Depot District reconstruction goes from uncertain to well underway

By: Anthony Garcia

Like an aging starlet, Berwyn’s Depot District has been long overdue for a facelift. This summer, it will be getting one.

Photo courtesy of amerciantowns.com

Last month the Berwyn city council unanimously voted to begin reconstructing the Depot District in an effort to keep Berwyn’s streets modern and contemporary. The business districts along Cermak Road, Ogden Avenue and Roosevelt Road have already been redeveloped. The Depot District is the last untouched area.

The Depot District is the downtown, transit-oriented district of Berwyn. The district has three Metra commuter stations and is one of the more historic and traditional commercial districts in Berwyn.  The district features unique building construction and it is also home to two of Berwyn’s newest projects, the Century Station Condominiums and a five-story parking garage.

At the head of the reconstruction effort is Tony Griffin, the executive director of the Berwyn Development Corporation. Before construction can actually take place, the design and plans for construction must be draw up, he said.

“The design will be part of the goal and the goal is to improve and stabilize the underground infrastructure along with improving the aesthetic value of the corridor with hardscape improvements above ground,” Griffin said.

The BDC’s design would include building a streetscape similar to the recent construction on Roosevelt Road, installing new light fixtures and posts, and updating landscaping. The BDC also wants to add additional improvements for Pace and Metra such as new bus shelters for bad weather Pace riders.

Design work could take up to six to nine months, followed by construction in summer. Work should be done in the fall of 2014, according to Griffin.

Officials seem to have overcome a major obstacle for the project, which was funding.

The city had already been denied several grants in the past to fund the reconstruction, which could cost up to $6 million. There is a possibility of a grant from the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program, which could cover up to 80 percent of the project’s costs, said Griffin.

But even without that grant, Griffin says that the project can be funded by local dollars and Tax Increment Funding revenue sources such as the recently constructed parking garage, rather than solely relying on ITEP money.

Berwyn residents are split about the proposed work.

Tony Lang has his doubts.

“Sure, the BDC is happy about construction and change to the district, hopefully realtors will start steering residents to Berwyn,” Lang said. “But be careful what you wish for. They are only in it to make money, not to “revive” Berwyn like they say they want to, especially Tony [Griffin]. We’ve seen how well that worked over the last few years.”

But Brian Juarez is more optimistic.

“New development is great for Berwyn,” he said.  “People who don’t support change in Berwyn aren’t being reasonable and don’t support what’s best for the neighborhood.”

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