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Is Avondale the Next Logan Square or Wicker Park? Some Say 'Yes'

By Ariel Cheung | June 23, 2015 8:46am | Updated on June 24, 2015 8:36am

AVONDALE — Everything's coming up Avondale, and residents want to make sure they plan for whatever's ahead.

With the 2015 Avondale Restaurant Crawl seeing double the attendance of previous years and a new festival on its way this July, neighbors and business owners say the neighborhood could see the same rush of development as Wicker Park or Logan Square in the next decade.

"This neighborhood is going to change very quickly," said Ray Dominguez, who has owned the Burger King at 2828 W. Belmont Ave. for 30 years.

One potential developer, however, told neighbors at a recent meeting that Avondale needs more residences to spark economic development. Dorel Ardelean wants to build three two-story condominium buildings that would have 15 total units at Belmont and Elston avenues.

Developer Dorel Ardelean wants to build three condominium buildings at 2854-2858 W. Belmont Ave. and 3224 N. Elston Ave. [Provided/Laszlo Simovic Architects]

"Make this more pedestrian friendly, bring in more people, and you can bring in more commercial after that," said Sara Barnes, an attorney assisting Ardelean with the requested zoning change.

The two buildings at 2854-2858 W. Belmont Ave. would include parking spaces for the six units each, while the 3224 N. Elston Ave. building would have parking spaces for each of the nine units, plus an additional five spots that could be used for owners or public use.

During a 33rd Ward zoning and development last week at the Brands Park Fieldhouse, 3259 N. Elston Ave., residents voiced their support for the project, but said they would have preferred a mixed-use development that would bring in businesses.

Ariel Cheung discusses how neighbors feel about the changes:

Developers, however, said there is not much demand for commercial buildings in the area. One nearby commercial property was just submitted for a zoning change after sitting vacant for years, pointed out architect Laszlo Simovic.

"There are more and more people converting to residences. There's not a lot of demand. Until that dries up, there won't be a demand, but five to 10 years from now, it's hard to predict how the city will grow and evolve," he said.

Developer Dorel Ardelean wants to build three condominium buildings at 2854-2858 W. Belmont Ave. and 3224 N. Elston Ave., which is currently an empty, L-shaped lot between Burger King and Kuma's Corner. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

Mark Thomas, an Avondale resident who owns The Alley in Lakeview and ran against 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney in the last city election, agreed.

"A lot of people in the community would like to see this be a mixed-use, but honestly, I think you're going to have a tough time selling commercial right now in today's economy," Thomas said.

Neighbors were also concerned that the additional neighbors would make parking on Elston Avenue more difficult and asked for the additional five parking spaces to be designated as public use.

Ald. Deb Mell (33rd) said she wanted input from neighbors because she was "concerned about the lack of commercial, especially along Belmont."

"I do believe our area is really popping right now, and it's really kind of amazing what's going on," Mell said.

Developer Dorel Ardelean wants to build three condominium buildings at 2854-2858 W. Belmont Ave. and 3224 N. Elston Ave., which is currently an empty, L-shaped lot between Burger King and Kuma's Corner. [Provided/Laszlo Simovic Architects]

Some cautioned that decisions regarding developments now could set a precedent for future projects.

"I'm more concerned Avondale is the next Wicker Park. If it's going to happen, we need to make ourselves heard early. Future developers need to understand this community is already very aware of parking issues," Thomas said.

Developer Dorel Ardelean wants to build three condominium buildings at 2854-2858 W. Belmont Ave. and 3224 N. Elston Ave., which is currently an empty, L-shaped lot between Burger King and Kuma's Corner. [Provided/Laszlo Simovic Architects]

Ardelean said he planned to construct each building separately once permits were acquired and hoped to open the first building on Elston Avenue for occupancy by the autumn. It should take 18 months for all three to be completed, Barnes estimated.

The vacant lot, which Ardelean is in the process of purchasing, was a proposed location for an AutoZone, but Mell said the new plans were "an improved design and more attractive."

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