THREATENED: Loyola University Plans Demolition of 1234 W. Loyola Ave. for Vacant Lot

1234 W. Loyola Avenue, R. Bernard Kurzon, 1926. Photo credit: Google Maps
1234 W. Loyola Avenue, R. Bernard Kurzon, 1926. Photo credit: Google Maps
Archie’s Cafe, 1228 W. Loyola Avenue, 1226-1234 W. Loyola Avenue, R. Bernard Kurzon, 1926. Photo credit: Archie’s Cafe

“If you stand in front of the flatiron-style building at 1226-1234 W. Loyola—home to 30 apartments and a trio of businesses on the ground floor—you’re surrounded by vacant lots. Across the street from that building is a vast, unpaved expanse used for parking by Loyola University that’s chained off from the neighborhood and labeled with signs threatening arrest for trespassers. The lot has been vacant for more than a dozen years. The plot just to the west of the building is a parking area; there’s another vacant plot across the street.

“This sight is a perfect encapsulation of an ongoing dispute in Roges Park, stemming from Loyola’s recent purchase of 1226-1234 W. Loyola and its plans to demolish the nearly 100-year-old building. Local residents, business owners in the building, and politicians have spoken out against these plans, saying the community was not given the chance to provide input and asking the university to halt the lease terminations of the building’s tenants. (Some of the tenant’s leases expire this summer; the longest lease runs until September 2025.)

“Illinois state senator Mike Simmons, who represents Rogers Park as part of the 7th District, says Loyola has not communicated with his office about the building in any meaningful way. ‘It’s really frustrating,’ he says, noting that the university has been steadily acquiring property in Edgewater and Rogers Park for several years. ‘It’s turned into a scenario where we’re losing a lot of affordable and moderate-income housing. We now are at risk of losing affordable storefronts for our smaller businesses that make up the heart and the flavor of Rogers Park and Edgewater. So it’s really problematic—the displacement that comes with that, the erasure of our cultures on the far north side of Chicago. And Loyola has to come to reckon with this.’

“In January, Michael Loftsgaarden, Loyola’s assistant vice president of capital planning, told the Loyola Phoenix that while there weren’t any current construction plans, the university was planning to tear down the building once the final lease runs out next fall. That lease belongs to Roman Susan.

“So the gallery quickly mobilized, organizing a petition that asked the university ‘to recognize the importance of this place and its inhabitants.’ They shared the petition through their email newsletter and on social media—it has more than 1,400 signatures—and local media soon picked up the story.

“It’s not unfortunate for me because I was going to move out eventually, but it’s unfortunate for everybody else that’s been living there for like ten-plus years. And it’s not fair to [Archie’s] cafe, it’s not fair to the art foundation,” Flores says.

“According to the Abhalter Smiths, at least one-quarter of the tenants have lived in the building for over a decade. Grady Hamilton, a tenant for over 20 years, told the Loyola Phoenix, that “most people don’t want to go, but we have no other choice.” The building was exceedingly affordable for the area; in October 2023, the website Realty & Mortgage advertised studio and one-bedroom units for $460-$825. An April search for one-bedroom apartments in the same zip code with a maximum rent of $1,000 yielded no results; a similar search on yielded one result.

“Ward Miller, executive director at Preservation Chicago, wishes universities across the city would engage more with local residents and try to come up with solutions that benefit everyone. ‘It’s our understanding that Loyola has been purchasing a lot of properties and, in some cases, clearing land. And we are all great supporters of these institutions like Loyola University and also realize the incredible need for them to grow,’ he says. But the university could be more thoughtful in realizing those needs. ‘Why are they taking down these historic buildings that are so much a part of the fabric of the neighborhood?’

“Preservation Chicago aims to protect and revitalize ‘Chicago’s irreplaceable architecture,’ with an emphasis on ‘creative reuse and preservation-sensitive outcomes.’ In general, Miller would like to see developers take a less heavy-handed approach to development. ‘Oftentimes these buildings that are really good quality, built well, can serve a variety of different ideas of revisioning—they’re oftentimes replaced with buildings that just don’t have the same qualities,’ he says. ‘They almost look like they could be built anywhere in the United States. And if we’re really serious about Chicago being a world-class city, we really need to figure out some new tools.’

“To that end, Preservation Chicago is looking into whether 1226-1234 W. Loyola might qualify for landmark status. The process starts with the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, which is part of the Historic Preservation Division of the Department of Planning and Development. The commission first conducts research into the building to make a preliminary recommendation. Then, a report is prepared by the Department of Housing and Economic Development, the building owner weighs in, sometimes a public hearing is held, and, finally, it goes to the City Council for review.

“The whole process can take around a year, which wouldn’t necessarily help the current residents avoid displacement. But officials like Hadden and Simmons both express a desire for the building to be landmarked and thus saved from demolition. ‘My strong wish is for this space to be preserved, that it be landmarked,’ says Simmons, who also has a personal connection to the building. Simmons’s late mother, Ramona Rouse, operated Salon Pastiche out of 1226 W. Loyola for 23 years; the street is now an honorary way named for her. So Simmons is particularly sensitive to the needs of small business owners.” (Cardoza, Chicago Reader, 4/15/24)

Read the full story at Chicago Reader



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