Building Another Strip Mall by a Red Line Stop Won’t Help Edgewater


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The former Piser Weinstein Funeral Home site.

Located just around the corner from the Red Line’s Berwyn station, the former Piser Weinstein Funeral Home site, 5206 North Broadway in Edgewater, would make an excellent spot for transit-oriented development. Sadly, that doesn’t appear to be its destiny.

Edgeville Buzz reports that the funeral home building, which has been vacant since the business relocated to Skokie a decade ago, and its massive parking lot have been acquired by Chody Real Estate Corporation, which owns the strip mall on the other side of Broadway. It looks like Chody is planning a similar car-centric development for the Piser Weinstein site.

The funeral home building is slated for demolition in the near future, and the developer intends to build a 20,000-square-foot “multi-tenant retail complex” – Edgeville Buzz speculates that it will include a Chipotle restaurant. Local alderman Harry Osterman told the website that he has informed Chody that local residents want a single-story development with no alley access. “I will be meeting with neighbors again as soon as the development moves forward to ensure this project is good for Broadway and good for the community,” he wrote. Osterman’s office didn’t return a call I made this morning asking for more info.

The neighbors’ demands rule out creating denser mixed-use development, as well pedestrian-oriented retail with parking in the rear, so this means this relatively bleak, car-oriented stretch of Broadway will be getting yet another strip mall with chain stores. Contrast it with the pedestrian-friendly Andersonville business district a few blocks west on Clark, with its thriving mix of locally owned businesses. Since Broadway runs right alongside the Red Line, it really should be a walkable retail district as well, instead of strip mall hell.

The funny thing is that Osterman, who generally has a good record on transportation issues, recently said he wants more pedestrian-oriented retail on Broadway. “We want to make Broadway a more walkable street,” he told constituents at a March 6 hearing on the Department of Planning and Development’s North Broadway Plan, which has the goal of making the street more pedestrian-friendly and prosperous.

Streetsblog reader and Edgewater resident Frank Geilen, who alerted us to the issue, says the prospect of another strip mall in the area is all the more frustrating in light of Osterman’s and other officials’ statements at the community meeting. “They even expressed hope that they could redevelop some of the current strip mall-like complexes into higher density building,” he said. “They specifically mentioned the building across the street, with an autoparts store, that they hoped to redevelop.”

As has been the case elsewhere in the city when new projects are proposed, the Edgewater residents’ fear that they will have more difficulty finding street parking has them lobbying for a low-density, high-parking development. But the new strip mall will simply generate more car traffic and degrade the pedestrian environment on Broadway, where it should be easy to walk to stores and the train.

Almost all the comments on the Edgeville Buzz piece are anti-strip mall. Hopefully more neighbors will speak out against the project and Osterman will push Chody to come up with a plan for an urban, not suburban, model for its new development.

  • ConcernedNeighbor

    This is crap

  • oooBooo

    If one wants to support their preferences and/or agenda with lofty sounding principles of neighborhood input or free market choices by developers then they need to stick by them to be convincing. That means respecting those principles even when the developers or neighbors oppose your personal preferences and agenda.

  • Peter Donalek

    Check this out: http://www.rightsizeparking.org/ This is a parking needs study that was done for the City of Seattle – similar studies are underway for San Francisco and Washington DC. The focus of the study is the future need for private auto parking in an urban settings; especially in proximity to a public transit node. If our alderman are really in tune with the Mayors’ Office of Sustainability, wouldn’t they require a similar study for the 5200 North Broadway site?

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    As someone who lives in Edgewater I can tell you I’ve seen “plans” for Broadway come and go. Edgewater has a bad reputation for developers. Most of them have gotten ripped up in the meat grinder of local politics (block clubs, Edgewater Community Council (now defunct), Edgewater Historic Society), Prime example a beauty of a building (a 17 story mid-rise) was proposed for Sheridan and Catalpa. The neighbors in the 35 story highrise across the street put up such a stink about the shadow of the new building falling on the pool and cabanas the developer walked away.

    It’s great to have grass roots politics, but when you don’t have developers who want to spend 9 months to a year just to get the plan approved locally (and then downtown), you get nothing but the same old thing.

    So I say, what the heck, recognized Broadway for the animal it is and design for the high volume traffic to large retail. That’s what over half of Broadway is in Edgewater. I wish people would quit trying to make it into the cutsy-pie Andersonville that it isn’t. As you say in another post today TOD doesn’t have to be about housing.

    Speaking of Andersonville, rumor has it Trader Joes is looking at purchasing and ripping down Trumball School at Foster and Ashland. (O’Conner’s ward). Will see. I expect the Edgewater Historic Society would rather see a vacant and empty structure for years on end rather than something else. Let the development wars go on in Edgewater. My bet is the Chicago Public Schools want a quick sale.

  • Rightsize Parking

    Interesting – that study/site was done by our very own CNT out of Chicago. Now they just need to get hired by the City.

  • duppie

    I agree with the first part of your post. The way Osterman runs his constituent inputs (only residents within a few hundred feet get invited to the review meeting) makes sure that nearby neighbors have an oversized voice in the process.

