Alderwoman Maria Hadden Shows Support for West Loyola Avenue Tenants

Alderwoman of the 49th Ward Maria Hadden is supporting the residential and commercial tenants of 1226-1234 W. Loyola Ave. following Loyola’s purchase of the property Dec. 19 by assessing new avenues to preserve the building.

Alderwoman of the 49th Ward Maria Hadden is supporting the residential and commercial tenants of 1226-1234 W. Loyola Ave. following Loyola’s purchase of the property Dec. 19 by assessing new avenues to preserve the building.

The purchase spurred controversy amongst the community due to Loyola’s intention to vacate and demolish the building, The Phoenix previously reported. Hadden first announced her support in her 49th Ward newsletter Feb. 10. 

The property at 1226-1234 W. Loyola Ave. is the home to many longtime residents holding 35 apartments and three small businesses — Archie’s Cafe, the Roman Susan Art Gallery and Edge Art Gallery, The Phoenix previously reported.

Hadden’s newsletter cited Loyola’s Anchor Mission — a commitment to the local community — and wrote she believed Loyola had more suitable options for development which would better serve the community. She said demolishing the building wouldn’t just upset tenants but also the broader community.

“One of the special things about the 49th Ward is how many small, independently owned businesses we have,” Hadden said. “It’s a unique quality and something that year over year constituents of the 49th Ward say is very important to them and as their representative it’s a very easy choice to make.”  

The 49th Ward is currently exploring options to preserve the building through landmarking, according to Hadden. Ongoing research is being conducted by Hadden’s office to assess if the building would meet the criteria for historic preservation. 

If Loyola chooses to go through with their plans to demolish the building, Hadden said it’s her utmost priority to relocate the small businesses and receive possible compensation for the tenants.

Owner of Archie’s Cafe Roberta Schmatz said Archie’s has received support from Hadden and the community through circulation and signing of their petition. She said the encouragement is appreciated and pivotal in showing Loyola the influence Archie’s has in Rogers Park. 

Schmatz said Archie’s is more than just a cafe, as it also offers a space where patrons feel safe to showcase their talents and form relationships. She said it differs from a large corporation in the way it provides a sense of community. 

“It’s been great to be a part of this neighborhood,” Schmatz said. “When I was opening I didn’t know what to expect, and it turned out better than I could’ve ever imagined.” 

Nathan Abhalter-Smith, who co-owns the nonprofit Roman Susan Art Gallery along with his partner Kristin, said he was initially optimistic upon hearing of Loyola’s new ownership of the building with the hope there would be more room for interaction and resources with the university.

“I really think there is a potential for the agency and power of the university to both improve life for the residents and create new and interesting resources for students,” Abhalter-Smith said. “I think they can support each other.” 

Abhalter-Smith said the support from Hadden was appreciated and expected considering the 49th Ward’s helpful nature in the past. He said he’s not well-versed in commercial law but the 49th Ward has been supportive on multiple occasions in providing the gallery with resources during pressing circumstances. 

Roman Susan Art Gallery currently holds the farthest-extending lease in the building, expiring in September 2025 and Abhatlter-Smith said they’re using their position to advocate for other tenants. He said in particular it was Hadden’s support for maintaining housing as long as possible which spoke to him. 

“It feels good that they’re pursuing all avenues,” Abhalter-Smith said. “Whether or not we’re here, if tenants were here longer, that would be thrilling to us.” 

In response to Loyola’s purchase of 1226-1234 W. Loyola Ave., Abhalter-Smith created a letter to the university condemning them for the lack of consideration for the tenants. He said Hadden’s newsletter has been helpful in gathering support from the longstanding Rogers Park community to circulate their letter and efforts to preserve the building. 

When balancing commitments to different parts of the community, Hadden said it’s her job to listen, consider all the options and provide support where it’s needed. She said it’s the tenants of 1226-1234 W. Loyola Ave. who required her support. 

“Loyola made a decision and they did it all on their own without actually taking the community into consideration,” Hadden said. “That’s not a fair process if you’re looking to be a good neighbor.” 

Loyola spokesperson Matt McDermott wrote in an email to The Phoenix the university is in the process of reaching out to residential tenants to discuss the upcoming transition and see how they can aid in keeping tenants in Rogers Park. 

McDermott wrote the purchase of 1226-1234 W. Loyola Ave. is a part of the university’s master plan for the Lake Shore Campus, but there are currently no plans for construction. 

Institutions like Loyola work on a much longer timeline, according to Hadden. While she said she believes the university’s intentions are honest, the number of vacant properties owned by Loyola speaks volumes to the timeliness of their construction plans. 

“Loyola is also our neighbor,” Hadden said. “This is not businesses versus Loyola as much as it is, ‘How are we in our community and in our neighborhood making sure we are hearing each other’s needs, exploring all of our options and working together.’” 

Featured image by Natalie Bartel / The Phoenix

Laila Ali

Laila Ali