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A Look at the Apartment Tower That Will Replace Ed Debevic's

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Last night, under the rafters of the old cable car powerhouse now serving up pizzas as Gino's East, developer JDL unveiled their new plan to replace the Ed Debevic's restaurant in River North with a new apartment tower. The community meeting began with an opening by Alderman Brendan Reilly who made mention of the unprecedented flood of new development proposals that are coming forth due to the improving economy. There are presently 80 projects in one way, shape or form proposed in the greater central core of the city. This particular project is going by the address of 640 North Wells Street and is sited on the Ed Debevic's property which stretches through the block between Ontario and Erie Streets. The project team includes Developer JDL, James Plunkard of Hartshorne Plunkard Architects and the traffic engineers of KLOA.

As proposed, the high-rise will stand at 22 stories (including a rooftop space), 251 apartments, 12,000 square feet of ground floor retail space and 117 parking spaces. The parking will be located on the second and third floor, minimizing the scale of the podium the tower rises from. The base incorporates a glass enclosed three level residential lobby and the Wells Street frontage of the parking levels are clad with a European porcelain material with semi transparent properties. This will allow the podium to have a soft glow as if it was covered with alabaster stone. The existing alley will be widened by approximately four feet and will accept all ingress and egress for the tower and all other existing curb cuts will be removed, thereby greatly enhancing the pedestrian experience of the block. Directly west of the alley alignment which cuts through the Ed's parking lot will stand a small one- to two-story retail building and an outdoor dog park at grade. The small building is likely to be a "doggy day care" operating in conjunction with the dog park.

The tower's apartments begin at the fourth floor, which also includes a tenant's amenity deck. According to the project team, the goal was to avoid designing "another flat box", and as such, there is a shift in the floor plate every two to three floors, presenting a row of balconies without any other additional balconies hanging from the exterior. This provides 28 percent of the total units with outdoor space while maintaining a sleek facade expressing the horizontal nature of the long building. The shifting floor plates also provides design flexibility with the break down of the unit types. For example, a studio can be placed below a one or two bedroom while plumbing stacks and building common areas remain in the same relative locations. The average unit size is 875 square feet, only slightly larger than other new downtown apartment towers, and contain a mix of studios, convertibles along with one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Topping the tower's residential levels is a penthouse and roof deck on the 23rd floor. Because the units are planned to have higher ceilings than average, the tower will top out at 280 feet in height. The project is expected to receive a LEED Silver certification and incorporates green roofs as well as on-site storm water retention to reduce the runoff load on the city's combined sewer system.

It was mentioned that reducing parking ratios is a city directive and a national norm with urban projects, so taking this into considering, the development is currently proposing .46 parking spaces for each unit. The site is located in a transit rich location, nearly adjacent to the elevated Brown/Purple Lines, a Divvy bike sharing station, numerous bus routes and walking distance to the Loop and numerous neighborhood employers and attractions. The overall volume of traffic generated is expected to be reduced by replacing the restaurant, as Ed's has approximately 100 parking spaces on site now, plus valet service and is also frequented by chartered tour buses.

The residents of the nearby Flair Tower have already submitted a letter of support to the alderman and if everything goes as planned, JDL expects to break ground this November, removing another underutilized auto-centric site from River North.

Shawn Ursini