Local Senior Citizens Continue to Fight Proposed Development

Shelby Foley | The PHOENIXStephanie Hayes and John Quirk are residents unhappy with the development proposal that would displace the Caroline Hedger Apartments community room and green space.

Stephanie Hayes, 65, has been living at the Caroline Hedger Apartments in Rogers Park for more than three years. She said the building’s community room is a hub for socialization for the senior citizen residents, but that could all change with the proposal of new development.

Hayes and other senior residents are in opposition with the construction of a proposed development — including a small Target store — that will take the place of their current community room. Although the development would provide a new community space, some senior residents said they don’t want their current one replaced.

“We play bingo a few times a week; we do exercise classes; there’s a pool table there,” said Hayes. “[Residents] sit together and they talk and it’s like a family feeling.”

Hayes said the community room benefits residents who are sick. She said that two of her friends use the community room to get out and socialize.

A temporary community room located a block away from the Caroline Hedger Apartments would be available during construction, but John Quirk, a resident since 2008, said that it would be inconvenient for some residents.

“We would be forced to go across Devon Avenue down about two blocks west in all kind of weather,” said Quirk, 72. “They don’t want to travel through the traffic because many of them have walkers and canes.”

The proposed development, called the Concord at Sheridan, would also replace a green space with a rooftop terrace. Hayes said she does not want that replaced either.

“We want to keep our little green space in the back,” said Hayes. “We have picnic tables down there, we used to barbecue and people would bring food, and they want to put us on artificial turf on a second floor …. We want green space — natural. Everybody needs to get out in the sun. You need the vitamin D. You need the fresh air.”

The Concord at Sheridan is planned to be built next to the Caroline Hedger Apartments, located at the intersection of Sheridan Road and Devon Avenue. It will feature 111 apartment units, a new community space for the seniors and a small Target store, according to the 49th Ward website.

The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and Three Corners Development reached a contingent lease in fall 2016. This means the proposal will go forward upon approval from the Chicago Plan Commission and the Chicago City Council, according to the 49th Ward website.

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) held a community meeting about the proposal Jan. 30 at Loyola’s Crown Center. Numerous residents of the Caroline Hedger Apartments attended and said they are opposed to the proposal and plans to replace their community room.  

Quirk said he and several residents want to see the development space used to benefit all seniors in Rogers Park.

“What our main desire would be [is] to get what is called a [satellite senior] center to serve seniors … who could benefit from sliding scale medical services, nurses [and] a social worker,” said Quirk. “That would be for the 49th ward and that is what we want.”

Satellite senior centers serve senior residents of specific wards in the city and provide medical and recreational services.  

Senior citizens ages 65 and older make up 7.64 percent of the population in Rogers Park.

Senior Housing Justice Organizer Kelly Viselman works with the Jane Addams Senior Caucus (JASC), an organization advocating for senior justice. Viselman said residents from the Caroline Hedger Apartments first reached out to JASC in 2015 with concerns about renovations.

Some seniors relocated into apartments that were unsafe and lacked proper heating, according to Viselman.

Viselman said residents weren’t included in any decisions about the Concord at Sheridan until December.

“The idea of having continued inconvenience to their lives, especially to their social space and their community room, has made people upset,” said Viselman.

CHA Senior Director of Communications Molly Sullivan said The Concord at Sheridan would benefit everyone in Rogers Park.

“We believe this development will offer new opportunities for the larger Rogers Park community by providing jobs, more affordable housing, market rate housing and the improved amenities for the seniors at Caroline Hedger,” Sullivan said.

The CHA has visited with residents of Caroline Hedger regularly to talk about the proposal, according to Sullivan.

“We remain committed to maintaining this dialogue with residents and with the community to get their feedback on this proposed development,” Sullivan said.

Hayes and other residents plan to send postcards encouraging Rogers Park residents to contact Moore. Hayes said a letter will be sent to the CHA Board of Commissioners expressing the residents’ concerns, and she hopes residents of Caroline Hedger can meet with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Junior environmental policy major Sienna Fitzpatrick attended the community meeting on Jan. 30 and said she sympathized with the senior’s concerns.

“The thing that kept coming up in the meeting was the fact that there hadn’t really been any community input on the plan,” said the 21-year-old. “It was hard to sit there and feel like [residents of Caroline Hedger] were getting bulldozed over in this whole plan.”