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Loyola-Backed Elevate Devon Plan Seeks to Enhance the Devon Avenue Commercial Corridor

Griffin Krueger | The PhoenixLoyola is working alongside the Rogers Park Business Alliance and the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce to improve Devon Avenue's business environment and make it more pedestrian-friendly.

Loyola and local business organizations are seeking to improve the business environment and pedestrian friendliness of Devon Avenue with the input of community voices in a community planning study.

The Elevate Devon Corridor Plan, which is already underway, is designed to improve the one-mile stretch of Devon Avenue between Sheridan Road and Ravenswood Avenue. This stretch runs near Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus (LSC) and marks the divide between the Rogers Park and Edgewater neighborhoods. Businesses along Devon near Loyola’s campus include Nori Sushi, Devon Market, Uncommon Ground and the Cozy Corner diner.

The project is being organized in tandem by Loyola, the Rogers Park Business Alliance and the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce.

Organizers expect the plan to be complete by Fall 2022, according to the project’s website.

Jennifer Clark, the associate vice president of campus and community planning at Loyola, explained the surrounding community is vital to the university, which is why the university has involved itself in this project. She said Loyola is the largest property holder and employer in both Rogers Park and Edgewater. 

“We are a huge stakeholder and what happens at Loyola helps the community and what happens in the community helps Loyola,” she said. 

Clark said community involvement is key to boosting the atmosphere, pedestrian infrastructure and business climate on Devon are developed. 

“It’s about creating the kind of vision for Devon,” Clark said. “Do people want to see more artwork? Do we need better bus stops and crosswalks? Do we need better landscaping? The kinds of elements that create an environment that is ripe for business, where businesses feel supported, where pedestrians feel comfortable, students want to walk down Devon cause they feel that it’s safe, that there’s cool businesses to go to and that it’s inviting.”

The project will be similar to a corridor plan which was carried out on Clark Street in Rogers Park in 2017 which resulted in new street signs, crosswalk art and curb bump-outs. 

The plan is asking for residents to complete a survey regarding what they would like to see on Devon. The website also includes an interactive map where users can pinpoint strong and weak areas of the corridor. Residents have already begun adding their ideas and suggestions to the interactive map.

“Would love some kind of public art recognizing LGBTQ community,” one user wrote. “Edgewater and Rogers Park have some of the largest queer presence of any neighborhoods in the city”

“Clearer bike paths for the Glenwood crossing would be nice,” another said. “As it is, cars coming from the opposite direction often try to turn left in front of you. Making Glenwood to Devon right-turn only for cars would be even better!”

Following the completion of the planning process, Clark explained action steps will be identified and according organizations will be assigned to handle whatever improvements are decided on. 

For example, the city would handle crosswalks being repainted or expanded and the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce or Rogers Park Business Alliance would handle recruiting a new business residents are asking for. 

Clark identified the corridor of Devon Avenue being improved as key for Loyola from a campus planning perspective. As one of the main routes from O’Hare Airport to the LSC, Devon Avenue is what Clark calls a “campus approach.”

“It’s one of the main ways that people get to campus and how people get to our campus for the first time ever,” she said. “Prospective families coming in from out of town, or prospective faculty who are coming in for job interviews may very well be coming down Devon avenue as one of the main routes from the airport.”

She explained filling vacant business space, improving infrastructure and fostering community on Devon would create a campus environment which is more inviting and appealing. She said there has been an ongoing effort by the university to strengthen surrounding areas. 

“Loyola has been deeply involved in helping to improve the approach from Broadway and Sheridan over the years,” she said. “Now we are turning our attention to Devon as just the next step in an ongoing campus planning process.”

Clark also emphasized the importance of student voices as a part of the planning process. Serving as a large percentage of the community around the corridor, she explained steps have been taken to involve Loyola students. 

“Even though individual students might only stay on campus for four years, that demographic of the 18 to 22 year old student is a very consistent demographic in the neighborhood, it is the most consistent demographic in all of Edgewater and Rogers Park,” she said. 

The student demographic falls in line with Rogers Park as a generally very young area. The largest age range is 20-34, making up 30% of the neighborhood and a median age of 34, according to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP).

One of the ways organizers are trying to involve students is through the hiring of student ambassadors, who work to spread the word and recruit students to participate in the process. 

Senior Riley Kelly is one of the student ambassadors at Loyola involved with the Elevate Devon project. Kelly and other involved students will be hosting tables in the Damen Student Center starting March 31 where they hope to gather student feedback. 

Kelly, a 21 year-old political science and nonprofit management major, is trying to involve the student body through surveys and in-person conversations. She said she will be present at project meetings to share the ideas of Loyola students.

She explained she has worked with Loyola’s Civic Engagement Office for four years and as she is very interested in community development and urban planning, this was a perfect opportunity for her. 

“I love the stretch of Devon from Sheridan to Ravenswood and I know it has the potential to be a very vibrant area, so I’m excited to be a part of seeing that process come to life,” she said.

Clark said although some students may not see the plan completed during their time at Loyola, she feels student voices will help to create a campus community which is more attractive for future generations. 

“We don’t want to be cookie cutter like every campus in America, we want Loyola to stand out and one of the ways Loyola does stand out is the way we are embedded in our local community and the way the community teaches the students and the students bring vitality to the community,” she said.

To participate in the Elevate Devon process, fill out the starter poll here.

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