Photo: Gerald Farinas.
Another morning on the waterfront at Berger Park in Chicago’s Edgewater. I love living on the lake.
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Photo: Gerald Farinas.

Another morning on the waterfront at Berger Park in Chicago’s Edgewater. I love living on the lake.

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Photo: Gerald Farinas.
Sat on the lakefront this morning, casting anxieties into the water. 
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Photo: Gerald Farinas.

Sat on the lakefront this morning, casting anxieties into the water. 

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West Sheridan at Winthrop Ave. Photo: Gerald Farinas.
On the 147 Outer Drive Express to the train station.
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West Sheridan at Winthrop Ave. Photo: Gerald Farinas.

On the 147 Outer Drive Express to the train station.

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Alderman Moore endorses zoning, license for new Loyola-owned apartments on Albion

It’s often joked about that the official bird of the City of Chicago is the crane. Look up and you’ll see more and more in the skies over the Far North Side. Construction cranes are being erected in various spots of Rogers Park and Edgewater as Loyola University Chicago continues new phases for its master-planned community—which now seems to have been removed from the LUC.edu website.

Illustration of new building to be constructed by Loyola University Chicago at 1217-39 W. Albion in Rogers Park.

A new development next to the Loyola CTA Red Line Station—where Loyola is constructing a new public plaza—will feature a 29-unit residential apartment building. It will sit adjacent to a new surface parking lot with 59 parking spaces, 29 of which will belong to property renters. Because the lot will have parking spaces for the public, Loyola came before the city for a necessary zoning change. They will require a special use permit to operate such a parking lot.

After a public meeting hosted by Alderman Joe Moore, the 49th Ward Boss has decided to support the zoning change and special use permit.

Google Map location, pinpointed at marker A, of Loyola University Chicago’s new residential apartment building at 1217-39 W. Albion.

Moore said that many he encountered support the project, “Most stated the belief that the proposed development would be an improvement over the current underutilized parking lot.”

The apartment building will not serve as dormitory housing but will be a residential apartment building, like many other buildings in the neighborhood. The only difference is that it would be owned and operated by the Jesuit university.

Moore explained, “Some community residents expressed concern that the development would become a de facto student dormitory, but Loyola assured the residents that it would own and manage the apartments and would limit the number of occupants in each rental unit.”

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The Sovereign negotiating sale to Loyola University Chicago

The Sovereign, an historic, and massive apartment building in its corner of Edgewater Beach, has been placed on the market for sale by its owner, IRMCO Properties and Management Corp. The interested client is the largest landowner in the area, Loyola University Chicago.

The university, an institution of the Jesuits Chicago-Detroit Province, and IRMCO have signed a type of contract that allows Loyola to make its assessments of the building—figuring out renovations, repairs and staffing issues—while it hammers out a plan of purchase. IRMCO in turn, under contract, can’t entertain other offers of sale.

The Sovereign was once a luxury hotel. Built in 1924, it has 283 studios and one-bedroom apartments. Photo by Gerald Farinas.

Loyola’s Aggressive Real Estate Growth

Loyola has been extremely aggressive with real estate purchases and development in recent years. It is currently overseeing various construction projects in Rogers Park and Edgewater. This includes a new phase of a master-planned community along Sheridan Road—which brought the construction of The Morgan, The Flats and a CVS-anchored parking garage—construction of new dormitories, and the reconstruction of the Loyola CTA station to start in May.

One of many business closures from Loyola’s development plans, Karavites Management (owned by a Loyola alumnus) decided to shutter its train station restaurant on March 1. It doesn’t plan to return after construction is finished.

Gentrification—Keep It That Way

The Granville Avenue corridor between the lakefront and Broadway has seen significant changes in recent years with the addition of trendy eateries. Popular among them are Metropolis Coffee Co., m. henrietta, and Pete’s Pizzeria and Bakehouse. Photo by Gerald Farinas.

Reports are that Loyola President Rev. Michael Garanzini, SJ had contemplated a purchase of the property for awhile now. Vice President of Campus and Community Planning Jennifer Clark has shared, “238 apartments under bad management could undo all the work we’ve done to make the neighborhood safe and secure.”

What does that mean? Loyola is saying it is afraid of risking another buyer who would turn the building into low-rent apartments, bringing in unsavory characters. In other words, it’s saying that it needs to purchase the property to maintain the area, format it in accordance with its own vision of the neighborhood, and bring it under university control, so that it does not revert to a time when the general area was in decay—prostitution, drug dealing, gang violence.

What’s To Become of Current Residents?

The fate of current tenants is uncertain. IRMCO says about 60% of its apartments are leased to Loyola students. But many others are young professionals, senior citizens maintaining independent urban lifestyles. Jennifer Clark maintains that for now, there are no plans to turn The Sovereign into a residence hall, office building or classrooms.

