Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Is Rahm Pimpin Englewood

I guess my age is catching up with me. I can remember the dreary bus ride along 63rd street to Lindblom Technical High School. The only non blighted spot on 63rd street was the 63rd Halsted Street mall. The mall had stores that included Sears, Jewel Foods and a movie theater. From my freshman year to my senior year the mall went from vibrant to blighted, Sears and the theater closed and all was left was small "junky" stores selling cheap substandard merchandise.

 Once the mall hit rock bottom the city under the direction of Mayor Richard Daley decided to tear down the mall and move Kennedy King College on most of the site and Jewel Foods would build a state of art store at the corner of 63rd Halsted. The college was built but the Jewel Food store was never built.  After years of sitting vacant the site was submitted to Walmart but they passed and several other retailers have been asked to look at the site but all have passed.

Now, Whole Foods has announced that they will open a store on this site by 2016. While I applaud the company for seeing potential in the site I only asked why 2.5 years later?  When it was announced that they were coming to Hyde Park, it was not 2.5 years later.

Hmmm, so I had to ask the questions that others don't want to ask.
  • Is the scheduled completion date set conveniently after the 2015 election? 
  • Is the Mayor taking advantage of a lame duck ineffective Alderman Joann Thompson? 
  • Is this a compromise to give the mayor access to the Englewood TIF funds?
The biggest question I have deals with the blow the mayor took several weeks ago when the proposed Norfolk Southern freight yard. Over the last several years, the railroad has been purchasing vacant lots and occupied homes from Englewood residents. The freight yard is scheduled to open 2015. Environmentalist, community organizations such as R.A.G.E have opposed the way the land has and is being acquired and where the freight yard is going to be located.  The mayor supports the freight yard as he sees it part of a larger plan to make the city of Chicago a transportation hub. So my question is was this announcement planned to lessen the opposition to the proposed freight yard that is scheduled to come up for a vote? While I'm aware that Englewood needs a full service grocery store, I question the timing of this proposal. Recently,

I attended the Resident Association of Greater Englewood(R.A.G.E.) general meeting. They had contacted Jewel Foods about opening another grocery store and were informed that Jewel did not have an interest in reopening a full service store in Englewood ,but rather their limited offering store  "Save A Lot". The closest full service stores are either the Food For Less at 69th Ashland or Walmart Express at 47th Ashland. This is woofully inadequate as a community needs a full service grocery store for approximately every 10,000 residents. So we will see what happens this time around.

If the freight yard gets blocked will the corner of 63rd Halsted stay vacant?    


  1. What will happen is the store will be built, but not for the current residents of Englewood. There will be a change in residents over the course of the next 2 years and beyond.

    1. Get real! This is just a mayoral ploy to get some black folk votes, next year, who are dumb enough to buy this woof ticket. Whole Foods would move to Englewood before going to any other South side community with more resident financial stability? So Whole Food abandons their slick marketing out on the street! I know Whole Food takes Link cards,really, but shopping there is not for the faint of money people. Hey even Walmart didn't go there first! So unless there are some white folks moving in (maybe college families from University of Chicago) this is I can sell you black folks the island of Manhattan for a few dollars. No beads accepted! Cuz I am the slickest Jew boy in town.

  2. The big question I have is this: the Mayor said that $10mln in TIF funds are going to the project (which is bigger than just the Whole Foods), but the developer of the Whole Foods says it will cost $3.5mln to build the store.

    So is this Mayor taking TIF funds to build a store for Whole Foods for free? Honestly, it's the only way I can understand the economics of putting in an over-priced grocery store. If Whole Foods gets the building for free (or close to it), it can then take advantage of a bunch of economic development tax credits -- good as cash. The store can lose money on operations, but generate profits through government subsidies.

    If that's the business plan, the next question: is this really the best way to build a sustainable economic community? Is it the most efficient way of providing fresh and healthy food in a food desert?

    Having said that, I hope I am wrong. It would really be pretty amazing if a premium grocer like Whole Foods found a way to be (genuinely) profitable while providing affordable high-quality food in a poverty-stricken neighborhood.



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