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Rogers Park Firehouse Proposals Include Homes, Churches, Yoga Studios

 The city is considering competing proposals for the vacant firehouse in Rogers Park, one of 11 unused firehouses, some city landmarks, that the city is trying to find new uses for.
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ROGERS PARK — The fight for Rogers Park's vacant firehouse is heating up.

The city-owned structure at 1723 W. Greenleaf Ave. was put on the market earlier this year with 10 other firehouses across the city.

After a bidding period that ended last month, the city received 16 offers ranging from $1 to $425,000, according to Ald. Joe Moore (49th) and a document outlining all the offers.

Proposals for the nearly 100-year-old building include transforming it into private homes, multi-unit residences, churches and yoga studios, according to the document prepared by DTZ, the firm hired to market the property.

"It’ll take a lot of work," said yoga instructor Cat Levine, 26, who made the second-highest offer on the firehouse with her husband, Jesse. "We want to sort of turn it into a place that we would love to live in."

She and her husband, a Chicago trader, were looking to buy a house, but thought a firehouse would be even cooler.

"You know," she said, recalling the first time the idea came to her, "what I’d really love is to live in a firehouse."

Levine said they would live on the bottom level and add two or three units to rent out in the upper levels. She also wants to transform the rear parking lot — a "dead sort of useless concrete slab" — into community gardens for the neighborhood.

They offered the city $415,000, according to the document.

Several community organizations have shown interest, such as the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society, which had heavily pursued buying the property in 2010.

Howard Kruse, the president of Capstone Property Management, placed a $40,000 offer on the property with the intent to lease it to the historical society and to local artists for studio space, according to the DTZ document.

While Kruse wasn't immediately available for comment, Hank Morris, a stalwart of the historical society's board, said an engineering study revealed it would cost more than $3 million to renovate the dilapidated structure that had housed Engine Company 102 until 2009.

"The paint is hanging off the ceiling like stalagmites," Morris said. "Thank God it’s built like a tank. It’s made of brick and concrete. It needs an awful lot of work.

"We have all have had ... dreams about owning that place."

Some bidders have since rescinded their offers, like David Gassman, of DLG Management.

When reached by phone, he said he was no longer interested in building the "multi-unit residential redevelopment" referenced in the DTZ document.

The Recyclery Collective, a nonprofit bike shop at 7628 N. Paulina St., pulled their offer of $1, said shop program director Jesse Miller.

"It didn’t seem right for us," he said, after researching the cost of renovations. "At first, we were like, 'That’d be cool.'"

Developer Stuart Rose placed the top offer of $425,000 to build four to six units in the firehouse, according to the document. He was not immediately available for comment.

Other notable bidders include Rogers Park's Hare Krishna temple, North Side Community Resources and Amistad Cristiana Chicago, a church on Ravenswood Avenue near Greenleaf Avenue.

Moore said he was working with the city to vet the proposals and present viable options to the community in the fall.

A vacant firehouse in Edgewater, 5714 N. Ridge Ave., also is up for sale. A Chicago landmark, the firehouse was built in 1928 and trimmed in terra cotta.

Proposals on that building are due to the city by Thursday.