ROGERS PARK — Rogers Park residents got their first look at what will replace the beloved Heartland Cafe this week — and they had a decidedly mixed reaction to what they saw.
The Heartland closed in December and was demolished in late April. This week, the developer who bought the old hippie haven at 7000 N. Glenwood Ave. presented plans for the site — a long, 6-story apartment building. The building would have 60 units, along with 24,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor.
Developer Sam Goldman made his case to neighbors Wednesday night, including some who told him they’re worried about the number of affordable units, the building height and the projected rent figures.
It was Ald. Maria Hadden’s (49th) first public meeting and she received a warm welcome from the crowd. She ousted longtime Rogers Park Joe Moore earlier this year.
After Goldman’s team presented and took questions, Hadden had them leave, then asked residents to break up into small groups to discuss what they heard and saw.
During his time, Goldman shared his family’s Rogers Park credentials, saying his family moved to the neighborhood in the 1950s before rattling off cross streets of where various family members lived over the years. He also highlighted the different Rogers Park businesses his family operated.
“It’s the fighting spirit of community and opportunity that drove my family to Rogers Park in the 1950s,” he said.
Goldman said he wants to ensure that his new development is “an affordable and welcoming place,” but when he shared the rent projections for his units, the crowd was not pleased.
A studio will run between $800 to $921 a month, while a one bedroom unit will run from $1,060 to $1,504 a month and up. Two bedroom units are projected to cost from $1,851 to $2,119 and up, and a three bedroom unit is projected to run from $2,300 to $2,858 and up.
Those figures drew ire from the crowd, to which Goldman shared market rates across the city in hopes of showing residents the prices were fair. He said it was tough to have comparisons in Rogers Park because there is not a lot of new developments in the area.
“Compare these prices to a West Loop or a Logan Square,” he said.
That drew more outrage from the crowd, with multiple residents shouting, “We are not Logan Square.”
Another area of concern for neighbors was the proposed height of the building. Goldman is proposing a 6-story mixed-use residential and commercial development. The height of the proposed building will be around 70 feet.
One neighbor who lives across the street from the site was concerned the height of the building would have a negative impact on the neighborhood.
“That is way too big, way too tall,” she said. “It’s going to completely change the neighborhood feeling of Lunt and Glenwood.”
Goldman reminded the crowd that the zoning change they were seeking only would increase the building height by five feet more than what is already allowed.
The other issue of importance for neighbors was Goldman’s commitment to affordable units. The Affordable Requirements Ordinance in Chicago mandates that 10 percent of Goldman’s units must be affordable — or six units.
Goldman could elect to only build two of those units on site and pay into the Low-Income Housing Trust Fund. Instead, Goldman has committed to building all six units on site and says he has promised to keep those units affordable for the next 30 years.
But some neighbors wanted a deeper commitment to affordable housing. Brian Bonnett, a Rogers Park resident, wondered why Goldman didn’t commit to more affordable housing beyond the requirement.
“Why are you building the absolute minimum of legal units of affordable housing?” he asked.
Goldman argued there is a “balancing act” when applying for loans for new developments. He said that if he created too many affordable units, the cost for standard units would rise sharply. He said he was more than willing to continue working with the community and Hadden.
Goldman said he hoped to bring businesses to ground-level retail that would interact with both the community and commuters using the nearby Morse Red Line stop. He said he would love a coffee shop and even floated the idea of a tavern.
The roof of the building will have a garden for tenants and will have solar paneling for energy efficiency.
Goldman said the development will encourage biking and have bike parking for tenants and a bicycle repair shop to be used by the general public as well.
The project would cost between $14.5 to $15.5 million to complete, he said.
He emphasized the importance of creating a development that will enhance the character of Rogers Park, and said he hoped to be a “steward of the neighborhood.” The bulletin board and the Little Library on Glenwood Avenue would remain, he said.
Additionally, he wants to work with a local artist to commission a mural along the side of the building.
Following the meeting, Hadden said she felt it was a productive dialogue between Goldman and the community.
“I’m really looking to see what are the priorities that I know the community wants and which option does the most good or the least harm,” she said.
Hadden said she hoped Goldman would lock in more concrete rates for the units. She said there was a good chance another public meeting would be held to discuss the development going forward.
“It’s such a sensitive site and project to the people of Rogers Park,” she said, reflecting on the historic nature of The Heartland Cafe, which opened in 1976.
Some neighbors spoke in support of the project, excited about the prospect of a new development in Rogers Park. Many were excited about the retail space.
Chad Willets, owner of Le Piano — a new jazz club near the development site — said that he was excited about what the development could bring to the area.
“I think [spending between $14.5 to $15.5 million] displays a significant commitment to what this community is about,” he said.
Katy Hogan, co-founder of The Heartland Cafe, said she was not opposed to the idea of development, but that Goldman should expect pushback from the community if he didn’t expand the number of affordable units.
“We value our diverse community,” she said. “So going the bare minimum for affordable units, you are going to get criticism from this crowd. I’d be surprised if you didn’t.”
Click here for the most detailed information from last night’s presentation. And check out the renderings below:
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