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The Ravenswood Station project, which started construction in November, will completely transform the stretch of Lawrence Avenue between
Ashland and Western Avenues, according to area Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th).
Pawar said he hopes the new project, which will feature a Mariano’s Fresh Market and an LA Fitness and is set to open next November, will help the stretch of Lawrence between Lincoln Square and Andersonville become the “next hot location on the North Side.”
The construction of the retail center coincides with the renovation of the adjacent Metra station and improvement of Lawrence Avenue between Clark Street and Western Avenue.
“With the addition of the streetscape and the bike lane and the widening of the sidewalk you’re going to end up with a much more pedestrian friendly feel and I think you’re going to see a lot of really interesting businesses on Lawrence Avenue,” Pawar said.
Ravenswood Station was designed with community input at every step. So the project reflects the desires of the people who live around the project, Pawar said.
The project will be funded in part by $4.5 million in TIF funds. Ron Lindenau of the River Path Neighborhood Association, and a resident of Lincoln Square said he thought the public funds were a good investment in the neighborhood.
“Our alderman is using the TIF money fairly wisely,” Lindenau said.
Lindenau agreed with Pawar’s assessment that the shopping center could spark the kind of development that the neighborhood has seen in nearby Andersonville and Lincoln Square.
Besides transforming the neighborhood, Pawar said the investment will bring back tax dollars to the area and create more than 400 new jobs.
“I live right around the corner from the site and it would be nice, if you go on the surrounding blocks you’ve got amazing homes and amazing buildings and then you get to Lawrence and there’s nothing,” Pawar said. “This is going to bring about a million dollars in property taxes just from the Mariano’s in addition to the jobs that come with it.”
Margie Georgopulous, who heads the development team for the project at the Taxman Corporation said her company had wanted to bring the project to Ravenswood because of the busy Metra stop and because the area does not have a grocery store nearby.
“Any time you bring a big story like Mariano’s, or any kind of retail, it brings jobs to the community, mainly it brings a new fresh feeling to it, and that helps other kinds of properties down the street or next door, because it encourages new retail to come in around it,” Georgoplous said.
One such nearby property is Tony’s Finer Foods, a convenience store next door to the project. Tony Merchant, who owns the business said he thinks the changing face of the neighborhood could mean the end of his family-owned business.
Merchant has operated at the location on Lawrence Avenue for a dozen years, and in that time he has seen the neighborhood change a lot already.
“Some more small stores closed already when the CVS opened (in 2004),” Merchant said. “Now with this big box store coming next year I don’t know what will happen.”
Pawar for his part is looking forward to more changes coming to the neighborhood, and said the community members he has spoken to are looking forward to it as well.
“This is a project that had overwhelming community support,” Pawar said.