AVONDALE — With one tenant down, the Rockwell Street complex is open for business and on the hunt for more.
Over the last decade, 3057 N. Rockwell St. has been "substantially vacant," said Paul Levy, the developer known for creating the Bridgeport Art Center. He intends to create a hub for local foodies in Avondale, with Metropolis Coffee Co. anchoring the cluster of businesses around an interior courtyard.
Metropolis opened its 18,000-square-foot roastery in September, a significant upgrade from its Andersonville garage space. Its Edgewater cafe will not be closing, but could be getting a face-lift soon.
Levy began renovating the former tannery building earlier this year, demolishing abut 40,000 square feet to shape the yet-unnamed complex. Plans unveiled Monday include up to 10 businesses — including Metropolis — offices and 40 parking spots.
Before he moves much farther with other potential tenants, Levy asked the Avondale Neighbors Association to support rezoning for the property that would allow tenants to sell products on site.
Metropolis, for example, could sell coffee. Customers could shop around for picnic food to enjoy by the river, he suggested.
And with talks in progress with other businesses like a brewery, restaurants, cheesemakers and chocolatiers, "there's a multiplicity of ways to support these smaller businesses," Levy said.
The next wave of Chicago industry is largely food-based, with artisanal makers on the rise, meaning "the smokestack industrial businesses of yesteryear are pretty much gone," he added.
Neighbors want Levy to include plans for a more scenic riverfront, whether it be part of a restaurant, a bike path or enhanced green space. Levy said there were plans to add landscaping and he hoped boast would be able to dock at the river's edge.
Ald. Deb Mell (33rd) has voiced her support for the project, adding that she wouldn't have supported a zoning change to put residential buildings on the property.
The city is "doing all kinds of really cool stuff, and I was hoping it would turn into some kind of area like that, where young entrepreneurs who want to make different food products have a place to go," she told DNAinfo in May. "It's exciting to have something happening over there."
Neighbors, too, were eager to see the site flourish, likening it to a European market place.
"This community is changing, and what you're doing represents the change that we all need over there and want over there," Mark Thomas said Monday. "It's the greatest thing that could happen to the Rockwell corridor right now."
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