Chicago’s First Metra-Oriented Development Proposed in Edgebrook

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The development, at 5306 West Devon, would be only a five-minute walk from Metra, and a short pedal to the North Branch Trail. Image: Google Maps

So far, almost all of the 30-or-so transit-oriented developments planned, under construction, or completed in Chicago have been near CTA stations and within a few miles of the Loop. However, it appears a four-story condominium building planned for the Edgebrook neighborhood on the Far Northwest Side would be the city’s Metra-friendly TOD, more than 11 miles from Daley Plaza.

To top it off, the new structure, located a short pedal from the North Branch Trail, is being marketed as a bicycle-centric development with the clever name “Bicycle Flats of Edgebrook.” The developer is Ambrosia Homes Inc.

Nadig Newspapers reported that that the condo project has been proposed for a 3,000-square-foot vacant lot at 5306 West Devon, about a quarter-mile east of the Edgebrook station on Metra’s Union Pacific-North Line, 5438 West Devon. Despite the long distance from the Loop, the train commute between Edgebrook and the Loop is only about a half hour, with some runs taking as little as 25 minutes.

The building would feature seven two-bedroom condos and one ground-floor live/work space, but only three car-parking spots. Thanks to the September 2015 update to the city’s TOD ordinance, new residential buildings within a quarter-mile of a station are no longer required to provide car spaces.

Meanwhile, the bicycle-themed project would provide 16 indoor bike parking spaces, plus outdoor racks for short-term parking. The developer is also looking into the possibility of paying the city to install a Divvy station in front of the building, as a South Loop developer did last August at a cost of $56,000.

Having a bike-share station available for condo residents, guests, and other Edgebrook residents who might like to check out bikes to take a spin on the North Branch Trail, located a few blocks west, would be an appealing amenity. The trail extends north from Devon about 18 miles to the Chicago Botanic Gardens, and the Cook County Forest Preserve District is currently building an extension that will take the trail three miles further southeast into the city, to around Foster and Pulaski.

5306-devon
A rendering of the planned condo building.

However, putting docks by the new development might not make much sense from Divvy’s point of view. The nearest existing station is more than three miles southeast at St. Louis and Catalpa, by Northeastern University, and the system isn’t slated to expand northwest this year.

The developer would need 41st Ward alderman Anthony Napolitano to approve a zoning change from B3-1 to B2-3, which allows for living space on the ground floor of a building in a business strip, Nadig reports. In a statement to the alderman, Ambrosia owner Tim Pomaville argued that the project’s transit-, pedestrian-, and bike-friendly aspects would offer several benefits for residents and neighbors.

“The building’s proximity to the train and usable bike trails will appeal to a new type of buyer who walks to work or commutes by bike,” Pomaville wrote. “The surrounding businesses can all benefit from more walking traffic on Devon. Additional walking traffic from this building and others will bring new interest in vacant spaces on Devon.”

He noted that the completion of the trail extension may bring renewed interest to this off-the-beaten-path neighborhood, similar to how the opening of Bloomingdale Trail has spurred development in the surrounding neighborhoods. “New residents may explore the neighborhood who have never considered living in Edgebrook previously,” he wrote.

41st Ward chief of staff Chris Vittorio told me the alderman agrees that the new condos could help inspire more development on a stretch of Devon with too many vacancies. Due to the relatively small size of the structure, he doesn’t expect much community opposition to the plan, although he said the number of parking spaces could be a sticking point.

Ambrosia will present the proposal at the next meeting of the ward’s zoning committee on Wednesday, May 4, at the Olympia Park fieldhouse, 6566 North Avondale.

It’s great to see a developer thinking outside the box by proposing Metra-friendly housing in a neighborhood that’s not one of the usual suspects for TODs. After all, transit-oriented housing makes sense for a wide range of Chicago neighborhood, not just those on the current real estate hotlist.

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  • Mcass777

    This is my neighborhood and if you are adventurous you can bike downtown in 45 to 55 min. Now all we need is a better bike shop

  • johnaustingreenfield

    The former Rapid Transit Cycle Shop owners are opening Cosmic Bikes three miles south of Edgebrook at 4641 North Milwaukee: http://chi.streetsblog.org/2016/03/30/former-rapid-transit-owners-opening-cosmic-bikes-in-jefferson-park/

  • Roland Solinski

    Interesting. I wonder what the demand is to live car free here. Metra gets you downtown but it’s not exactly frequent. There are several bus lines here but they don’t get you anywhere quickly. The remoteness also harms those who might want to bike.

