Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bronzeville, a Neighborhood Whose Promise Has Been Stalled

Chicago News Cooperative:
Margo Strotter considered herself proof that the revival of Bronzeville was under way. She opened a sandwich and smoothie bar at 45th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue in early 2006 and waited for other businesses, inspired by a booming real estate market, to follow her lead.

Four years later, she and Nicole Jones, owner of the designer shoe store next door, are still waiting. No new stores have opened among the empty lots on their street corner since 2008, when development was stalled by the credit crisis and the city’s failed Olympics bid.

Ms. Strotter and Ms. Jones — along with the owners of a jewelry boutique, a coffee house and a menswear store — are among the commercial pioneers who tried to cash in on the buzz surrounding the South Side neighborhood that was once blighted by high-rise housing projects. Now their ventures are a cautionary tale: They are struggling to stay open and instill a sense of community on a street that is quiet during the day and has little sign of night life.

Bronzeville is one of many West Side and South Side areas that lured developers eager to take risks at the height of the national real estate boom. Revitalization of the South Loop was well under way by 2004 and attracted new restaurants, condominiums, coffee shops and a Target store. Speculators began looking at the depressed land prices in neighborhoods from North Lawndale east to South Shore and north to Edgewater.

“The boom petered out before everybody could make realistic investments,” said Garth Taylor, a senior research fellow at the Metropolitan Chicago Information Center. “The risks became unreasonable.”

Chicago developers, Mr. Taylor said, “would rather force another 50,000 square feet of unwanted retail in the middle of Lincoln Park.”
Bronzeville may not be ready for that "Renaissance" many entrepreneurs expected up until the "Great Recession". I know one place that is ready for them to drop by.

Ms. Strotter's establishment was featured in a YoChicago video back in 2007. You can watch it by clicking this link!

Would I be wrong if I said Chatham is ready for those businesses that are struggling up there in Bronzeville to come on down and set up shop?

I will encourage you to read this whole article!

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