Residents of 6540 N. Glenwood Ave. sit outside their fire-damaged apartments Dec. 15, 2021. The building is being rehabbed with affordable apartments added. Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago

ROGERS PARK – A Glenwood Avenue building damaged in a suspicious fire could be redeveloped, with some affordable units added, if a rezoning is granted.

The property at 6540 N. Glenwood Ave. is a four-story brick building formerly with 33 units that was severely damaged in a fire in 2021, displacing all 36 building residents. The building owner, David Kamish, said a tenant started the blaze, which the Fire Department deemed suspicious.

A rezoning is needed to rebuild from the fire because the building, which regularly rented to low-income renters, was previously “downzoned,” Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) said at a recent community meeting. Rebuilding the complex would make it non-conforming with its zoning, requiring the proposed rezoning.

Kamish also plans to add five affordable units to the building, a city requirement for buildings that receive a rezoning. The new units will be added to ground floor and the basement level of the building, Laszlo Simovic, an architect working closely with Kamish, said at a community meeting last week.

“There’s a lot of storage and amenity space on the ground floor,” Simovic said. “And unfortunately, at the time they couldn’t maximize it. We’ll have five new units, and so we’ll consolidate into a much smaller utilitarian area offering laundry services, the hot water heater and an existing chimney in place.”

A workout area is also being added to the building.

The property owner is also asking for city permission to reduce the required parking spots under the new zoning classification to zero and eliminate the rear yard open space requirement. The building will have 38 units if the zoning proposal is accepted.

Hadden held a virtual community meeting last week on the rezoning proposal, and some residents voiced concerns about the safety of the building.

The tudor-style building at 6540 N. Glenwood Ave. was damaged in a fire in 2021. Credit: Google Maps

The building was damaged in an “arson” fire started by a disgruntled tenant, Kamish said and residents of the building said at the time. Some residents had to be rescued by firefighters, though nobody was hurt.

One neighbor, Mary Ellen, said the building was a “frequent visitor of the Fire Department” even before the fire. She asked if “adding more people to the building” would exacerbate these problems.

The building was largely rented out to people who had housing subsidies from social services groups, Kamish said. Some of the groups stopped properly vetting the tenants they were sending him, leading to issues like the fire, he said.

The rehabbed building will be market rate except for the five required affordable units, but Kamish said he would still like to welcome subsidized renters under more stringent conditions.

“We are committed to helping people in the community get affordable housing, but we have to be very careful about who we let in the building, because we can’t let this happen again,” Kamish said at the meeting.

Hadden’s office is accepting feedback on the proposed rezoning before deciding whether to support the proposal.

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