Monday, November 17, 2014

Washington Post: Why Whole Foods is moving into one of the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago

Rendering of Whole Foods Market Englewood - DL3 Realty / Ethos Workshop

It seems there are those who are continuing to ask this question regarding the future Whole Foods Market Englewood - why Englewood? Even the Washington Post asks the question in a recent article. I like how they started with a history of the future location at 63rd/Halsted:
The center of Englewood has been vacant for so long that many people in the neighborhood can’t quite recall when it became that way. Thirty years ago? Forty? It was after blockbusting began on the South Side, after white flight was well underway, after the big Sears Roebuck, with the Hillman’s Pure Foods in the basement, closed in the 1970s.

Sometime around then, the small businesses at 63rd and Halsted closed, too, and the buildings that housed them were razed. And so one of the busiest shopping corridors in Chicago was reduced to a desolate stretch of city: 13 acres of crabgrass and concrete with aging streetlights.

Glen Fulton opens a window on the fourth floor of the bank building on 63rd to look out at all this blank space. “What I experienced as a child,” he says, “I want to experience again.” He imagines a shopping hub that would bring back jobs and retail dollars and basic goods that are now hard to find here. Maybe a Corner Bakery, a Gap, a Famous Dave’s barbecue chain. And in the middle of it, an anchor that would serve the function Sears once did: an 18,000-square-foot Whole Foods.
And then back to the future and that ceremonial groundbreaking from the past summer:
When the city held a ceremonial groundbreaking a few months ago, Walter Robb, Whole Foods’ co-chief executive, showed up in Englewood and vowed that it would be “one of the most meaningful things we’ve done as a company.”

This store, though, is no act of philanthropy. Nor is it a bet, by Whole Foods, on neighborhood change. The arrival of its gleaming stores in a neighborhood often signals the influx of wealthier residents. But that is not likely to happen in Englewood, at least not any time soon. Whole Foods is planning to sell olive oil and snap peas to the people who live here now. It is also planning, in the process, to make money.

That proposition entails unusually high stakes for a supermarket. Whole Foods is gambling that it can tailor its high-priced brand to a low-income market. It’s gambling that it can create customers out of people who out of necessity have long shopped at corner stores and Save-A-Lot. It’s gambling that it may even change what some of them eat.

Residents like Fulton, who grew up in Englewood and now heads its community development corporation, are hoping that more food options will mean healthier residents. And they’re hoping that Whole Foods will attract other retailers in a way that a Giant or a Jewel might not, spurring a business revival here.
Furthermore 63rd/Halsted is still a strategic location:
When Whole Foods selected the site, with the city’s help, it chose an unlikely neighborhood but a strategic location. It’s across the street from a community college culinary school, which opened here in 2007. There’s an elevated train stop at the corner, too, and a straight shot down 63rd onto the expressway that could bring other South Side shoppers to the store. The lot, where the city is spending $10 million to prepare all 13 acres for development, is large enough for several retailers and maybe some apartments or a park.
Read the whole thing. And of course feel free to let us know what you think. There's a lot to consider in this article.

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