ROGERS PARK — A developer is making a second attempt at turning a historical-yet-vacant Rogers Park building into a 20-unit apartment complex, but members of the neighboring temple still oppose the project.
Developer David Gassman is again asking the city’s permission to add a 13-unit addition to the residential building at 1710 W. Lunt Ave., where a seven-unit building has sat vacant since 2016.
The project would turn the structure into a 20-unit apartment building with four affordable units and five parking spaces. It would also revive a 100-year-old, historically protected building that last operated as a sober living group home.
The proposal is vehemently opposed by members of the Hare Krishna congregation at 1716 W. Lunt Ave. They said the building would add to congestion near the temple, among other objections. Gassman’s project was also shot down by Roger Park’s previous alderperson.
Gassman first proposed the addition to the Lunt building in 2017.
The year prior, Gassman bought the building from Lutheran Social Services, which closed the sober home it operated there, property records show. Gassman sought a zoning change to allow the Lunt building to hold 20 total units. At the same time, he sought to revive a historical commercial building at 1730 W. Greenleaf Ave. and turn it into 30 apartments.
Former Ald. Joe Moore (49th) approved the zoning change for the Greenleaf project but denied the Lunt proposal. In an email announcing the decision, Moore said the project required a business district zoning in a residential area and a rezoning was not necessary to revive the apartment building. The project was approved by Moore’s zoning advisory committee but opposed by others in the community, he said in an email.
At a community meeting last week, Gassman said he is taking a second pass on the project and is seeking Ald. Maria Hadden’s (49th) support on rezoning to add the rear addition and reduce the required rear property setback.
The project would add a three-story,13-unit addition to the existing seven-unit building. There would be 15 two-bedrooms and five one-bedroom units. Because it would require a rezoning, a mandatory four units will be deemed affordable.
The existing building, built in the 1910s and listed in the city’s historical survey, would be renovated, and an elevator would be added, making all the units accessible, Gassman said.
Due to its proximity to the Metra, the project can qualify as a transit-oriented development and earn a reduction in parking. Five parking spots are planned for the project.
Much of the project’s scope and specifics are unchanged from the 2017 proposal, Gassman said at the meeting.
The project remains opposed by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness Chicago, which worships in the neighboring temple at 1716 W. Lunt Ave. The congregation has been headquartered on Lunt since 1979.
Building the apartment building next door would make parking for the congregation worse, cause disruptions during temple services and possibly cause tension among neighbors, congregants said at Wednesday’s community meeting.
“I’m really concerned about this massive increase in density affecting our ability to practice our religious worship,” said Edward Suda, a member of the congregation.
The temple holds services featuring chanting and singing starting as early as 4:30 a.m., and festivals that can last past midnight, Suda said. That could irk neighbors of the apartment building, congregants said. Similarly, residents of the apartment building could disrupt the temple by having parties or grilling meat. Hare Krishnas practice vegetarianism.
The neighborly tensions could escalate to hate-based violence, some congregants said.
“When people get really annoyed or mad, sometimes they make not good decisions and they are actually threatening,” said Sapna Patel, a member of the congregation. “We see again and again, people do take the wrong decision and do harm to a community. … It would be scary for me and my kids.”
Gassman said the apartment building would be a good neighbor and the temple, in a dense urban setting, already has to contend with noise and congestion.
“There’s already noise in the neighborhood,” he said at the meeting. “This is not farmland; this is a city.”
Members of the temple asked Gassman to consider selling or donating the apartment building to the congregation. The developer did not respond publicly to that request.
Hadden said she will take the temple’s concerns into consideration and her office will “give ample time … to see if we can find a path forward that addresses people’s concerns while also trying to get what might be beneficial, if there are beneficial things in the project.”
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