Possible Elston-Central apartment plan,Devon-Merrimac traffic issues discussed at Gladstone Park Neighborhood Assoc. meeting
by BRIAN NADIG
The possible resurrection of a previously proposed 40-unit complex at Elston and Central avenues and safety concerns about the Devon-Merrimac intersection were discussed at the June 8 meeting of the Gladstone Park Neighborhood Association.
The proposal calls for three levels of apartments to be constructed over a partially underground parking garage. The garage would have about 40 parking spaces, and there also would be about 21 surface spaces.
The proposal, which initially called for 52 units, was first announced in 2019, but it has faced multiple delays, including environmental issues during the demolition of the former bank at 5700 N. Central Ave., where the DiLeo’s restaurant and banquets also was once located.
The association had issued a “letter of no objection” to the 40-unit proposal, but in 2021 the group rescinded its letter due to the poor condition of the property, as the former bank building stood partially demolished for months. At the time there were issues of vandalism and graffiti on the site.
Association president Joe DiCiaula said that the group’s board recently met with the developer’s attorney and Alderman James Gardiner (45th) to discuss the development.
DiCiaula said that the association requested a copy of the project’s traffic study, which it later received. The study stated that the project would have a negligible effect on the area’s traffic, he said.
The association has not taken a new stance on the proposal.
Gardiner recently said that if the project were to move forward in his community input process, he would gather input from the immediate neighbors and then hold a public meeting. He added that his stance on the proposal would be based on community feedback.
The apartments would consist of a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units and would be offered at market-rate rents, except for the four to eight units that would be offered at reduced rents in accordance with the city’s affordable housing requirements. Affordable units are intended for those making about 60 percent of the area’s median income.
Also at the meeting, GPNA vice president John Garrido said that he has asked 39th Ward Alderman Samantha Nugent’s office to request a traffic study of the intersection of Devon and Merrimac avenues following an accident last year in which a pedestrian walking two dogs was severely injured and hospitalized for months. One of the dogs was killed during the accident and the other died of injuries several weeks later, he said.
Several years earlier a jogger died after being struck by a vehicle on Devon in the general vicinity, Garrido said.
There is not a stoplight on Devon at Merrimac, but many pedestrians cross there to reach Caldwell Woods, including Whelan Pool, along the north side of the street, Garrido said.
To closest stoplight to the Devon-Merrimac intersection is nearly three blocks to the west at Milwaukee and Devon avenues.
“Nobody is walking to cross at the light,” Garrido said. He added that Devon between Milwaukee Avenue on the west and Caldwell Avenue on the east is known as a racetrack for speeding vehicles because of the isolated nature of the street due to the forest preserve and lack of stoplights.
One possible solution could be the installation of a push-button stoplight at or near the Devon-Merrimac intersection, similar to the one in the 6100 block of North Central Avenue near the Edgebrook Golf Course, Garrido said. On Central, pedestrians can activate the red light, forcing traffic to stop for those crossing the street.
Another option could be a painted crosswalk with flashing lights and pedestrian-crossing warning signs at Merrimac, Garrido said.
In other news, the association plans to focus more on development-related issues along Northwest Highway, DiCiaula said.
The former Sun Chemical facility at 5540 N. Northwest Hwy. is for sale, and in recent months cars have been stored on the 1.68-acre parcel, which includes a 45,000-square-foot building, he said.
DiCiaula also reported that a real estate agent for the Chase Bank parking lot at Milwaukee and Medina avenues has indicated that a potential buyer has been looking at the property for a commercial use, but additional details were not available.
Also, some residents said at the meeting that they wish the Gladstone Food Mart, 5789 N. Milwaukee Ave., would have more food items for sale and less liquor.
“It’s not exactly what we thought (it would be). We were thinking 7-Eleven,” which previously operated there, a resident said.
A representative for Gardiner reported that the city Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection told the ward office that the store is “compliant” with the terms of its retail food and packaged liquor licenses.