7-Story Edgebrook Proposal may spark discussion on area’s redevelopment
by BRIAN NADIG
While the 41st Ward Zoning Advisory Board at its Feb. 6 meeting raised objections to the height of a proposed seven-story building at 5408-16 W. Devon Ave., it hopes that the retail-residential proposal can spark a community discussion on how Downtown Edgebrook can best be revitalized.
Board member Dick McDowell said that the community would welcome mixed-use development but not necessarily at the sacrifice the area’s low-rise character. “Are we interested in improvement? Yes,” McDowell said. “Are we willing to give away the store? No, we’re not.”
Akton Realty president Charles Markopoulos, the project’s developer, said that the Devon business corridor looks “tired” and that more residential density will help to support existing stores and to attract new businesses. The existence of public transportation in Edgebrook, including a Metra stop, makes the area conducive to higher density, he said.
Edgebrook has lost a retail tenants to the shopping centers along Touhy Avenue in Niles and Skokie, and the parking meter boxes have driven customers away because they make it too expensive to park in the area, Markopoulos said. “What’s the alternative? It’s been like this for 25 years, and it’s only getting worse,” he said.
Akton is looking into to purchasing an adjacent building at 5418-20 W. Devon Ave. and then to incorporate that 6,000-square-foot parcel into the project, Markopoulos said. “If we get the other building, maybe we could go down a story, but I’d have to check,” he told the board. Both parcels that Akton is seeking to buy have had a history of vacancy problems.
Board chairman Kevin Walsh said that a lot of issues need to be addressed in Downtown Edgebrook but that the community is “not ready to hit the panic button” and support the first redevelopment proposal. A survey taken by the Edgebrook Community Association in 2002 showed that 77 percent of residents supported mixed-use development of up to three stories in the business district but that 78 percent opposed high-rise buildings.
McDowell said that the proposed building could be made shorter by designing a deeper building that would cover the entire lot, allowing for more units per floor. Parking could then be located under the second floor, he said.
Current plans call for the 78-foot-tall building to cover only the front half of the 12,000-square-foot parcel, with four units per floor and 2,600-square feet of retail space on the ground floor. Twenty-four uncovered parking spaces would be located in the rear half of the property.
Under the proposal, the site’s existing one-story building would be demolished. All of the approximately 7,000-square-foot building’s storefronts, whose previous occupants included the Al Primo Canto restaurant, are vacant.
At the urging of Walsh, Markopoulos agreed to work with the Edgebrook Chamber of Commerce, Edgebrook Community Association and others on a redevelopment plan for Devon. A resident at the meeting suggested that those groups consult with “Main Street” program. which has done consulting work on the revitalization of the Six Corners business district.
Alderman Mary O’Connor said that she would help facilitate the discussion on the area’s revitalization.