SHERIDAN_999x755.jpg

Even in the 1940s, parking was a problem on Sheridan Road. These cars on both sides of Sheridan in the 7300 north block were ticketed.

Rogers Park struggles into the future

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Timing’s everything.

The crowd that came together last week to hear about Loyola University’s plan for a six-story Hampton Inn might not have been so cranky if they thought their input mattered much.

OPINION

The meeting, organized by Ald. Joe Moore (49th), had been touted as such. But since the university started demolishing a building that’s part of the corner of Albion and Sheridan where the hotel will sit days just before the meeting, manycame feeling the deal’s done.

True, a university spokesman told the crowd Loyola must do a ground sample and the building that housed the former Carmen’s Pizza needed to come down because it was in such bad shape. But this location has been vacant for a number of years. It was safe enough for the farmers market that was held there until this summer. All of a sudden this work had to be done immediately? That’s what I mean about timing; in this instance it started the conversation on the wrong note, which was too bad.

Not that that was the only criticism voiced that night. (To be fair, there were residents who stood up and praised the plan.)

Rogers Park is very congested anyway, so it was no surprise parking and traffic were two big issues. Hotel guests will have paid parking options, but residents worry they’ll opt for free and take up the little street parking the community has. A valid concern.

Anyone who’s crawled down Sheridan Road during rush hour knows any sort of addition to the street is likely to increase traffic.

Still others were unhappy about the hotel’s height, concerned it ruins the character of Sheridan Road in Rogers Park, where neighbors have fought for years to keep the street from turning into the canyon that exists just south on Sheridan in Edgewater.

I live not too far from the proposed development and wasn’t crazy about it until a neighbor convinced me that since all those hotel guests would need places to dine, it would have to improve the paltry dining scene we have there now. That sounds promising, but please, can it be more than fast-food chains?

If the street’s going to transform, the community would benefit if the alderman and Loyola put a real emphasis on reviving the business strip right there. Given the new plaza at the nearby – and renovated – L stop and events held there trying to bring the community out, I’m thinking that is on their radar.

Having spent nearly three decades here, I know there was a time I could walk to that strip and buy a unique birthday gift, used book or a brownie (a really tasty one, I might add). That’s all gone.

We already have some new storefronts right there that stand empty, although with a promise of “exciting new retail announced soon.” (Alas, that sign’s been up two seasons and no “excitement” yet.) This hotel will add about five more storefronts.

Loyola says that the vacancies exist because it wants the right tenants. There are interested parties. I hope this is the case, and that it acts soon.

Different projects along Sheridan Road over the years have promised – without delivering – better dining and shopping options. A solid neighborhood needs that.

If the hotel brings the neighborhood a squeeze when it comes to cars, I hope it also ignites the long-awaited spark needed for good commercial ventures to flourish nearby. That will make the trade-off worth it.

Email: sontiveros.cst@gmail.com

Twitter: @sueontiveros

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