Dear Loyola: Foster Community, Don’t Demolish It

Sports editor Griffin Krueger reacts to the announced demolition of 1226-1234 W. Loyola Ave.

In December, Loyola purchased the building at 1226-1234 W. Loyola Ave. which is home to Archie’s Cafe, Roman Susan Art Gallery, Edge Art and Rogers Park residents. 

To accommodate future campus expansion on West Loyola Avenue, university officials told The Phoenix they intend to demolish the building. This is a plea to those same officials to reconsider this decision and follow through on Loyola’s stated goal of being a conscious neighbor in the Rogers Park and Edgewater community. 

West Loyola Avenue is a direct route to the Loyola Red Line station and is home to many residents. It would be a disservice to inhibit the community of their right to share the area and lock off yet another block behind green fences. 

Loyola is evicting longtime residents from their homes with short notice. The university intends to let the leases expire and not renew them, forcing the current tenants — some of whom have lived in the building for decades — to move. If the university proceeds with their current plans, they should provide these residents with help and resources to find new homes.

At a time where rents have been rising at a rate greater than overall inflation, demolishing dense housing units located near to public transportation is counterintuitive to the issues facing our community. 

This new acquisition is the latest in a long history of real estate purchases for the university in the areas surrounding both the Lake Shore and Water Tower campuses. Including 1226-1234 W. Loyola Ave., the university now owns and operates 10 apartment buildings which contain over 500 market rate homes, The Phoenix previously reported

Loyola is a massive institution with a myriad of resources and a net worth of just under $2 billion — owned land and buildings made up over $1 billion dollars in 2022. Between March 2021 and July 2022, the university brought in $179.6 million in net profit, The Phoenix reported

In past efforts to acknowledge their place as one of the wealthiest and most powerful institutions in the Rogers Park community, Loyola has advertised their plan for community-centered engagement and a stated Community Anchor Mission

Loyola’s Anchor Mission is “a commitment to intentionally apply an institution’s place-based economic power in partnership with community for long term wellbeing and mutual benefit.” 

Further, one of their stated goals in the listed community engagement priorities is to “enhance partnerships with schools, faith communities, government, non-profits, local businesses and other private partners to support the shared goals of our communities.” 

If seen through, the current plan to demolish the building at 1226-1234 W. Loyola Ave. will directly contradict the university’s own stated principles. Residents will be displaced, and local businesses and centers for shared community creativity and conversation will be lost. 

I must admit there is a personal element to this story for me — I have a special place in my heart for Archie’s Cafe and will be incredibly heartbroken to see it go. When I was a baby-faced first-year here at Loyola, the first friends I made I met at Archie’s. 

Beyond being a perfectly quaint venue for live music, comedy and other performances, the staff is very welcoming and the food is always delicious. I am especially partial to the Open Jazz Jam the cafe hosts every Friday night, which has introduced me to wonderfully talented local musicians and also kindled a growing obsession with the genre.

Many times I’ve dropped in after getting off the Red Line to gain a much needed respite from the cold and rain as I faced the long walk back to my apartment. Archie’s provides a forum for students to share their artistic tendencies and creativity — be it music, visual art or boutique clothing.

It would also be a disservice to lose the building’s beautiful architecture, marked by its bright facade and unique flatiron shape. 

I understand Loyola has a need for expansion, but there’s no reason this expansion can’t take into account members of the Rogers Park community. It would be beneficial for the university to incorporate the neighborhood’s unique footprint into the fabric of a growing campus. 

Loyola owns the parcels of land which directly surround the building and has left the land vacant for decades, The Phoenix previously reported. Considering the ongoing challenges with cost of living and rising rents in cities, it’s truly frustrating the university has amassed and sat upon land which lies unused in the heart of the neighborhood.

In spite of challenges in terms of unappealing aesthetics and substandard upkeep brought on by the vacant land in their immediate surroundings, the businesses who call 1226-1234 W. Loyola Ave. home have thrived. But now — when it looks like the university is ready to do something with the land — the residents and businesses will be forced to serve the consequences?

There’s room for the university to fill in these lots with new student housing, while preserving 1226-1234 W. Loyola Ave. and other existing buildings. It would give the campus an added charm and allow the university and its students to become immersed in the community and its culture. 

Loyola often forgets one third of its name is “Chicago” and needs to lean more into it — these circumstances present a unique opportunity for the university to become more intertwined in the city’s fabric. 

To the Loyola administration, I ask that before committing to campus expansion plans, remember the community you’re part of and work towards being a true partner in Rogers Park and Edgewater. 

Remember your own declared values and commitments, and instead of springing to demolition for the sake of the shiny and new, think of how what’s already there can be preserved while tackling the challenges of a growing student body.

Students and community members can sign a petition being run by Archie’s asking the university to coexist with the affected residents.

Share the post