EDGEWATER — A new development featuring three "luxury" apartment buildings and more than 10,000 square feet of retail space could "transform" a strip of Devon Avenue that's been plagued with empty storefronts for decades, business leaders said.
3 Corners Development plans to begin construction of The Flats on Devon in two weeks and finish the three-story buildings — at 1244 and 1301 W. Devon Ave. and 6539 N. Wayne Ave. — in October.
All together, the development would boast 22 two- and three-bedroom units with hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances and in-unit laundry. Yearly leases would range from $2,000-2,600 a month.
"I think we’re seeing Devon changing," said Katrina Balog, the executive director of the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce. "That is really going to transform that strip."
Balog said the area of Devon just west of North Broadway was also included for the first time last year in a Special Service Area, a special property tax district that pays for trash pickup and beautification projects. This year, the street's planters will be renovated and planted ahead of the major development, she said.
3 Corners first became involved with Devon Avenue when it bought the former funeral home at 1300 W. Devon and built a state-of-the-art health clinic for Heartland Health Centers in its place. In the deal with the Weinstein Family funeral home, the developer also acquired its three parking lots, which are now slated for Flats on Devon.
But other developers have been recently drawn to the strip.
Scott Whelan, the developer of Lincoln Square's Fountainhead, has begun renovating the former restaurant at 1221-27 W. Devon Ave. He plans to add two stories of residential units and then attract a corner commercial tenant, such as a brewpub.
Then, at 1248-60 W. Devon Ave., across the street from the future Flats on Devon, building owner Frank Sulejmani plans to transform a string of vacant storefronts into an upscale bistro.
Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said Sulejmani and his attorneys have nearly collected enough signatures to designate the lift the ban on alcohol sales on the "dry" block and move forward with the restaurant.
Overall, Moore said, the developments will "have a very positive impact on Devon Avenue."
"It will replace a vacant parking lot with an attractive development that promises to bring to that portion of Devon new retail and new residents, who will potentially spend some of their disposable income at Devon Avenue businesses, including the Sulejmani family bistro."
Sandi Price, the executive director of the Rogers Park Business Alliance, said Devon has not been devoid of economic development, but has seen "a lot of turnover."
A quick tally of Devon storefronts between the new Starbucks at North Broadway and Newgard Avenue revealed about 30 occupied units and about 15 vacant.
Now, Price said, with stores like Audio Archaeology and Maddiebird Bakery celebrating one year in business and Ellipsis Coffeehouse celebrating two, more improvements are inevitable.
"I'm excited to have the [new] storefronts there," said John Arnsdorff, Audio Archaeology's owner, "because that stretch of Devon is so desolate, specifically of foot traffic. There’s nothing going on."
But Arnsdorff said he was skeptical the neighborhood of mostly vintage three-flat buildings would embrace a "luxury" development.
"I just really don’t see that happening in this neighborhood for a while," he said. "It doesn’t seem like it’s that kind of a neighborhood."
Ellipsis Owner Chris Zimmerman said he didn't have "high hopes" Flats on Devon would transform the area and boost his business.
"But you never know," he said. The neighborhood "has been turning for the last couple of years. Maybe this will give it that little extra it needs to get there."
Matt Ferrino, 3 Corners' project manager, said the condo-quality units would attract Loyola University students and employees, as well as young professionals from elsewhere.
He said his company's development would tip Devon over the edge to compete with other commercial hotspots, like on Sheridan Road and North Broadway.
"It's not going to happen overnight; it's going to be a challenge," he said. "But we're up for the challenge."
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