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

5:16 PM CDT on March 20, 2014

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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.

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