Saturday, July 19, 2014

Remember the Whole Foods Market groundbreaking from earlier this month?

If you missed the groundbreaking earlier this month for the Whole Foods Market coming to 63rd/Halsted, guess who was there to record the proceedings - our old friend artistmac. He recorded these festivities in two parts and posted here for your enjoyment. Here's a description written by artistmac for those two-part videos:
On July 1, 2014 at 10 in the morning, ground was broken on the northwest corner of 63rd and Halsted for Englewood Plaza, which will be anchored by the south side of Chicago's first Whole Foods grocery store.

As late as the 1950's, the shopping district centered around 63rd and Halsted (and extending for several blocks in all directions) was the second largest, in terms of dollar sales, after the Loop. Sears (with a Hillman's grocery store in the basement, Walgreens', Kresge's (a Woolworth's style five and dime),Wieboldts, L.Fish Furniture, Jewel Food Store, the Englewood and Southtown Theaters -- they were all there, within a few blocks of each other. What caused its decline should be a case study in any urban planning class.

At any rate, by the 1980's, Englewood was anthrax for retailers and housing developers. Former Mayor Daley's fast track demolition program only hastened the decline; from the air, on Google Maps, Englewood's residential neighborhoods are an almost unbroken stretch of green, denoting vacant lots where houses once stood.

Englewood's population has dropped by two-thirds since 1960. It's population in the last census, 30,000, is half that of Lincoln Park, the location of Chicago's first Whole Foods, and its median household income, at less than $20,000, is a quarter of Lincoln Park's. But I'm sure Whole Foods has run the numbers.

What I'm afraid of is that this is the city's way of telling Englewood's current residents that their days in that neighborhood are numbered, and that the bulk of future residential development in Englewood will be for those who CAN afford to pay $4.50 and up for a gallon of milk.

It's happened before. Lincoln Park's working-class Puerto Rican residents were gradually kicked out in favor of the upper-middle class and wealthy residents who live there now.
Ah the "dreaded G word" has come back to the surface. Many of the people including Mayor Emanuel who were seen in these videos talked a good game about building this store with the community. Ald. Thompson certainly spoke of Englewood's history and she's right young people now could say I remember when just as her generation did. In addition we certainly heard about the difficulty of finding fresh produce in the community.


1 comment:

  1. It certainly is possible that the long- to medium-term consequence will be the gentrification of Englewood and displacement of its current residents.

    But I'm also concerned about the short term consequence. From what little information I could glean, the city (through the TIF district) is heavily subsidizing the cost of construction, which is one of the biggest expenses for a supermarket. Add to that the various tax credits and incentives Whole Foods will receive for building in this neighborhood and I wonder if the value of the new store is not as a store that serves the community, but rather as a store that basically exists to generate losses and tax credits that are used to reduce the taxes required to be paid by other Whole Foods stores.

    One has to wonder about the commitment to serve the community that already exists of a store that is essentially in business to generate tax credits.

    Maybe I am wrong -- Whole Foods certainly has not revealed its business plan in any detail. But it's a question that I would like to see answered before I am comfortable with the idea that the answer to a food desert is an upscale, overpriced supermarket.


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