Berwyn officials have high hopes for redevelopment of Harlem and Cermak



Artistic sketch of the planned architectural set-up for the new plaza.

Berwyn city council members have high hopes that a planned redevelopment of the northeast corner of Harlem and Cermak will help revitalize the city’s economy.

The council unanimously approved the plan on Sept. 14 and the agreement with the developer on Sept. 28, to turn the area into an eating and shopping center.

The chief planner, Timothy Hague, of Keystone Ventures, believes that renovations will bring tax revenue, higher real estate values, and new employment to Berwyn.

According to Hague, Keystone Ventures, partnering with Bern Realty and J&P Properties, will most likely be working on the project for the next year. The originator of the project was the Berwyn Development Corporation, said Drew B. Krisco of Bern Realty, LLC.

Berwyn’s 7th Ward Alderman, Rafael Avila, has high hopes for the area, and said that it should bring in new residents to Berwyn.

“The area has had several buildings that were vacant and will now be transformed to a modern urban design, this is a huge plus. With the work being completed at the Cermak Plaza(directly across the street), this development will attract more people to our city,” Avila said.

Margaret Paul, 3rd Ward Alderman, said she thinks it’s time the area got an update.

“The corner has looked tired, old, and depleted of energy for as long as I can remember. This project brings a sense of vitality and energy to Berwyn that we all have been looking for,” Paul said.

For now, Krisco says that are no set retailers or restaurants planning to move into the area and no leases have been signed. Therefore, a final cost estimate for the project has not yet been established but an architectural plan for the four-building area has been created.

According to Avila, the project will have an urban setting with wide sidewalks, attractive façades, signs and stone accents. It will also feature a brick-paved courtyard, allowing outdoor dining and landscaping. Also included is a spot for an iconic gateway monument, similar to an obelisk or small tower, with adjacent outdoor seating.

“We are all very excited about this project. The community has nothing but positive things to say,” Avila said.

That was not always the case though, said Paul, as there was controversy in the community when the city’s government first took control of the area, enforcing eminent domain. Despite this, Paul feels the government acted prudently in making this decision.

“Berwyn had Cermak Plaza on the south east corner. Sadly, the owners of that plaza have lacked enthusiasm and vision about the revenue potential that corner could realize. Berwyn Leaders had no choice but to be bold and take control of the northeast corner of Harlem and Cermak if they wanted to enliven retail shopping on Cermak and bring into City coffers badly needed tax revenue,” Paul said.

Since rebuilding the Cermak Plaza was not much of an option, taking over the northeast corner for redevelopment was the next best choice. As for building during an economic crisis, Paul says that the project is worth it.

“The project will most certainly benefit the community. Sure, there was, and still is, some risk involved. This dicey economic climate we are living through has everyone guessing whether ventures will succeed or fail. However, the potential benefit that can be realized by this project vastly outweighs the risk in my opinion,” Paul said.

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