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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.

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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