The word gentrification tends to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths.
Simply put, gentrification is the middle-class renewal of a poorer area. When this happens, new businesses come in, property values go up and the once-affordable apartments become financially out of reach for current residents.
It’s easy to see why some people might be upset when their neighborhood starts to show the tell-tale signs of change. But, can those signs of change produce a positive outcome, if done in increments?
When the Starbucks opened at the corner of Devon Avenue and Sheridan Road three years ago, most Loyola students were happy.
There was some push back in 2015 when it was decided a Hampton Inn would be built adjacent to campus on university-owned property, but it was eventually accepted.
When plans to build a Target at the intersection of Devon and Sheridan were announced last month, most students were elated.
Yet, when The Phoenix surveyed people about the recent changes in Rogers Park, some didn’t seem so thrilled.
Some respondents said they don’t feel personally affected by the upcoming changes, while other residents feel the city is being inconsiderate of their wishes.
Others are afraid that new commercial businesses, such as Target, will harm local businesses.
“This is historically a neighborhood of immigrants and the new chain businesses are pushing out the old small businesses,” one respondent said in the online survey. “The neighborhood is catering to Loyola students and it’s becoming too expensive for the local, long-standing community members to stay here.”
Gentrification affects each community differently. In Rogers Park alone, gentrification could look like shifting racial demographics or increasing rent rates.
It’s multi-faceted — economically, racially and socially — so there is no one definition for the concept.
Gentrification extends beyond Loyola’s campus and its students; Rogers Park doesn’t only revolve around the incomes and affordability of Loyola and its students.
Gentrification also isn’t an unfamiliar phenomenon in Chicago, and it has often faced resistance in the past. It’s poked its head in neighborhoods such as Pilsen, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Hyde Park.
In Jan. 2016, “We Are Logan Square” group members blocked Milwaukee Avenue to protest the construction of the Logan Square Twin Towers, luxury rental units that were estimated to cost $45.8 million to build.
The group has also held training sessions for evictions and community awareness panels for Logan Square residents.
On a more local scale, senior residents living at the Caroline Hedger Apartments in Rogers Park said in interviews with The Phoenix they opposed the construction.
The proposed development — including the Target store — will be called the Concord at Sheridan and it would take the place of their current community room.
Rents are estimated to be $750 to $1,000 per month for a one-bedroom unit, and $1,425-$1,700 per month for a two-bedroom unit, according to the 49th Ward.
Other Rogers Park residents expressed their anger toward the proposed Concord at Sheridan development to 49th Ward Ald. Joe Moore at a community meeting on Jan. 30.
In the questions asked by The Phoenix, respondents voiced their concerns for potentially losing small, local businesses in the area as a result of incoming commercial businesses such as Target.
Some said “more support for local businesses” and “not a Target” when asked which businesses they wish to see come to Rogers Park.
Ald. Moore said the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and Three Corners Development considered other retail tenants but chose Target because it would “best fit with the project and provide neighborhood residents with retail amenities … not currently available in the vicinity.”
The alderman also said the CHA will receive 30 to 40 percent of the net proceeds from Target’s rent.
But not all respondents viewed the upcoming changes as negative.
Some described the upcoming changes as “good for the development of this neighborhood” and will help “provide opportunities for the community” while bringing more convenience to local community members.
Where to Go from Here
In their simplest form, real estate developers are trend followers: When neighborhoods grow in attraction, showing signs of economic and social livelihood, investors and developers come forward to increase that attraction to prospective clients.
When gentrification is received positively by a neighborhood, it has the ability to spread to surrounding areas.
This can potentially result in an overall increase of public school funding through higher property taxes, declining crime rates and opportunities for employment in construction, renovation and retail services brought to the area.
East Liberty is a bridge community, a neighborhood surrounded by several affluent neighborhoods with a high percentage of low-income residents.
In 1994, a local development corporation purchased a seven-acre vacant site to build a Home Depot.
When the store opened in 2000, it quickly became a neighborhood amenity, driving high volumes of customers and creating approximately 250 jobs — 80 percent of which were worked by
residents of the East Liberty community.
Other investors began to look to East Liberty after seeing Home Depot’s initial success and acceptance.
In 2002, a Whole Foods opened. Five years later, East Liberty was home to a Walgreens, FedEx and Kinko’s store, Trader Joe’s and a Nabisco factory.
What does East Liberty have to do with Rogers Park?
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) later provided funding to support the development of a Target store on the site of the demolished high-rise housing in Pittsburgh.
The store opened in 2011 and provided more than 200 additional jobs in the community.
Bringing Change in Moderation
No one can be certain that Rogers Park will display an outcome similar to East Liberty’s, but one thing is certain: Change can be good, if done in moderation.
Moderation gives residents time to adjust and make any decisions on whether they want to stay in the changing community or not.
Factors such as surveying site availability and matching the retailer to the market take time, according to a 2014 report by the Urban Land Institute.
Spacing out the addition of commercial housing and retail businesses grants residents time to meet with local aldermen and representatives to voice opinions regarding the adjustments before it’s too late.
Residents of the Rogers Park community have already taken an initiative by meeting with their alderman, Joe Moore, of the 49th Ward.
Overall, businesses come and go; it’s part of their lifecycle.
Gentrification is a question of whether cities can make improvements to an area without restructuring — or displacing — preexisting people and demographics.
“As Loyola and Rogers Park community members, we don’t live in a bubble; however, many think so,” replied one respondent. “As a citizen of Chicago, I am affected by the culture held or lost and the lifestyles of the people around me. We are all made by those who surround us.”