Loyola proposed in June the construction of a new residence hall on campus which will house sophomore and/or first-year students, according to Loyola administration.
As Loyola’s class sizes increase, the university has had trouble housing all its students, with first-years overcrowded in dorms and upperclassmen not guaranteed housing. However, Deb Schmidt-Rogers, director of residence life, said the main motivation for the proposal was to add housing ideal for sophomore students, who must live on campus per Loyola’s residency requirement.
The proposed budget for the project is $47 million and the building is planned to have 408 beds and 145,000 square feet, according to Kana Henning, Loyola’s associate vice president for facilities.
The proposed lot is on the 6300 block of N. Winthrop Ave. and the construction, if approved, will require the demolition of two buildings — one is a Loyola-owned apartment building and one is a single-family home. Jennifer Clark, who oversees Loyola’s capital planning, said the university wants to preserve green space, which is why an open field on campus wasn’t selected as the construction site.
Pending the approval of the Board of Trustees — which is set to vote September 13 — Clark said construction will ideally begin in February 2019, given the ground is soft enough after the winter to allow crews to work.
The residence hall is planned to feature substantial lounge spaces intended for socializing and studying and Jack-and-Jill bathrooms — meaning two dorm rooms are connected by a shared bathroom — Schmidt-Rogers said.
She said through a study with a company that manages student housing called the Scion Group, Residence Life decided the university required more suite-style housing meant for sophomore students. This is part of why the administration decided to build a new dorm instead of expand existing buildings.
“We are missing the type of housing that helps us achieve that ideal sophomore year experience,” Schmidt-Rogers said.
Before construction can begin, the necessary permits must be obtained from the city and the Board of Trustees must approve the funding, but Clark said the university also wants the support of the neighboring community. A community meeting will be scheduled for residents to discuss their concerns, but because most of the buildings on Winthrop Ave. near the construction are Loyola-owned, Clark said she doesn’t foresee many issues.
“We never want to get into a public battle, or a media battle, where we’re trying to build something that the alderman and the community are opposed to,” Clark said. “When you stonewall and you keep the community and the elected officials out of your process, they’re going to fight back, so we invite them into the process.”
Clark said the university has been communicating with Alderman Harry Osterman of the 48th Ward about the possibility of construction. Osterman was unavailable for an interview, but his spokesman Jerry Goodman said the community will likely be skeptical of the proposed changes.
“From experience … I think the community is going to be cautiously supportive,” Goodman said.
Even though most community members typically support Loyola’s expansion, Clark said some express concerns. Some of those are members of the Edgewater Historical Society, which opposes the proposed demolition of the two buildings. Other concerns include parking availability, noise level during construction and possible road closures.
Kathy Gemperle, vice president of Edgewater Historical Society, said the demolition would cause environmental issues and decrease the amount of inexpensive housing in Edgewater. Gemperle said the buildings have value to Edgewater residents.
“They’re part of our community,” she said about the buildings.