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

Connecting people with place: Logan Square

Previously, in Glueing places back together (Part I), I wrote about my frustration with the lack of retail development in my Chicago neighborhood of Logan Square. The unwelcoming appearance of the prominent Milwaukee Avenue retail corridor north of Logan Square proper must discourage potential retailers from locating there.

Even if I can be the impetus behind small changes that alter the perception retailers may have of Milwaukee Avenue, there’s a Catch 22. What comes first: the people or the stores? In typical greenfield development, rooftops precede retail development. Logan Square, however, is a well-established dense urban community annexed to the City of Chicago in the late 19th century. The people are already here in the neighborhood, but not on the streets.

While Logan Square’s average household income is lower than that of neighborhoods to the east like Lincoln Park, it surprisingly (to me) exceeds that of the West Town community to the south, home of the Wicker Park neighborhood and its lively commercial district of stores and restaurants and bars. The Chicago Department of Planning and Development’s Retail Chicago* program calculates that Logan Square residents spend $192 million (2006? data) per year outside our community. How many retailers would $192 million support inside the community?

Retailers don’t often subscribe to the “Field of Dreams” approach: if you build it, they will come. So how do you bring people to Milwaukee Avenue when the shops aren’t enticing them? or when they’ve given up on the corridor and don’t stay tuned for changes?

Addressing those questions is the other part of why I started this blog.

While I don’t own property on Milwaukee Avenue, and I don’t own a business on Milwaukee Avenue, there are things that can be done to attract more people to the retail corridor, to connect people to this place. Similar things can be done to attract people to other places in other communities.

Retail Chicago touts “one-stop shopping” for retail development. I encourage potential retailers to call for more information about Logan Square. Go ahead:  call them. Today.

2 Responses to Glueing places back together, connecting people with place (Part II)

  1. refe says:

    Glad to see someone giving a darn! I have been having similar thoughts about my own community in Skokie. I’ll be staying tuned to hear your ideas on what can be done about this type of situation.

    Refe: I too will look forward to hearing from you how ideas translate to different places. ~ Lynn

  2. refe says:

    Would it also make sense to proactively seek out retailers and “sell” them on the location? Why wait for them to stumble upon the area? In almost every industry there is a strong sales component. Why not apply the same principle to urban development?

    Refe: Yes it makes perfect sense and it is done in most communities to a lesser or greater extent. There is some of that going on here through the Chamber and the EDC. I would hope — though I’m not entirely confident — that most property owners are doing the same. Part of the problem, though, is what — or the perception of what — retailers are “buying.” That’s why hygiene, for example, is so important (see Milwaukee Avenue hygiene). It’s not likely that you’d buy a dirty shirt when you can get a clean one or a banged up car when you can get one in good condition for the same price. ~ Lynn

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