use bike trails to commute to work.

Each unit would measure about 920 square feet, with an asking price of about $350,000. An elevator is not planned for the building.

Also at the meeting, discussion of a five-unit residential building that has been proposed for 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.