ROGERS PARK — A property owner is pitching Rogers Park on a 16-unit addition to his Morse Avenue building, but some neighbors believe the project might be too tall and too close to Glenwood Avenue businesses.
Real estate investor Mark Falanga wants city approval to build an addition to the building at 1415 W. Morse Ave. The addition would bring 16 relatively affordable units to a site next to the Morse Red Line station and help modernize the existing four-story building.
But some residents think the addition could detract from the businesses along neighboring Glenwood Avenue.
The addition would put a five-story structure on the property’s rear parking lot. Along with the apartments, it would have 11 ground-floor parking spaces and a rooftop deck that would not be visible from Morse.
A “bridgeway” would connect each level of the addition to the existing building. An elevator in the new building would therefore be accessible to the existing structure, making those apartments accessible to people who use wheelchairs for the first time in their history, Falanga said at a community meeting last week. The existing building is being renovated as well, he said.
Two of the units would be deemed “affordable” under city laws, while the rest of the one-bedroom units would rent for about $1,000 a month. Currently, rents for the studio apartments in the existing building run $700 a month.
“I think its an attainable step for people in the front building to move into the back building,” said Falanaga, founder of Venture Mark Inc.
Falanaga bought the Morse Avenue building, which houses Rogers Park Florist and other businesses as well as apartments, in August for $2 million, property records show.
The building is just west of the Morse and Glenwood avenues intersection. On Glenwood south of Morse are several neighborhood favorite businesses, art institutions and artist live-work spaces.
But neighbors flagged several concerns during the community meeting.
For one, the addition of the Morse buildings would rise above some of the structures on Glenwood. There would only be four feet separating the rear of the Glenwood storefronts from the side of the newly elongated Morse building, neighbors said.
That would reduce the sunlight for businesses like Rogers Park Social and Rogers Park Provisions, owner Erik Archambeault said.
“I don’t want a dark, old-man bar,” Archambeault said. “I want the spaces to feel welcoming and bright. I have some grave concerns” about the proposal.
Al Goldberg said the addition would create safety concerns for the tenants of his building at the corner of Glenwood and Morse. The building holds 10 commercial storefronts and six artists studios.
The 4-foot-wide space between the rear of the Glenwood storefronts and the side of the Morse building would complicate emergency exit procedures, Goldberg said.
“It’ll be a really dangerous situation,” Goldberg said. “I was really surprised to hear about this proposal. It didn’t seem to take into consideration our building and how they operate.”
Allison Cain, managing director of Lifeline Theater, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave., said the added units and rooftop deck so close to their building could cause a noise nuisances during productions.
Falanga said he would take into consideration the business owners’ thoughts while looking to move his project forward.
“I understand what all of you are saying,” he said. “We have to take a look at that.”
Others said adding reasonably priced apartments near a Red Line stop and in a popular part of the neighborhood is a good thing. The new neighbors would likely patronize the Glenwood Avenues businesses, neighbor Mark Jacob said.
“We’re talking about 16 units of new customers for these folks,” Jacob said. “I want to see Rogers Park thrive. I think we’re not in a position to say ‘no’ to new neighbors.”
Ald. Maria Hadden’s (49th) office had held one community meeting on the project and is accepting further resident feedback before formally weighing in on the zoning request. Hadden said at the meeting the project is a “smart” way to add density in a neighborhood that is largely already built-up.
“This is a smart way to add some more units, which are going to be pretty decently priced units,” Hadden said. “We definitely want more conversations.”
The project would eventually need the support of City Council. If approved, Falanga said construction would likely start in spring 2022.
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