ROGERS PARK — The Chicago Housing Authority voted Tuesday to approve a contingent ground lease for a proposal to put a mixed-use building that includes a Target store and residential units in Rogers Park.
But a group of community members present at a meeting before the vote Tuesday morning said they lack sufficient information about the plans — despite Ald. Joe Moore's (49th) promise to "involve the community in every step of the process" — and pushed for a requirement that they be involved in discussions moving forward.
The resulting approval from the housing board included amended terms that required more community input and negotiations on the design of the building.
The CHA board also said it would not go forward with the development until they get to see the final project.
"I am feeling cautiously optimistic," said John Quirk, of Caroline Hedger's advisory council. "[I'm] elated that residents and community members will have meaningful input. We will be here to make sure that happens."
The lease applies to the Caroline Hedger Apartments' property, 6418 N. Sheridan Road, just north of the Sheridan/Devon intersection that divides Rogers Park from Edgewater. The apartments are owned by the CHA.
The location in question currently houses a community room used by the seniors, an accompanying parking lot and a garden the seniors used to maintain, which they said before the board's vote Tuesday that they'd like to have back.
"Putting the interests of private investments and private corporations over the quality of life for seniors is not acceptable," said Nanna Cross of the Jane Addams Senior Caucus. "This public land was not empty before ... these important spaces could all be lost."
In June, Moore announced plans for the mixed-use development with Robert Ferrino of Three Corners Development and vowed to keep residents informed, including "present[ing] to you for your input the development plans as they are being formulated."
To the frustration of some residents, Moore has not yet held community-wide meetings to discuss plans for the project at the busy Devon/Sheridan/Broadway intersection.
On Tuesday, Moore said he had in fact discussed some details with Caroline Hedger residents around Thanksgiving, but said there was no reason to get the entire community involved until the CHA approved the lease.
"Without Target or another anchor tenant, there is no development," Moore said, adding that not all the details in the proposal had been determined yet.
"It makes no sense to waste everyone's time holding meetings and hearings on a development proposal that may not come to fruition."
Moore added "if and when" the Target lease was approved, he would conduct a "robust community engagement process" starting with Caroline Hedger Apartment senior residents.
Three Corners Development did not return a request for comment.
Amy Mosely Miller, of the neighborhood's Magnolia Block Club, said she and other block clubs had tried to reach out to Moore's office on several occasions, only to be rebuffed.
"Most of all, we're deeply concerned about the way this process has happened," Miller said. "We've reached out to Ald. Moore's office several times and have been rebuffed — many instances of what seems to be deliberate miscommunication and stonewalling."
Moore said his office wasn't purposely withholding information, but that there was nothing yet to tell residents.
"I'm sorry if residents are frustrated that my office has not shared plans with them, but we have nothing to share," Moore said. "Everything is still in a state of flux. I urge everyone to hold their fire until we have an actual development plan to consider."
Residents also voiced concerns about increased traffic at the intersection, as well as months of construction and noise.
The Caroline Hedger Apartments have been undergoing renovations from Madison Construction, owned by Ferrino, for months.
Cross and other seniors said Tuesday that conditions at the senior housing building have presented challenges for many of the residents. Last month, over 100 seniors went without heat in their unit, while others have struggled to shower and bathe without grab handles installed in their showers, residents said.
With the current construction at the Caroline Hedger building, prior to the potential Target development, Miller said she's already noticed a decline in the quality of life for seniors who live there.
"We're concerned about the seniors, who are our neighbors and our friends," Miller said. "We used to watch them in their gardens, we used to hear them playing music out in their public spaces, and now we watch them negotiating construction, trying to get a little bit of fresh air on crowded streets with their canes — and it's terrifying."
Quirk said he thought an improved senior community center would be a better use of funds and public land.
"We are for a plan which would include 100 percent affordable housing on public space, like a senior center," Quirk said. "We have waited a long time to have input into the process, we believe facilities for a senior center would be a much better alternative."
Moore said it was still unknown how many apartments would be rented at market rate and how many would be affordable, but said he was "certain" the seniors would still have a community room.
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