Talks continue on Rogers Park proposal

Old rendering for 1557 - 1561 W Howard St, Chicago New rendering for 1557 - 1561 W Howard St, Chicago

Developers Richard Aronson and Scott Sinar will present the latest revisions of their proposed mixed-use building in Rogers Park at a community meeting next week, according to an e-mail from Alderman Joe Moore‘s office.

Aronson and Sinar want to construct a seven-story building with 60 residential units, 15,000 to 30,000 square feet of commercial space, and 60 to 75 parking spaces at the site of the old Wisdom Bridge Theater building at for 1557 – 1561 W Howard St. The residences would be condos or apartments, depending on market conditions.

Following input from Rogers Park residents and the Alderman’s office, Aronson and Sinar have changed the building’s original design (above left) to “a more traditional facade that was more in keeping with the surrounding architecture,” according to Moore’s e-mail.

The meeting about the revised design will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 5th, at the Willye White Park Fieldhouse, 1610 W Howard St.

New rendering for 1557 - 1561 W Howard St, Chicago


  • Alan 9 years

    The design is much better…but if you look at the image (enlarged) it appears to be made of cinder blocks or somthing of that size. Not good.

  • TftInChi 9 years

    This design is so, so much worse than the original. The original was modern, sleek and visually appealing. The new design looks like every other post-modern piece of garbage erected in this city since 2000: unoriginal, boring and cheap looking. Why, oh why must NIMBYs support boring, ugly architecture and trash anything original that pops up? If they really want “traditional” architecture that fits with existing buildings, they should make the developers pay to do it right: use traditional stone materials, with authentically period design complete with period ornamentation. Instead, we get stuff like this. It isn’t traditional, it isn’t modern, it is just boring and blends in. It isn’t as though the original design was so esoteric and illogically designed that it was an eyesore. It was just…different, something that used to be valued in this city.

    Imagine what the Chicago skyline would look like if the architects of the Sears Tower, the Hancock building or Trump were told “you should make this blend in…it is just too out there.” Let’s break through the static quo and let architects and developers push the envelope, creating architecture that has a chance of enriching our city’s architectural heritage rather than just blending in.

  • Chad 9 years

    Are you joking, Alan? The original design was fresh, smart and fun, and would have made a welcome contribution to the Rogers Park streetscape. Instead, the community revealed their aversion to good taste by pressuring the developers to adopt a limp, lifeless “design” (a term here used loosely) that adds nothing, thereby taking away. For people who tout their diversity, the residents of Rogers Park are of a surprisingly narrow mind. This is a real missed opportunity.

  • Eric 9 years

    Is this a joke? The original looks good. The new design looks like a Walgreens. Chicago deserves better.

  • Dan 9 years

    NIMBYs strike again. Too bad, the original was BEAUTIFUL, the new one is absolutely hideous! Good FAIL Rogers Park.

  • NIABY (Not In Anyone’s Backyard).

    Both designs, in my opinion are eyesores. I agree with TftInChi that the developers should pay to do it right with traditional materials or leave it alone.

    I think that much of the opposition to developers in Rogers Park is due to the many empty lots and dangerous holes in the ground developers have been littering our neighborhood with.

    One of many examples is Chad Zuric’s foreclosure after demolishing the Adelphi Theater. We, Rogers Parkers did not take that lightly at all.

  • Eric 9 years

    Bill: There’d be a lot fewer holes if the community didn’t drive up the costs of development by making absurd demands of developers.

    How about: If someone owns land, they can build whatever they want within the constraints of fairly applied zoning for an area?

    We are supposed to be a free country, after all.

  • Sure, Eric. But, we know of Rich Aronson from previous proposals that if he does not get his zoning change, he will abandon the project and move elsewhere. Which, contrary to Alderman Joe Moore’s email blast, is what many in Rogers Park asked for.

    If the developer has the right by ownership to build, what more is there to say? But, if the developer is publicly requesting the approval of the community, he is accepting the possibility of denial. It is free country, after all.

  • the urban politician 9 years


    The fault is not the developers. The fault is the Planned Development process in which developers actually have to go through this laborious process of community approvals to get their project built.

    Let there be no mistake: developers would gladly built what is as-of-right without having to show their plans to neighbors who may whimsically reject them because they “don’t like how it looks”. Cities aren’t built that way. Chicago wasn’t built that way.

    As soon as you NIMBY’s get out of the way, the sooner Chicago can get back to building places worth caring about again.

