A group of Rogers Park neighbors made up of Caroline Hedger Apartments residents, Loyola University students and others held a press conference outside the Chicago Housing Authority Tuesday to voice opposition to a proposed Target and conjoined mixed-use development in their North Side neighborhood.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the CHA announced last month a proposed mixed-income and mixed-use development including affordable and market-rate housing and a “flexible-format” Target store. The development would also include an “upgraded community room" and open space for residents of CHA’s Caroline Hedger Apartments for seniors on the 6400 block of North Sheridan Road.
But on Tuesday morning, concerned residents in the area stood holding signs outside the Chicago Housing Authority that read “People Over Profits.”
“We find the fact that CHA calls our community space they want to build a ‘vacant lot’ insulting,” said Stephanie Hayes, a resident at Caroline Hedger Apartments and a member of Jane Addams Senior Caucus. “This lot isn’t vacant, it is our space, our community. We are asking that the board of commissioners vote in favor of CHA residents today, not in support of selling off our land to private interests. We want the public housing, not giveaways to big developers.”
The CHA responded to the press conference held by residents Tuesday with a statement.
“CHA has met a number of times over the last few months with the building’s residents to discuss this proposal and the convenience of a Target adjacent to the Hedger Apartments on land that is currently a parking lot is an amenity that many residents have expressed support for during these meetings,” the statement reads. “The plans also call for a new 5,000 square foot community room for the seniors that will replace the current community space, and dedicated open, green space for Hedger residents, an amenity which currently is not available for residents.”
Developer Three Corners’ project would include a six-story apartment building with ground floor retail and aims to expand affordable housing opportunities on Chicago’s North Side, according to a news release from the CHA last January.
“I’ve been pleased with the responsiveness of the CHA and the developers to the suggestions offered by nearby neighbors,” said Ald. Joe Moore in the January CHA news release. “I certainly believe my community can benefit from more quality market-rate and affordable housing.”
Moore said Tuesday that he was still soliciting input and gathering information on zoning and land use issues regarding the proposal.
"I haven't made a final decision on the development," he said in a phone interview.
The development would include 111 mixed-income apartments, a rooftop terrace and 133 parking spaces for residents.
“The fact that a national retailer with the reputation of Target is now interested in Rogers Park speaks to the progress we have made in our community over the last several years,” Moore said in a previous statement.
But not all residents are happy about the proposal.
Bill Morton, president of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce, said a Target coming to the neighborhood will hurt small businesses.
Morton said small “mom and pop” shops on the neighborhoods Devon Corridor and senior citizens do not want the project.
“When the seniors said they didn’t want it, and the CHA lied to us at Ald. Joe Moore’s community meeting, and said that they voted for it—the seniors were outraged,” he said.
Morton also stated that the project would be completed on CHA public land.
“Target is a national chain corporation—and really?—are we using tax payer dollars that’s supposed to go for housing for those who are most in need … so Target Brands Inc. can profit?” he asked.
Morton then touted the benefit of shopping locally and said that economic stimulus would dwindle under the development.
“If you spend $100 at a Target, Target Brands Inc. is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, we don’t see that money,” he said, adding that there was no guarantee at a community meeting Rogers Parks residents would be hired by the proposed Target.
Thomson also said Target would not comply with a wage ordinance or allow union workers.
Moore said Tuesday that by next year the minimum wage will increase by 2018.
"Everybody's gonna be on the same playing field, so that's a non-issue" he said.
He added that he supports unions but can't make it a requirement for every shop in town to allow them.
"I'd have a Jewel and that's about it," he said.
Bishop James Alan Wilkowski also spoke at the conference, saying that the CHA’s responsibility was to find housing for people—not remove them from it.
“I regret that the alderman has become a political concubine for Target and other industries that would come in without any care or any worry to the needs of the people,” he said. “If there was any logical need for a Target—we would be having a different conversation—but there is no need.”
Liz Thomson, a resident in Rogers Park for nearly 20 years, said the neighborhood’s affordability and diversity are at risk because of the development.
Thomson said the project also threatens the community’s nearby green space and parking lot in addition to small “ethnic” business revenue.
“This is cultural assassination,” Thomson said. “Ald. Moore insinuating that the community wants this development is a complete lie.”
She then called for more time for dialogue with the community to cheers from her supporters.
The CHA's board has yet to vote on the approval of the proposal.