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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Onward, An Upscale Rogers Park Restaurant, Hit With Anti-Gentrification Graffiti

Taggers used paint mixed with acid to write "I [heart] gentrifiers" on the window of Onward, 6580 N. Sheridan Road.

Onward was hit with anti-gentrification graffiti in July.
Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
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ROGERS PARK — An upscale restaurant near Loyola University in Rogers Park was targeted with anti-gentrification graffiti.

Onward, 6580 N. Sheridan Road, was tagged with the phrase “I [heart] gentrifiers” on the restaurant’s window. It happened in mid-July, and the graffiti is still visible because taggers used paint mixed with acid to permanently etch the writing into the window, said Onward owner Michael Olszewski.

Olszewski, a real estate investor and restaurateur, said it was unfortunate his business got hit with the graffiti and gentrification is not in play at Onward.

“Everyone has a right to say what they want to say. Vandalizing property is not the proper way to express how you feel,” he said. “I don’t see any gentrification going on.”

Onward opened in late 2018, offering upscale versions of American comfort food. The restaurant inhabits a building at Sheridan Road and Albion Avenue that was redeveloped in 2016 to make way for a Hampton Inn, according to the Loyola Phoenix newspaper. Onward has been closed since the coronavirus pandemic hit Chicago.

Credit: Credit: Madison Olszewski
The interior of Onward was decorated for a Florida Keys pop-up earlier this year.

Loyola owns the property where the restaurant and hotel are located. It’s near Loyola Station, the area near the Loyola Red Line stop and Sheridan Road that the university has redeveloped into higher-density residential and commercial areas in recent years.

Despite the relatively recent development activity, the Sheridan Road corridor near Loyola has for years acted as commercial space to serve the university, said Olszewski, a Loyola alumnus. During his time on campus, the Onward location housed a book store, he said.

“It’s been a commercial area for over 40 years,” Olszewski said.

Olszewski said he was approached by his alma mater to open a restaurant at the base of the Hampton Inn development.

The real estate investor was a partner in the Michelin-starred restaurant Grace, which closed suddenly in 2017. Olszewski also owns the celebrated West Loop hot spot Yugen.

Olszewski’s other restaurant ventures have not been accused of gentrification, though they are in the West Loop dining district and not in a neighborhood setting like Rogers Park, he said.

Onward is not the first upscale Chicago resident to be accused of gentrification. The issue has become hotly debated in Pilsen after a number of trendy restaurants opened on 18th Street. Earlier this year, Albany Park cafe owners were the target of anti-gentrification fliers in the neighborhood.

Olszewski described Onward as fine dining that is “accessible to everyone.” Entrees cost $18-$28, according to its menu.

The restaurant is a destination for people visiting Rogers Park and expands the local dining scene for neighbors and visitors alike, Olszewski said.

“We’re providing jobs to the community and a place where people can come out and socialize with friends and family,” he said.

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