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Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale

Rock Hard Gym Forced To Leave Logan Square Home: ‘The Rent Is Going Crazy’

After nearly 20 years on Fullerton, the gym will move back to Humboldt Park.

Rock Hard Gym is leaving its longtime Logan Square home. [Block Club Chicago/Mina Bloom]

LOGAN SQUARE — Rock Hard Gym, a no-frills weight lifting gym with an iconic exterior, is being forced to leave its longtime home to make way for a new development.

A developer was granted city approval to tear down the gym’s home, at 2522 W. Fullerton Ave., and replace it with a four-story building featuring three housing units and about 2,300 square feet of commercial space, according to a permit.

Before demolition can begin, the gym has to move out by the end of the month, according to owner William Davila.

It marks the end of the gym’s 17-year run in Logan Square. Davila said he can’t afford to keep the gym in the neighborhood, so he’s moving the gym into a space at North and Pulaski avenues in Humboldt Park.

When he first opened the gym on Fullerton 17 years ago, he was paying $800 a month in rent, and rent increased to $1,000 in recent years.

“In this neighborhood, the rent is going crazy,” Davila said of Logan Square.

William Davila has run the business for nearly 40 years.

“When I found out I had to get out of here … There’s a storefront down the block, and I had my friend Chino call, and they told him it was going to be $3,000 a month. He said, ‘We don’t want to buy the place!’ Going down the block or anywhere [in Logan Square], the rent is around the same.”

Rock Hard Gym is nearly 40 years old. Prior to moving to Logan Square, the gym called Humboldt Park home for 20 years.

Unlike corporate gyms such as XSport Fitness, Rock Hard doesn’t offer any cardio machines — just weight lifting equipment. And it’s only open 4–10 p.m. The walls are plastered with magazine cut-outs of body builders, some of the drop ceiling tiles are missing and Davila’s longtime friend, Chino, often sits in the corner watching movies on an old TV. It’s a place for “hardcore” weight lifters, Davila said. A monthly membership costs $35 and a day pass costs $5.

The business is a labor of love for Davila, who works in a factory by day and sleeps in a room in back. The 61-year-old made many of the weight lifting machines himself.

“I look at magazines, and I get ideas on how to make my own [machines],” he said.

Davila makes half of the equipment himself.

Davila isn’t fazed that he will have to move all of the heavy equipment to the new location over the next two weeks. He did it 20 years ago, when he moved from Humboldt Park to Logan Square, and he’ll do it again with a rented truck and help from his friends, like Chino.

“It’s just how it is,” said Davila, a lifelong Chicagoan whose parents moved to the states from Puerto Rico.

It’s unclear if the new housing units will be condos or apartments, or how much they will cost.

William P. Tsourapas of Chicago-based real estate company Belvedere Financial LLC bought the building in 2016, according to Cook County records. Tsourapas didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The lawyer listed on the permit, Thomas Moore, didn’t return a message either.

Rock Hard is the third small business to leave the area in recent weeks. Beloved bar and music venue Quencher’s Saloon, at 2401 N. Western Ave., is closing to make way for a medical office and record shop Logan Hardware, at 2532 W. Fullerton Ave., shuttered due to a lack of business.

Davila’s longtime friend, Chino, helps out at the gym.