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Scaled-Down Merion Village Project Lands Approval

Brent Warren Brent Warren Scaled-Down Merion Village Project Lands ApprovalThe new development will be called Eisen 359, from the German word for iron, a nod to the South Side's industrial past. All renderings by Gunzelman Architecture & Interiors.
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A plan to build a three-story townhouse development in Merion Village got a vote of approval from the Development Commission last week.

The project, from Kreais Companies, will bring 20 units supported by 27 garage parking spaces to 359 Frebis Ave.

The 0.65-acre site had been used as an overflow parking lot for the nearby Kroger store on Parsons Avenue (although in practice the large parking lot in front of the store is rarely completely full).

The plan, which was previously approved by both the South Side Area Commission and the Merion Village Association (MVA), represents a scaled-down version of the original proposal for the site.

Aaron Kreais, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Kreais Companies, said that he first presented a plan to the MVA to build a five-story, 99-unit apartment building on the site, but it was not well-received by the group.

He went back to the drawing board, and tasked Gunzelman Architecture & Interiors with coming up with a design the neighborhood could support that would also fit on the site, which he described as “shaped like a Tetris puzzle.”

“The highest and best use seemed to be townhouses, with separate pedestrian and vehicular corridors through it, and with a courtyard…it ended up working out well for the site,” said Kreais. “Gunzeman did a good job of thinking outside the box, because this site is anything but a box.”

In addition to the garage parking for residents, a number of new on-street parking spots will be created by the development, since the parking lot had several curb cuts that will be filled in.

Kreais said that he hopes to break ground on the project next spring. The three-bedroom townhomes will be offered for sale, but prices have not yet been set. One amenity he is excited about – residents will have access to a package room outfitted with a refrigerator, for grocery delivery.

Whittier Project Moves Forward

Kreais Companies is also moving forward with a second South Side project, the renovation of a 100-year-old commercial building at 364 E. Whittier St.

Kreais said to expect an official announcement with more details in the near future, but the plan for the 10,000-square-foot space is to build out a drinking and eating establishment, complete with a rooftop patio.

No longer a part of the plan for the project is the modern, residential component that was proposed back in early 2019. The concrete block addition that was to be replaced with the new residential units will instead be preserved and incorporated into the restaurant concept.

Kreais said that the residential component was dropped because, after reducing the number of units due to feedback from neighbors, it no longer made sense economically to include them.

The original proposal for the Frebis Avenue site, which was not well received by the neighborhood civic association.
A view of the Frebis Avenue side of the approved design.
Three units would face East Mohler Street.
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