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Heartland Cafe Demolition Underway, Plans for New Building Unfold

Mary Chappell | The PhoenixCrews began demolition of the site early this week.

Crews began demolition work this week on the building which housed the Heartland Cafe, a decades-old community spot known for its vegan and vegetarian food, poetry readings, live music and political events.

The demolition of the site — located at 7000 N. Glenwood Ave. — will make way for a building which is set to house rental apartments, commercial space and parking, according to Sam Goldman, whose family purchased the site in January. He said the number of apartments, commercial spaces and parking spots will be subject to community engagement.

“Community input is very important, as is community engagement,” Goldman said. “That input, along with thoughts and engagement with Alderwoman Hadden, will drive a lot of what we do on site.”

Mary Chappell | The Phoenix

Maria Hadden, 49th Ward alderwoman-elect, didn’t respond to request for comment.

Tom Rosenfeld, who took ownership of The Heartland in 2012, put the building on the market in September, The Phoenix reported. It closed December 31. He told The Phoenix in September putting the cafe up for sale was mostly motivated by financial issues that come with maintaining an old building.

“The closing of the business was a very hard decision to make because the business involves people, both our customers and employees,” Rosenfeld said. “The building is a symbol for many people, but really, in the end, it’s a building. I had less emotion about the building than I did the business.”

The Heartland Cafe, Heartland Studio Theatre and Red Line Tap were all a part of the establishment. The Heartland Cafe was an organic local market and restaurant. The Heartland Studio Theatre was used primarily for local theater group rehearsals, but it also served as a yoga studio, workout studio and meeting space, according to its website. The Red Line Tap hosted live music performances.

“That was a really important place where a lot of people had very important moments,” Rosenfeld said.

Rosenfeld said there are plans for the future of the Heartland Cafe, but he wouldn’t share them publicly.

Rosenfeld purchased the space from its original owners, Katy Hogan and Michael James in 2012, according to the restaurant’s website. James said it also struggled financially before it was purchased by Rosenfeld.

“We did good in the world over there for a long time,” James said. “It was an economic struggle. We touched a lot of people over the years. … Just because the building is gone doesn’t mean the spirit of the place is.”

James said the place had Loyola connections. He said the glass blocks on the building and bleachers out front were recovered from the demolition of Loyola’s Alumni Gym.

Hogan echoed James and said the place impacted the lives of community members.

“The Heartland is a place that lives on in the lives of the people that it touched — very few restaurants can say that,” Hogan said. “We were very honored to steward the Heartland for so many years.”

The cafe was a hub for political discussion and activism, where many political candidates spoke, including former President Barack Obama and former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington.

In February 2004, James was able to snap photos of then-42-year-old Obama, who was rallying for a seat in the U.S. Senate and spoke alongside 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore and 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman.

Moore said he was sad to see the establishment go but thinks more housing developments, including this one, will keep rent prices down in the neighborhood. He also said he hopes Hadden and the community will encourage the project to promote riding public transportation.

“I hope it’s an attractive development and takes advantage of the fact that it’s steps away from the Morse [CTA station],” Moore said. “I think it’s an ideal location for a transit-oriented development but that’ll be up to the community and the new alderman to decide.”

Moore said Rogers Park has always been “dynamic.” He said while there are businesses closing, there are also new ones coming into the neighborhood.

“It’s tough running a small business, but we’ve always tried to do whatever we could to encourage people to patronize local businesses,” Moore said.

James said he hopes the legacy of The Heartland will live on.

“Rogers Park remains a wonderful neighborhood,” James said. “It’s important that people who come now and come later know what The Heartland was.”

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