Glueing places back together, connecting people with place (Part I)

Glueing places back together: Logan Square

For many years I’ve been frustrated by the lack of (or painfully slow) retail development in my Chicago neighborhood of Logan Square (check out the Chicago Reader Logan Square issue for some great background on the community). I live steps away from the once thriving retail corridor of Milwaukee Avenue, and I’ve been pining away for years for a neighborhood bookstore. Why can’t I find some good shopping on Milwaukee Avenue? My dollar store and cell phone store needs have m-o-o-o-ore than been taken care of. Banking needs? Check, check, and triple check. Restaurant needs have been addressed more and more as choices have expanded in recent years. But I have needs beyond phones, finances and French fries!

Milwaukee Ave. North of Logan Square

Milwaukee Ave. North of Logan Square

As a planner, I want to be able to shop local and reinvest my spending dollars in my own community, but there’s a dearth of opportunity to do so. Now some of this–that statement–my perception–has to do with my individual needs and tastes, as needs and tastes differ from one neighbor to the next. Some of this has to do with being repeatedly disappointed with the offerings and not frequenting the corridor to watch for changes. Some of this has to do with the unwelcoming appearance of Milwaukee Avenue.

That last perception is part of why I started this blog. It hit home when I attended the February 2008 International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) Midwest Idea Exchange and Illinois Alliance Program. One of the roundtable leaders talked about viewing your community as a potential retailer might. Duh! There are large parts of Milwaukee Avenue that are dirty, dingy, and dilapidated. Potential retailers must see this as well. So why would they want to locate there?

More importantly, what can I do to change the perception? I don’t own property on Milwaukee Avenue. I don’t own a business on Milwaukee Avenue. But there are small, inexpensive changes that can be made to “glue” this place back together. While my first focus is the stretch of Milwaukee Avenue just north of Logan Square proper, those changes can also be adapted to other places in other communities.

Next: Connecting people with place: Logan Square

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