EDGEWATER — A classic building in Edgewater could be the future home of a very modern tenant.
An esports arcade is being proposed to take over a vacant spot at 5214 N. Sheridan Road within one of the Edison apartment building’s ground-floor storefronts.
Esports is a fast-growing industry centered around electronic gaming, usually played on a specialized computer. The games are streamed on the internet, allowing players to team up with others around the world. More recently, esports arcades or lounges have become popular destinations for such gamers.
Edgewater’s esports lounge would be called X Fun Gaming Cafe and would be one of just a few such facilities in Chicago. X Fun is a franchise of a company with locations in Indiana, Texas and California.
“It’s a unique business for our neighborhood,” Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) said Wednesday. “This industry has exploded. Ten years from now, it will be something that is much more prevalent.”
Business co-owner Casper Chen said she is eyeing Edgewater for her esports cafe because of its proximity to Loyola and DePaul universities, with esports being a popular activity among college students and recent graduates.
The 4,500-square-foot storefront on Sheridan Road would house 80 esports gaming stations, plus several stations for traditional gaming counsels like Xbox and a stage area where players can stream their games on a large screen, Chen said.
A kitchen serving snacks and soft drinks would be included. No alcohol will be served at the business, the owners said. The lounge would be open noon-2 a.m. daily.
The business needs a zoning change to allow for it to inhabit the North Sheridan Road storefront. That zoning change was the topic of conversation at a community meeting Wednesday, where some residents expressed unease about such a business coming into the neighborhood.
Neighbors at the meeting worried about the impact on parking in Edgewater, safety issues for a business catering to young people and its potentially harmful impact on nearby schoolchildren.
“Nasty things can happen in these arcades,” one neighbor said at the meeting. “It can be very unsavory unless patrolled.”
Osterman said he is familiar with esports because of his two teenage sons. The esports lounges do not operate like classic arcades where patrons move around and are free to socialize. Instead, patrons sit at computer desks, often with headphones on, supporters said.
“I don’t think [the business] will be a negative impact,” Osterman said. “There’s a chance we can enliven this building.”
The esports lounge is set to inhabit the Edison apartment building, the 223-unit apartment building that was renovated in 2017. Formerly known as the Sheridan Edgewater Apartments, the building was constructed in the 1920s.
Since its rehab, the building’s multiple retail spaces have sat empty. Hunter Cannon, a broker for the building’s retail space, said having the esports lounge will lure tenants to the other storefronts.
Edgewater resident Matt Trewartha said the business could go a long way to helping to activate the corner of Sheridan Road and Foster Avenue — and would likely be a better neighbor than a bar, for example.
“There won’t be 80 people coming out of here at 2 a.m. like a heard of cattle,” Trewartha said. “For the amount of work that went into the building, it would be great to have something in here.”
An informal polling of neighbors at the meeting showed 12 in favor of the eSports lounge with nine against. Osterman said he will let neighbors know where he stands on the rezoning request.
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