The Hotel Sovereign—an Edgewater Historic Gem

The Hotel Sovereign was once a 1920s luxury hotel with a guest list that included King Christian X of Denmark, the future Duke of Windsor, Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson, the Andrews Sisters and even legendary gangster Al Capone. Johnny Weissmuller of Tarzan fame was a lifeguard at the swimming pool now used by the present-day Edgewater Athletic Club.

The Sovereign featured in a postcard from its early hotel days. Courtesy of CRCC historic collection.

The back of a vintage postcard from the time reads, “A hotel of character, with perfectly appointed apartments, suites, and hotel rooms. A luxurious dining room for delicious food and choice liquor. Tile swimming pool and massage salon. Located in the finest part of the beautiful North Side, overlooking Lake Michigan. One block from motor coaches and the elevated.”

The Hotel Sovereign was designed by Walter W. Ahlschlager. Compass Rose noted that American Builder Magazine described the new high-rise as “the richest and most pleasing of the year among Chicago apartment hotels.”

IRMCO Portfolio Put On Sale

IRMCO purchased the building after a period of neighborhood blight. Revitalized, it was one in a family of properties redeveloped by Leonard D. Richman in the 1960s. Others included the Seneca Hotel on the Gold Coast, the Belden-Stratford in Lincoln Park, and the North Shore Hotel in Evanston.

The oldest IRMCO property is the North Shore Retirement Hotel, built in 1919. It is also for sale.

Late last year, IRMCO named HFF to manage the sale of its portfolio of properties:

  • The Belden-Stratford at 2300 Lincoln Park West, 297 units built in 1923
  • Flamingo Apartments at 5500 South Shore Drive, 167 units built in 1926
  • The Seneca at 200 East Chestnut, 264 units built in 1926
  • Sovereign Apartments at 1040 West Granville Avenue, 283 units built in 1924
  • Versailles Apartments at 5254 S. Dorchester Avenue, 96 Units built in 1920
  • North Shore Retirement Hotel at 1611 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, 185 units, built in 1919

MultiFamilyBiz.com says, “Pricing for the portfolio is anticipated to be well in excess of $200 million.”

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Loyola CTA Red Line Station Reboot On Track; McDonald’s Could Get Dumped

Loyola CTA Red Line Station is one of the busiest transportation hubs along the far north segments of the city’s el, servicing the EdgewaterEdgewater Beach and Rogers Park neighborhoods. Last summer, we reported the unveiling of a reboot of the Loyola CTA Red Line Station. A large part of the project includes a donation of Loyola University Chicago property towards the creation of an open plaza in front of updated entrances.

As I reported on July 30, 2011:

Already starting Phase II of its Loyola Station master-planned community, Loyola University has decided it needs a new train station to match. Using its heft to successfully obtain federal funding, paired with a commitment to open its own wallet, Loyola’s CTA Station is about to see reinvention.

A remodeling of the Loyola CTA Station will feature new windows, flooring, plaster, paint, lighting, bird control and water proofing. The entrances to the station would be moved further north and west. The viaduct will see changes first with work set to begin as early as August. A timeline has not yet been set for the other features.

Most interesting to the plan unveiled by Loyola University is the demolition of McDonald’s Express and Harris Bank to create an open plaza along Sheridan Road where people can sit, relax and even dine. The plaza would add $2 million to the entire CTA project and would be contributed by the school.

Rogers Park Facebook patrons questioned whether creating a plaza would increase unwanted loitering or even crime. Concerned residents were reminded that the property belongs to Loyola University and would be secured by its own police force, as they do for the rest of the Lake Shore Campus.

Illustration of an updated Loyola CTA Red Line Station.

SPOKESPERSON SAYS WORK BEGINS IN SUMMER

Today, Loyola’s Associate Vice President of Campus and Community Planning, Jennifer Clark, addressed commuters and residents asking for an update on the project. She reported it is slated to begin this summer.

Inquirers looking for more information were referred to an old report introducing the project. The article, written in 2011, said that the project was to begin as early as August of that year:

Later this year, the Loyola CTA Station will receive some much needed TLC thanks to a $7.5 million grant from U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and additional funds from the CTA. 

In 2005, as part of setting the redevelopment priorities for the Devon-Sheridan Tax Increment Financing District (TIF), the community loudly and consistently proclaimed that the red line stop at Loyola was the top priority for the betterment of North Sheridan Road. Since 2005, Loyola has been lobbying to highlight the problems at the station and generate the interest that led to the $10 million commitment.

$10 million will allow for safe & dry maintenance that includes new windows, flooring, plaster, paint, lighting, bird control and water proofing. At the viaduct the CTA will strip seal the structural joints and repair the columns.