  • If you were at the community meeting, you would have heard Rich Aronson state that he would not build without the rezoning because it does not make financial sense. This is his default position.

    The building that currently stands on the property is far more attractive than Rich Aronson’s proposal and fits well with the Broadmoor building across the street.

    As I stated before, I am a NIABY on this issue, not a NIMBY. I, personally wouldn’t wish this upon anyone.

  • Alan 9 years

    I guess my sarcasm didn’t shine through…I really shouldn’t comment after lunch.

  • Very cool, Alan.

  • In addition to the architecturally unsuitable aspect of this proposed building for Howard Street, the larger concern for the community should be the developer’s sorry record in our community. Rich Aronson and his various Real Estate entities has, since getting ‘plugged in’, twelve or so years ago, with the Alderman and various Rogers Park organizations (Rogers Park Builders Group, DevCorp North/RP Business Alliance, the Alderman’s ‘Zoning/Land Use Advisory Council’, the RPCC, etc.) left a legacy of cookie cutter, cinder block, brick veneered condo/mixed use properties. IMO, these buildings will become to Rogers Park what the 1960’s 4+1’s are to Lincoln Park and other Northside communities: totally designed and built with the developer’s bottom line as the driving force. Today, in Rogers Park many of those ‘Aronson’ properties are partially occupied and/or converted into rental buildings and in today’s RE market, who knows what the future holds. Also, it is my understanding that Mr. Aronson has recently faced and/or undergone foreclosure issues. The last time I looked, his Camelot office on Morse Avenue was shuttered. We are hearing vague assurance that this building on Howard Street will have a ‘theatre’ and various commercial/retail spaces inaddition to rental and/or condo housing units. Again, in today’s Real Estate market, what exactly does this mean and what specific ‘businesses’ and home-seekers are interested in this kind of space on East Hopward Street. What the community does NOT need is another vacant failed development project and more vacant residential and retail space staring us in the face OR more subsidized property added to the already over saturated and concentrated situation we now have in the neighborhood.

  • the urban politician 9 years

    Mike, if the developer doesn’t see a market for what he is proposing on his property then he won’t propose it. Obviously he needs to land financing and fill his building’s spaces.

    What we DON’T need is a bunch of neighbors with pitchforks trying to make these decisions for him.


    NIMBYism must go.

  • I know a couple who purchased a condo above the RPBA office from Rich Aronson and they are utterly disgusted. I spoke with them in length about this.

    They feel cheated by Rich Aronson who personally promised amenities that they never received.

    Expect more of the same with this building, if it is allowed to go through.

  • Bill Morton,

    Sigh. Did your couple get what they contracted for?

    Buyers not getting what they thought they were promised, or what they thought they had “a right to expect” is an old story, and frequently one without any merit.

    Has your couple filed suit? Can you give us a case citation?

    Why is it that people are so eager to take shots at a developer – shots that can’t be verified because enough facts are never given?

    Did you do any investigation before passing on this defamatory material, Bill?

  • The couple is currently residing in the building and has contacted Rich Aronson directly concerning this issue.

    They stated that Rich Aronson personally promised amenities that they never received. They did not mention if they filed suit or if they were seeking to settle out of court.

    This was mentioned in recent conversations with the couple.

  • the urban politician, where have you been politicking lately?

    Do you even live in Rogers Park? It does make a difference, especially when you so strongly tell longtime Rogers Park residents to “BUTT OUT” of a major issue in our neighborhood.

    If the developer has the right by ownership, then he can build.

    If the developer is publicly requesting the approval of the community for a rezoning, the developer can still legally build according to the current zoning. Although the fact remains that he is accepting the possibility of denial which will greatly affect the developer’s bottom line.

  • Bill Morton,

    You’ve really done nothing but restate what you said earlier.

    You abandon all standards of decency and fair play when you relay the type of fact-free statements you’ve made here..

  • “You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” – Albert Einstein

    I will take your suggestions into consideration for future conversations.

    Thank you, Joe.

  • LisaGems 9 years

    To the UrbanPolitician.

    It is always in the best interest of a neighborhood for the residents to be actively involved in any new development in the neighborhood. For the to act as watchdogs for fraud and corruption. For them to make sure that an eyesore which will ultimately drive property values down, instead of up does not get built. It is in the best interest of the people living in a neighborhood to *never* listen to a blow hard telling them to “butt out”. Someone telling me to “butt out” is only going to make me curious about what they don’t want me to see, and therefore more likely to look more closely. Oversight is not merely a good idea, it is critical to the health and well being of the area.

