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.