Loyola’s lakefront is undeniably beautiful. Whether it’s the waves crashing or the sun shining on a warm fall day, the natural beauty of the water fosters a positive, calming environment for those who take advantage of this space.
Loyola attracts a number of students each year by having a campus on the lake. For all the lakefront space that Loyola has, however, there’s little green space along it. Any student who wants to enjoy the natural beauty of the campus lakefront on a nice day must do so on a packed sidewalk or cramped plot of grass around the Crown Center.
Campus green spaces are directly linked with enhancing the quality of student life, according to a study conducted by The American Society for Horticultural Science. The study reports that students who are more avid users of green space report being able to better apply their knowledge in the classroom to their assignments and other endeavors.
In this regard, Loyola’s lack of lakefront green space is amiss from both a student life and marketing perspective. With green space use being correlated with the quality of student life, Loyola is missing out on an opportunity to utilize its strength as a school located on the water.
Exposure to the lakefront has wide-ranging positive benefits. Proximity to a waterfront has the ability to boost immune systems, promote creativity and cause a decrease in maladies such as anxiety and depression, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter in England.
The Phoenix reports that afflictions such as anxiety and depression are experienced most widely among college students — 63 percent of students report feeling overwhelming anxiety and 42 percent report feeling depressed, as of 2018.
Resolving the issue of lack of green space on Loyola’s lakefront is a costly one that would require either an expansion of the campus or the knocking down of already-standing buildings. Over the years, The Phoenix has reported on the continual growth of Loyola. In just the past 20 years, the university has seen the creation of buildings such as the Damen Student Center, the Information Commons and the St. Ignatius Community Plaza.
As Loyola grows and continues to buy and create more property, it’s important to consider green space as an investment in student health.
The University of Chicago contains multiple quads larger than those at Loyola despite its location in a densely populated area of the city. Similarly, Northwestern has a half-mile long park right next to the water as open green space for students to enjoy. To achieve this, Northwestern had to extend their shoreline out into Lake Michigan by land filling part of the lake.
In the fall of 1987, Loyola proposed a similar lakefill plan to the city of Chicago to expand the campus 16 acres into Lake Michigan. Loyola told city officials the land created in the project would be used solely for recreational purposes, namely the creation of green space and bike paths. Further, The Phoenix reports the proposal was met with a positive response and widespread approval, but there were some mild concerns from environmental groups over the potential acceleration of coastal erosion.
This plan — that would’ve added another section to Chicago’s park district on Loyola’s campus — was forced to be abandoned later that year for undisclosed reasons. Loyola’s proposal is an acknowledgment of the campus’ lack of green space.
The project was slated to cost $6 million in 1987, which is approximately $13.3 million dollars today, adjusted for inflation. For reference, Loyola’s newest athletic facility, the Alfie Norville Practice Facility, cost more than $18 million.
With the creation of lakefront green space from any type of project, students would be able to throw the frisbee or hammock along the water in a quiet and peaceful setting, rather than observing from a cramped sidewalk.
While the endeavor of creating more green space is a costly one, it’s necessary to promote better student life. As a university, Loyola’s primary function is to educate. Granting students more access to green space would allow Loyola a better opportunity to do this.
Loyola’s location along the lakefront is a great advantage for the university, and as the competition among universities continues to increase, there’s no better time to invest in this advantage than now. The Chicago coast has a lot to offer — why wouldn’t Loyola want to tap into something that provides a more productive and enriching student experience?