    Personally, I’m encouraged by the people who are ready to take up arms, break out those pitchforks, to prevent that ill-conceived eyesore from being built. It’s a sign of a healthy neighborhood.

    It *IS* my business what they’re building in Rodgers Park. I live there.

    Bet, you don’t.

  • Well, my comment on 4/28/10 at 5:22 PM did have enough relevance to move the conversation forward.

    Many developers that I have spoken with about issues like this often state that they would like concerned members of the community to “butt out”. Of, course, the reason is because community involvement may affect their bottom line and cause their plans to crumble. This is a risk that developers take in these situations.

    I feel that it is in the best interest of the Rogers Park community, which I am a part of, for Rich Aronson and Scott Sinar to choose another location for this building. Preferably somewhere that is already an empty lot or dangerous abandoned hole in the ground. Preferably somewhere that is very far away because I wouldn’t want to see it while I’m working at various locations throughout Chicago.

  • to: the urban politician (whoever you are?)

    The main concern here is twofold: !) The design of the proposed building is completely incompatible with the surrounding area and property. 2) And It is strongly suspected )by a number of people in the know) that Mr. Aronson’s project is to be basically a subsidized development (both the commercial space and the residential component) from start to finish, for subsidized occupants and or ‘not for profit/faith based organizations’, which further begs the question, “who is providing the financial backing for this project?”

    I obviously don’t know who you are or who ‘s interest you represent but I strongly suggest that until and unless you identify yourself, YOU ARE THE ONE WHO SHOULD BUTT OUT!

  • mcl,

    We obviously don’t know who you are.

    Given that fact, aren’t you more than a bit hypocritical for calling someone out over their anonymity and screaming at them in capital letters?

    the urban politician has a long history here as someone who has a keen interest in and a definite philosophy about urban development. He’s made it clear he doesn’t live in Chicago at the moment.

  • the urban politician 9 years


    I just have a different philosophy than you do.

    I have observed over the years that community groups usually have one goal in mind: to reduce density as much as they can and to make every development as automobile-friendly as possible. Everything else is secondary.

    Chicago wasn’t built that way. Some of Chicago’s most cherished neighborhoods have the highest density, the least off-street parking, and were built long before the era of this unfortunate community approval process. Take a look at Broadway in East Lakeview, North & Milwaukee in Wicker Park, or Clark St in Andersonville; do you honestly think that developers would be allowed to build these places now given the laborious community-approval process?

    A resounding no.

    There are rare occasions when I have viewed community groups actually having the insight to judge development appropriately (Streeterville Organization of Active Residents and the community group in Wicker Park who actually wants higher density and opposes suburban-style strip centers). But for the most part, I have been very unimpressed with what I’ve observed.

  • CaptainVideo 9 years

    The developers who want to build dense, multi-story developments in central cities are the good guys here and the myopic NIMBYS, who want to stifle the economic development of central cites are the bad guys. If central cities are going to thrive, rather than stagnate, they have to grow. Since they are hemmed in by suburbs, they cannot grow outward. Therefore the only way to grow is upward and more dense. The central cities desperately need the dense, multi-story developments to earn the badly needed tax revenues needed to maintain services. Areas in the central cities where the residents block such developments should have their municipal services reduced.
    One reason Houston is thriving is that it has no zoning.

  • In response to Joe Zekas:

    I’m a 35 + year resident and involved ‘activist’ in the North of Howard neighborhood of Rogers Park, having moved to the 7700 block of N. Marshfield in 1975. As such, I have no intention of “butting out”, particularly regarding matters that directly impact and involve my neighborhood! As to the use of capitol letters, I was simply replying to ”the urban politician’ in the same ‘tone’ that he/she used in their original comment directed at me, thank you very much!

  • mcl,

    You’re right to point out that I missed the urban politician’s capital letter screaming.

    I applaud your disclosing who you are.

  • the urban politician 9 years

    mcl, if your concerns are truly what you claim them to be, then I may have you pegged wrong.

    Most of the time community groups obsess over density and parking to the point of becoming monotonous, tiresome, and altogether a drag on the process.

    I visited your website and I think you’ve posted far more legitimate concerns about this project than I have tended to witness from self-proclaimed “community activists” around the city.