By: Kamdyn Rhodes (Loyola Sophomore)
Rogers Park is credited as the most diverse neighborhood in Chicago with 80 countries represented by its residents. In recent years, the area has faced numerous challenges with gentrification.
Historically, Rogers Park has demonstrated diversity within cultures, languages, and religions by having no racial majority. However, Loyola University Chicago has played a major role in the gentrification of the area causing worry to local residents.
Gentrification is the process of altering the demographic composition of neighborhoods. This happens when rent based residential areas are redesigned to house typically white high-income residents, displacing the typically minority-based lower-income residents. It also affects the local business by increasing the amount of commercial chain business causing the local business to close.
Pro-gentrifiers advocate for rapid economic investment, increased socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic integration while anti- gentrifiers caution the forced displacement through increasing property prices, stripping of the neighborhood’s culture, and ruining community ties.
The effects of gentrification can be devastating to residents. There can be a loss of sense of culture and community, closure of historical business, and the removal of local art and murals.
With the growing popularity of Loyola, the expansion of the university has caused drastic changes to the community. The addition of Target, Taco Bell, Raising Cains, and the Hilton Hotel on Loyola’s property have led to a community outcry against the increasing developmental changes.
Replacing local grocery stores with Target and Whole Foods increases the price of goods and services to where locals cannot afford. This causing local residents to move away into lower socioeconomic areas inducing stress and strain.
Local residents complain about the university’s changes making the neighborhood into a college town, stripping it of its cultural significance. One public display of grievance is the defacing of Onward, a fine dining restaurant on Sheridan. Participants mixed paint with acid and wrote “I [heart] gentrifiers” causing the restaurant to replace the entire window.
Rogers Park is not the only Chicago neighborhood facing these changes. Gentrification has also plagued Logan Square and Pilsen. Pilsen has been fighting against a rent increase of 35% since 2016, displacing its historically Mexican residents. While Logan Square has lost over 20,000 of its Latinx residents due to increasing property prices.
While gentrification is somewhat inevitable, it is important to remain respectful of locals and the culture they provide. As college students that contribute to the gentrification of Rogers Park, it is imperative that we actively support and stand up for the local business that makes this neighborhood special. For guidance on how to help, you can look into Pilsen Alliance and ChiResists which are community-based organizations that fight for social equality for working-class communities in Chicago.