Let’s Talk: Understanding the Complexity of Gentrification in Rogers Park 

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By: Donna Kang (Junior), Nick Bach (Senior), Dafne Valdez (Junior), Alesandra Pena (Senior)

Rogers Park, an area known for its rich cultural diversity, unique restaurants/businesses, and it’s progressive mindset, has been facing contention surrounding the perceived gentrification of the neighborhood. 

Within recent years, there has been an influx of wealthier individuals and larger businesses moving into the Rogers Park neighborhood. The expansion of Loyola has caused some developmental changes in the community.

Within the last three decades, there were projects to increase student housing in the surrounding neighborhood such as the Sovereign Apartments and the Arcade Residences. Other large businesses that moved in include Raising Canes, Starbucks, and Target. While the increase of newer businesses attracts wealthier patrons, producing more economic growth and potentially raising the value of the neighborhood, the tearing down of old buildings and the creation of new buildings increases rent. This displaces lower-income residents as well as drives out smaller, local businesses. 

Leslie Perkins, a representative from Alderwoman Maria Hadden’s office, spoke on gentrification in Rogers Park.

“Gentrification can come in many forms. From increased housing costs to increased costs for small businesses. One of the things we risk with a more gentrified neighborhood is small, locally-owned businesses not being able to afford increased rent prices and closing their doors.” 

RogersEdge Reporter published an article last year on gentrification. This led to people expressing their different opinions in the comments. The consensus seemed to be that an increase of gentrification would lead to a reduction in local crime with one reader responding, “Sounds good. Less crime!”

Other comments echoed this sentiment of supporting the changes to the neighborhood.

“I live in Rogers Park and I LOVE the direction it is going. It is one of the safest areas in Chicago because of [gentrification]!”

In a Rogers Park Reddit forum, a Chicago Sun Times article was posted surrounding Loyola’s hotel plan to build a Hampton Inn on Sheridan Road back in 2016. One reader responded, “I live near it [Hampton Inn] and want the NIMBY [Not In My Backyard: phenomenon in which residents of a neighbourhood designate a new development as inappropriate or unwanted for their local area] people to shut up already. The closest decent hotel is in Evanston. We could use something closer.” 

The pandemic led to even further uncertainty and obstacles. COVID-19 exacerbated the financial burden on restaurants and homeowners/renters.

In response to the pandemic, Perkins said, “A variety of grants were made available to small businesses at the local and federal level. One that is currently open in Chicago is the Chi Biz Strong grant. We also work with our local chamber of commerce, the Rogers Park Business Alliance, to help connect businesses to resources.” 

Despite some residents viewing gentrification as inevitable, Chicago’s city council desires to maintain the integrity of Rogers Park. Perkins stated, “We want to preserve a diverse neighborhood and make sure that we aren’t displacing residents that have spent generations here. We think one of the most unique qualities about Rogers Park is its diversity. It is one of our strengths, and we hope to see that continue for generations to come.”

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