    I’m not saying there isn’t a (small) market for living car free in Edgebrook, just that such people, so far away from downtown, are more than likely looking to rent rather than buy.

    I assume most buyers here will be lured by the below market price and if they can’t get a parking space, they will just park on the street.

  • kastigar

    Even closer is Edgebrook Cycle Shop, 6450 N Central Ave 50 N. http://www.edgebrookcycle.com/

  • Jac Charlier AKA Citizen Jac

    This concept falls in line with an effort just starting to leverage the bike trail to introduce folks to Edgebrook. And, the builder is building a brand new home in Edgebrook… They’ll be my neighbors very soon!

  • JeffParkNIMBY

    Knowing the northwest side, can’t wait for someone to say “think of the children” (who will have to walk farther out of their parents’ SUV) because someone from those condos is parking in front of MY house!

  • johnaustingreenfield

    I once bought a tiki-themed cruiser bike there for a raffle prize. It has a light-up tiki idol on the front fender!

  • Jared Kachelmeyer

    Doesn’t everyone up there have driveways anyways?

  • JeffParkNIMBY

    I’m sure that changes nothing. The rest of the city has garages and that doesn’t mean people don’t want people parking IN FRONT OF THEIR HOUSE!

  • skyrefuge

    “Having a bike-share station available for condo residents, guests, and other Edgebrook residents who might like to check out bikes to take a spin on the North Branch Trail, located a few blocks west, would be an appealing amenity.”

    Yeah, so is the request for specifically a *Divvy* station maybe a mis-reporting? There are currently two bike-share stations closer than the nearest Divvy station; one at the Forest Preserve parking lot at Milwaukee and Devon, and one half a mile up the trail. The trick is that they’re Bike & Roll/Smoove stations, so incompatible with Divvy, but B&R/Smoove would make more sense than Divvy if choosing between the two for this location. Of course that would start turning B&R/Smoove into an incompatible competitor with Divvy, which would be the worst thing ever, so let’s hope that doesn’t actually happen.

    In general, it seems a bit weird to market this place as “Bicycle Flats”. It would make more sense if it was right at the corner of Devon and Caldwell, at the start of the North Branch Trail. Because beyond that, there really isn’t great connectivity/infrastructure. Even though the main route into the city (Elston) is nearby, it’s either a fairly-uncomfortable ride down Central or a side-street zig-zag to get there from the other side of the river. But hey, I’ll be happy if it goes in as-proposed!

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Ah, I didn’t think of the forest preserve bike-share system. But the Ambrosia’s statement says: “The developer is exploring a partnership with Divvy Bikes to add a bike sharing station in front of the building (or at a site nearby like the Metra train stop) that would be used by all residents of Edgebrook.”

  • Mcass777

    Thus the comment about a better bike shop. Have you been to the Edgebrook Bike Shop?

  • Mcass777

    But they will give you a hard time if you want a presta valve!!

  • Scott Avers

    This would probably be more interesting if Metra was interested in allowing bikes on trains. As it is today they have all kinds of restrictions and the conductors are jerks about bikes.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Actually, nowadays the Metra bike rules are very sensible:
    https://metrarail.com/metra/en/home/utility_landing/riding_metra/bikes_on_trains.html

    Bikes are allowed on reverse commute runs during rush hours, and they’re not even banned during big downtown events. They just put out an advisory that conductors may not allow bikes if the train is too packed, which is completely reasonable. In recent years, I’ve found the conductors to be pretty bike-friendly. They’ll even tell passengers sitting in the bike area to move to make room for cycles.

    Well, I’ll have a chance to see how the program is working today. I’m leading a bike ride to a Cambodian restaurant in the western suburbs, and we’re planning on taking Metra home.

  • Scott Avers

    John, I applaud you for taking bikes on Metra, but way too many policies (Metra conductors can still kick you off or not allow you) and a complete lack of bike security at or around Metra stations. So you can’t take your bike, then you’re stuck leaving it somewhere where Metra offers no bike security.

    BTW – I still see the same jerk Metra conductors working today who I’ve dealt with in the past. Many conductors are decent, but still a number of jerks.

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