Rogers Park Development Scrapped After Developer, Alderwoman Can’t Agree On Plan To Coexist With Hare Krishna Temple Next Door

ROGERS PARK — A developer is dumping plans to turn a historical-yet-vacant Rogers Park building into a 20-unit complex after efforts to amend the plan to appease the neighboring temple congregation failed.

Instead of building a 13-unit addition onto the apartment building at 1710 W. Lunt Ave., developer David Gassman will rehab the structure into eight units, Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) said in an email newsletter.

Gassman earlier this year sought a zoning change to add a rear addition to the Rogers Park apartment building that most recently acted as a sober living house. That plan was vehemently opposed by members of the next door Hare Krishna temple.

Members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness Chicago had said the addition would reduce the temple’s natural light intake, increase parking issues and potentially create hostilities between congregants and neighbors.

Hadden said her office worked with the developer and congregation to find a solution that would add apartments — including affordable units — in a way that caused the least amount of disruption to the temple.

Those efforts weren’t feasible for the development team, Hadden and Gassman said.

“While disappointing to see, our office will continue to work to increase affordability and prioritize equitable developments that bring benefits to everyone,” Hadden said in the newsletter. “As your alderwoman, it is my job to ensure that we are bringing the best developments possible to our neighborhood and will continue to do as such.”

Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
The ISKCON Chicago temple at 1716 W. Lunt Ave.

Gassman said the proposed design amendments made the project too costly and may not have satisfied the concerns from the temple.

“It became too expensive,” he said. “We tried. I’m not sure it would appease my neighbors.”

Gassman’s proposed development would have added 13 units to the existing seven-unit building via a three-story rear addition to the Lunt Avenue building.

There would have been 15 two-bedrooms and five one-bedroom units. Because it would require a rezoning, a mandatory four units would 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.

Gassman also sought a reduction of the property’s mandated setback from the rear property line from over 51 feet to 21 feet. There would have been five parking spaces, down from the usually required 10 because the project qualifies as a transit oriented development.

RELATED: Hare Krishna Congregation Opposes Plan To Turn 100-Year-Old Rogers Park Building Into 20 Apartments

Some of these plans did not sit well with members of the neighboring temple, who spoke about their opposition at a February community meeting.

The temple holds services featuring chanting and singing starting as early as 4:30 a.m. and festivals that can last past midnight, congregants said. Neighbors could also disrupt temple worship by throwing parties, playing music or grilling meat. Hare Krishnas practice vegetarianism.

The rear addition would also significantly decrease sunlight into the temple, they said.

“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.

A community survey on the proposed development garnered more responses than any previous development survey, Hadden said. Much of the projects opposition comes from those living outside Rogers Park, according to survey results.

With 324 respondents, 44 percent said they support the project versus 66 percent opposing, according to survey results. Among survey respondents who live in the 49th Ward that covers Rogers Park, 60 percent supported the project.

Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
Community survey responses for the 1710 W. Lunt Ave. development proposal.

Hadden worked with the developer to find a solution that would “add much-need affordable units, address parking concerns and the impact of light and noise this new development would have on the temple sanctuary,” she said in her newsletter.

That includes asking Gassman to increase the property’s rear setback so sunlight can be restored and more green space added. To accommodate the additional apartments and affordable units, Hadden’s office proposed adding a floor to the development, among other redesigns, she said.

Adding an addition to the top of the existing structure would be too costly, Gassman said. He said he understand the alderwoman seeking to find consensus on the issue but he doesn’t think there was a deal to be made. Members of the Hare Krishna temple asked Gassman to sell or donate the building to the congregation at the community meeting on the project.

“She tried working things out with the neighbors,” he said.

Instead of seeking the rezoning to add the addition, Gassman will rehab the building and add one unit for a total of eight apartments.

Work on the project could start this spring, he said.

Credit: Courtesy 49th Ward Office/CRAFT Architecture
A rendering of the proposed addition to the existing building (in gray) at 1710 W. Lunt Ave.

This is the second time Gassman’s plans to build on the Lunt Avenue building failed to garner to support of Rogers Park’s alderperson.

In 2016, 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.

Gassman first proposed the addition to the Lunt building in 2017.

Former Ald. Joe Moore (49th) 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 it was opposed by others in the community, including the Hare Krishna congregation, he said in an email.

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