Opinion

Gentrification is a Problem and Loyola is Only Making It Worse

Katie Anthony | The PhoenixThe two most recent consequences of Loyola's expansion. The Alumni House and a 63-unit apartment complex are in the process of being replaced by St. Joesph's Hall, a new student dorm.

Rogers Park is a culturally unique neighborhood in the city. In the 1800s, Irish and German settlers began to buy property in the community. Fast-forward to the present and the area is home to residents from over 80 countries and has become culturally diverse. 

Rising rent prices in the area and the construction of new luxury apartments and a Target have made residents concerned about the impending doom of gentrification — the urban renewal process of a traditionally poor neighborhood so it can appeal to a more affluent taste. However, another catalyst for gentrification in Rogers Park could be Loyola itself.

Chicago residents see the red flags of gentrification taking place in traditionally working class or poor neighborhoods. There are billboards advertising new, luxury apartments available for rent right smack in the middle of a low-income community.

Between the years 2000 and 2010, the total population of Rogers Park dropped 21.3 percent, dropping from 63,484 residents to 49,949 residents living in the neighborhood. In 2010 alone, there were about 2,400 homeowners paying more than $2,000 a month for their mortgages. These increasing prices are forcing people out of the neighborhood to seek affordable housing elsewhere.

The displacement of low-income residents is the issue people have about gentrification. Long-time residents who built their lives in these neighborhoods across the city are being forced out of their communities and homes due to cost. A lot of these residents tend to be people of color, resulting in communities losing their cultural significance. With the established roots dying off, residents sometimes feel less inclined to stay in what has become unfamiliar territory. 

This is why gentrification has been labeled as a social justice issue. While, yes, gentrification can bring economic prosperity into communities through  job opportunities with new businesses, in the long-run it leads to the displacement of vulnerable community members. 

So, the Jesuit university that prides itself on social justice could be a catalyst of gentrification in the area in which it resides. With the record-breaking growing class sizes, Loyola needs to house its students. 

Back in 2012, Loyola bought the Sovereign Apartments and used them to house transfer students when dorms ran short. While they argued they wanted to make sure they brought in their own employees to run the building for the safety of its students, that still gives the connotation of the university wanting to own the community. 

Loyola plans to build a new residence hall in the 6300 block of North Winthrop Avenue. The land once housed a 63-unit apartment building that’s beginning to be demolished and a vacant lot, according to The Phoenix

The Edgewater Historical Society and other neighborhood groups protested the demolition of the Alumni House, which is already demolished, and apartment complex where the new residence hall is set to be built, but they weren’t able to win out against Loyola. Utilizing the vacant lot would’ve been better since it would ideally not displace people but it wasn’t the ideal choice for Loyola since the new residence hall wouldn’t fit in just the lot. While this is an issue impacting the Edgewater neighborhood it still demonstrates the impact Loyola has on the surrounding area. 

Back in 2015, when the university announced plans for what is now the Hampton Inn located near the Lake Shore campus at 1209 W. Albion Ave., residents of the neighborhood expressed their concerns about the building. Loyola owns the land but doesn’t operate the hotel itself, The Phoenix reported. There were also three restaurants that went in, with two of them being chain restaurants and one being a fine dining establishment. It doesn’t fit the small business aesthetic of the area. 

Back in 2018, Rogers Park residents expressed concerns about a proposed apartment building intended for Loyola students. Residents felt that this was another missed opportunity for money to go back in the neighborhood.

Alderman Joe Moore doesn’t seem too concerned about gentrification. With the new Target opening up he sees it as an opportunity for residents of Rogers Park to spend their money in the community and finding potential employment, according to the RogersEdge Reporter. Although a fair point, we will have to see how many residents from the community are hired by Target. While crime has gone down in the community and businesses are booming, families and low-income people are still being displaced.

It speaks volumes when community members are leaving to make room for short-term residents. Implementing businesses that don’t cater to the working class residents of the area speaks volumes that they are catering to a more affluent taste. As a university that promotes social justice, it’s shocking how much it has been a catalyst for gentrification. While Loyola isn’t the only factor gentrifying Rogers Park, it needs to be conscious of the implications that it has on the general community. 

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