    Nice little juicy rumor in the TJ too. Does sound like a better use for that parcel than letting it sounds empty for a decade like the Edgewater Hospital

  • I go by there all the time and I can’t even remember if the old Blockbuster video is something else now or vacant. With even Lauries Pizza closed the stretch from Winona to past Jewel is kind of a downer…

    What happened to the Entertainment District…anything is more entertaining then a strip mall.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Actually it was under Mary Ann Smith that most of the craziness happened. Osterman’s not doing a bad job, but in a lot of instances his hands are tied.

    It seems right now that people are more open to TOD type of development nowadays. However in the previous decade everyone was for downzoning. The explanation was, “well if we downzone it, if a developer wants something larger or different, the community will have control over the type of development we get.”

    Unfortunately, the “community” isn’t always out for what’s best for the community, but what’s best for the closeby neighbors. And if you go back to try and upzone at a later date, its these same people that come out and say, we downzoned it because we didn’t want larger development, period.

    It was when Mary Ann Smith was Alderman she led the “downzoning” of Broadway because it was a popular notion. There were lots of people in the community that didn’t support downzoning, but they could not get past the flanks of singe family homeowners between Broadway and Clark street that did. And since a majority of them are homeowners, they, as potential voters for re-election purposes held more sway.

    I’ve been to many Planning Meetings or Charettes concerning Broadway over the course of the last several years and I don’t doubt the sincerely of people when they want a more pedestrian friendly Broadway. However if you turned around and said to them, well to get that kind of development we need to have higher residential density (six floors or higher) to support the 1st floor commercial, which gives people something to walk to, they would probably fight it.

    One other thing to consider about Broadway in Edgewater. On the east side of Broadway from the street to the Red Line viaduct the lots can be twice as deep as the west side. Its a factor in land acquisition costs. If you want to build big on these lots, you have to build really big because of the depth of the lots.

    I look at it this way, these strip malls are basically a way for a developer to land bank for future years when the value of the land will be significantly higher. Unless you have a community that understand and supports density, and developers that have the money to develop that kind density, you’re going to get what Edgewater has on Broadway.

    You can despise auto centric development all you want. But unless the City of Chicago is going to come in and take by eminent domain property from the current owners and hand it over to developers who will develop denser property, it may take decades to see dense development on Broadway in Edgewater.

  • Nathanael

    If I were the developer, I’d survey the neighbors to find out whether the alderman is actually right about what the neighbors want. I bet you he’s wrong — he’s probably hearing from a few loudmouths.

  • FGf

    What exactly are Osterman’s pro-transit credentials? When we had the CTA Doomsday a few years back one could find no statements or action by him as a state legislator on the issue.

    MAS (former alderman) was absolutely inept! She really should never have been in office, but had connections.

  • FGFM

    Just wait for that Sonic!

  • duppie

    I don’t think anyone is suggesting eminent domain. But Osterman has the final say over curb cuts. No curb cuts means no strip mall. I understand he used that in the Walgreens/LA Fitness redevelopment, to keep it more pedestrian friendly.
    BTW, anyone know what the current zoning is for that parcel?

  • tooter turtle

    I live very near this part of Broadway, and yet its unfriendliness for biking and walking make it dead to me. I couldn’t even name any businesses in the area. I never go there. Instead, pretty much all of my local shopping/dining/entertainment spending goes to Andersonville, which is actually a little farther for me to go, but is oh so much more pleasant.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    I do not believe an alderman can outright ban a curb cut if the zoning is a certain type of business or commercial zoning. What the alderman can do is limit the amount of curb cuts such as if the business asks for two, he might only agree to one. Additionally, he can push back on the developer as to where the curb cut is placed.

    In terms of Walgreens at Glenlake, the developer originally wanted to tear down the old Hancock Fabric Building and the old Walgreens strip mall. Originally proposed was the Walgreens sitting back on the lot with parking lot close to the street. Hancock Fabrics would be torn down and a bank with a drive thru would be built in its place. After negotiating, (the developer was going to get a 30 year lease on Walgreens) it was agreed that the parking would be pushed back, the Walgreens would come forward on the street and the developer would rehab the Hancock Fabric building. Curb cuts were retained on Glenlake, there is one curb cut for parking for both buildings on Broadway and Walgreens got a variance for a drive thru (east side of building). The alley north of Walgreens retained its curb cut, but traffic from parking cannot exit/enter the alley.

    This is how is goes. Both sides get a little and lose a little. Yes, the alderman holds some sway on curb cuts, but they can’t just ban them if the zoning allows.

  • FG

    So they kept the same curb cuts on Broadway, more or less, that they already had. Isn’t that in Joe Moore’s ward now?

  • No, it’s still Osterman’s ward.

  • FG

    Thanks, I know the ward boundaries zig-zag up there and was remapped a couple years ago.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Rather than having three curb cuts, two on Broadway and one on Glenlake as originally planned by the developer, due to the bank proposal, it went back to two and I believe the curb cut on Broadway was moved.

    If the developer really wanted the three curb cuts, he probably could have forced the issue downtown. But for the most part developers will work it out with alderman on curb cut issues because developers want to keep a positive relationship with the local alderman They all know that eventually they will have another development that needs a zoning or variance and if you piss off the alderman you may not get that change.

    That’s the only power the alderman really have in terms of curb cuts.

  • Steve Browne

    I think the Blockbuster is now a mattress store.

  • The ward border at Lawrence/Broadway used to be zig zag crazy. Now it cuts East-West at Ainslie from Magnolia to Marine Dr.
    It makes more sense…almost a de-gerimandering of sorts.

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