A proposal calls for replacing a commercial strip near the Berwyn Red Line stop with a 77-unit apartment complex. Credit: 2rz/48th Ward Office

EDGEWATER — A prominent development firm wants to replace a retail strip next to the Berwyn Red Line station in Edgewater with a 77-unit apartment complex, which includes a plan for affordable units that didn’t sit well with some neighbors.

MCZ Development unveiled its plans Wednesday to redevelop the property at 1101-1115 W. Berwyn Ave., which houses a mostly one-story retail strip with a second floor at the corner of Berwyn and Winthrop avenues.

Replacing the existing building would be a five-story, 77-unit apartment complex with a small retail space, a rooftop deck, 36 parking spots and bicycle parking, the development team said at a community meeting.

The development plans caused neighborhood stalwarts Rewired Cafe and Steep Theatre Company to leave their home on Berwyn. Rewired moved elsewhere in the neighborhood while Steep is still searching for a location.

Most of the ground floor of the new building would not have retail space. Instead, the developer wants the city’s approval to put five affordable units along the ground floor.

Steep Theatre Credit: Eric Allix Rogers/Chicago Architecture Center

Because MCZ Development is not seeking a zoning change, the proposal does not trigger the city’s affordable units requirement. But the affordable units were added at the request of Ald. Harry Osterman’s (48th) office, MCZ said.

Swapping commercial space for affordable apartments adds a diversity of units to the complex while reducing retail storefronts that have fared poorly through the pandemic, said Dan Luna, Osterman’s chief of staff.

But some neighbors said the development removes a community gathering space from that stretch of Berwyn and puts affordable units in the less-desirable ground floor by a bustling sidewalk.

Neighbor Charlie Fuller asked the development team why they were “segregating” the affordable units from the rest of the development, and asked why it was a trade-off between affordable units and retail space instead of choosing between between affordable and market-rate units.

Stan Bernshteyn, chief operating officer at MCZ, said his firm was following the alderman’s lead on the affordable component of the building. Luna said the ward office will talk to the development team about “relocating” some of the affordable units.

Neighbors say the proposal’s lack of retail will remove a community space on Berwyn.

The current setup on Berwyn allowing allows for cafe seating and gathering space. It has been used in the past for food truck nights, residents said. But such gathering spaces would be lost in the new plans, along with the businesses that have resided on the block, they said.

“We’re losing two really vital community services,” Vino Mazzei said of Rewired Cafe and Steep Theatre. “I don’t see this as a benefit to us at all.”

The one-story commercial strip in the 1100 block of West Berwyn Avenue would be replaced by a five-story apartment building under a proposal from MCZ Development. Credit: Google Maps

The building’s planned 1,800 square feet of retail space would be situated on the portion of the development nearest to the Red Line. The project would include eight studios, 48 one-bedroom units and 16 two-bedroom units, plus the five affordable units, the development team said.

Renderings show the building with a modern design and a gray facade.

The development team worked through designs that were even more modern and glass-heavy and ones that were more traditional, but chose a middle ground that still reached into the future, architect William Rodon Hornof of the firm 2rz said. Some neighbors said the building would stick out too much in the neighborhood.

Osterman’s office will hold a second meeting on the development in June, Luna said. This week’s meeting was so neighbors can learn of the project, while the next meeting will be advisory as Osterman considers whether to formally support the project, he said.

This development is the first being considered under Osterman’s revised development approval process, which formalizes a practice of two community meetings. For more on the process, click here.

MCZ also is the developer behind the redevelopment of Edgewater Hospital into apartments and is working to bring apartment buildings to 4511 N. Clark St. and 4410 N. Clark St. in Uptown. The company also plans to convert the former Wing Hoe Restaurant into residences.

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