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Could Retail, Condos Pitched For Busy Ridge Avenue Perk Up Blighted Corner?

By Linze Rice | March 15, 2017 6:31am
 A former drug treatment center and counseling office could become a 9-unit condo building with ground retail that is created with a "universal design" meant to be accessible to people of all different physical abilities. 
5619 Ridge
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EDGEWATER — A former substance abuse treatment center on a busy stretch of Ridge Avenue could get new life as nine-unit condo building built with a "universal design" that outfits buildings so people of all physical abilities can easily access their homes.

Seeking a zoning change because of the building's height, developer Frances Kao of PH2 Square presented her plans for the four-story project at 5691 N. Ridge Ave. (formerly Recovery Point) at a community meeting Tuesday night.

The proposal includes nine units between 1,300-1,600-square-feet to be sold in the $400,000 range, at least nine parking spaces and about 3,400-square-feet of ground-floor retail space. A public green space would also be added.

Kao and business partner P.J. Huff, an Edgewater resident of five years, built a similar structure at Hermitage and Lawrence and said they've been eyeing the neighborhood for a while. 

A new building like this could revitalize the area, the developers said.

"There's not a lot of commerce going on here," Kao said. "What we wanted to do was bring something new here, replace something that's nearly dilapidated with a brand new building and hopefully make this more pedestrian-friendly."

In weeks prior to Tuesday night's meeting, Kao said she's met with surrounding neighborhood block clubs, Ald. Harry Osterman's (48th) office and the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce to tweak her plans in a way that suits the community's needs. 

She hopes her building, in particular the retail, would help make the area around Ridge Avenue more pedestrian-friendly and attract a strong enough commercial tenant — such as an upscale cafe — to differentiate from the few other storefronts on the street, such as a Walgreen's, laundromat and liquor store.

Some residents expressed skepticism, saying the area was already oversaturated with boutique cafes or empty storefronts on nearby Broadway or Bryn Mawr, but Kao said she believed her building's design would draw viable retailers and that she was willing to be flexible with tenants. 

"We like this neighborhood, we wanted to be here," she said. "When this building came up, I fast-talked P.J. into building this building with me. So when I say I'm familiar with this neighborhood, I like it and want to be here and do a good job for myself and for other people in the neighborhood, I'm very sincere about it."

They would seek out local business owners, not chains or late-night establishments, Kao said.

Her building, and the renovation of a former firehouse across the street to be used by Chicago Filmmakers, will add vibrancy and personality to Ridge, Kao said. 

If approved by the City Council, the project would also inevitably add to slowed traffic along Ridge Avenue — a busy thoroughfare used by commuters as well as neighborhood residents. 

Construction would also impact surrounding streets, though Kao said she would try to keep the impact to a minimum. 

Kao also said her team would salvage whatever was possible from the current property, which includes Ridge Avenue-facing offices as well as a brick house, though the buildings would ultimately be demolished. 

The current structure's marble facade, for example, could become part of the new building's lobby floor, Kao said. 

When Dan Luna, Ald. Harry Osterman's chief of staff, asked the audience to voice support or opposition by a show of hands, five people voted in favor of the project while two voted against and two abstained.

If the zoning change is approved, Kao said her goal is to begin construction in August and complete the building within 1½ years. 

The building's facade as seen from Ridge Avenue. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

Developer Frances Kao presented her plans to a room of about 10 community members, half of whom voted in support of the project. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

The structure would include a large ground-floor retail space that could house a single tenant or up to three. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

The building would replace a former drug treatment center and counseling office. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]