Additionally, Loyola University is working with the CTA to move the entrance to the station further north and west along the embankment. The goal is to create a safer and more inviting pedestrian entrance to the station and to the community. Loyola is negotiating with its long-term tenants, McDonald’s and Harris Bank, in order to demolish the building and develop an open plaza. The plaza will add approximately $2 million to the project that Loyola will contribute.

The entire project is in the CTA’s design phase and work on the viaduct could begin as early as August. The new entrance and plaza timeline is not yet established.

NO LOVE FOR McDONALD’S?

Loyola spokesperson Clark responded to an area-resident, Teddy Semon, asking the school to rethink its relationship with McDonald’s Express, owned by Nicholas Karavites, in favor of alternative fast-food options at the updated station.

McDonald’s has been a long and successful tenant in that location when
no one else would take a chance on the area. The owner is a Loyola
alumnus. We will always be glad to have them as a tenant and a
neighbor.

You will be pleased to know, however, that Loyola is working with
McDonald’s to buy them out of their lease in order to create a CTA plaza
and new station entrance. The McDonald’s building is actually Loyola
property which we are donating to this public improvement for the
betterment of the whole area.

We are on the same page here. I’ve even had talks with Au Bon Pain but
it’s still too soon to tell. Please keep in touch with these kinds if
ideas. It’s how I know we’re on the right track.

Au Bon Pain is not the only business mentioned on a neighborhood wish list for the station’s future. In a back and forth with others interested in seeing a change in consumer options, Clark told a resident that Potbelly Sandwich Works is high on Loyola’s list of possible tenants, if they can convince the business to come to Rogers Park. 

Teddy Semon started an EveryBlock discussion where he argues that he wants Loyola to dump McDonald’s, and take advantage of the development opportunity, “to allow its students and its neighbors to have alternate options. Plus the plaza design will be perfect for a business more suited for patio life. For those that enjoy McDonald’s, they can easily go to the other McDonald’s just south of the CTA station.”

Residents opposed to McDonald’s express a want for diversified food options and healthier choices. They also want small businesses that would elevate the neighborhood’s profile, or promote a more sophisticated look and feel for the area.

KEEP KARAVITES’ McDONALD’S FRANCHISE?

Loyola alumnus Nicholas Karavites, 2010 Chicago Area Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame award winner, owns several McDonald’s franchises in the Chicago-area, including the McDonald’s Express in Rogers Park.

Not everyone sees the closure of the family-owned McDonald’s Express franchise as a positive move. RogersPark.com manager Charlie Didrickson added to an EveryBlock conversation, “I am all for healthier alternatives but why would Loyola kick out a longstanding business that seems to do well there? What about the people who actually like McDonalds?”

Didrickson added, “You don’t just get rid of a perfectly good, legal business because a small contingency wants something different. What if you were the owner and was told we no longer value your business, your longstanding business? I am not picking a fight but this stuff screams elitism and class BS. It’s like screaming that you want a liquor store gone but when the wine boutique opens everyone is all gaga over it. Lobby for alternatives in other adjacent locations but don’t do it at the expense of a perfectly good business.”

While some mention the close proximity of a full service McDonald’s near Broadway at Granville, the two have different customer demographics and cater to specific consumer profiles unique to their immediate areas. Karavites’ McDonald’s Express, and its neighbor Dunkin’ Donuts, have built their success on Loop-bound commuters who want the convenience of cheap coffee, pastries and sandwiches before hopping on their trains.

McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts also serve many budget-conscious Loyola students who might consider other fast food alternatives as comparatively more expensive.

College student Miguel said, “What if us college students find that McDonald’s useful? That McDonald’s is right by the train. It’s a fast and affordable option to get some sort of food in us before classes. There are plenty of options around for those who want healthy eating. We can make healthy choices ourselves and don’t need members of the community parenting us, making sure we eat our veggies.”

EMPTY STOREFRONTS NEED TENANTS

McCaffery Interests, which leases property owned by Loyola, continues to look for tenants for empty storefronts near the CTA. Just steps away from the Red Line, The Morgan at Loyola Station has vacant first-floor spaces that have been sitting empty since the opening of the Loyola-owned apartment building.

Recent additions to the The Morgan include frozen yogurt shop Red MangoFive Guys Burgers and Fries and Tricoci University of Beauty Culture, among others. Druggist CVS anchors the first floor of The Morgan’s parking garage.

Waiting in the portico of my building for my ride to work. So tempted to walk across the street to Metropolis for a fresh baked chocolate croissant!

Waiting in the portico of my building for my ride to work. So tempted to walk across the street to Metropolis for a fresh baked chocolate croissant!