Saturday, March 8, 2008

George Rumsey: Closet NIMBY

posted by Peter Rossi

George Rumsey and his Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference (known here as HP-KFC) pride themselves on their objectivity and fair-mindedness. They will tell anyone who will listen that they simply want to promote debate about the issues. At least that is the standard party line.

That was all well and good when they could simply roll out of bed and monopolize the pages of the Herald. But now that there are other voices out there, control of the community discussion is slipping out of their grasp.

The future of Harper Court has brought Mr. Rumsey out of the closet. Rumsey has been quoted extensively in the Herald as asserting the rights of the HP-KFC to drive the discussion over future development of HC. There is a clear deep suspicion that Alderman Preckwinkle will snatch the limelight away from the HP-KFC and its "development and preservation" committee.

You are being unfair. Erecting a silly strawman. Read on!

Mr. Rumsey's public self shows up in comments on this blog. We were called in by the Alderman, he says. The "visioning" done by our Valois-based handful of NIMBYs is just a point of departure.

Rumsey goes further to claim -- "the real objective is to make progress on Harper Court redevelopment."

Not so fast, Mr. Rumsey has his own views about development. Below, I reproduce an email from Mr. Rumsey which gives our readers a glimpse into his true NIMBY soul.

Mr. Rumsey thinks there is a movement afoot to promote development at "all costs" and "local business be damned." What he means is that there are folks who really want to see change in Hyde Park and wouldn't mind a Panera, a GAP, or even an Old Navy. These stores are well-run, well-financed and exist to serve the needs of consumers. This does not preclude local businesses and, in fact, might actually help them by bringing in traffic.

Take a walk through Wicker Park some day if you want to see a beautiful mix of local boutiques, national retailers, and (horror of horrors) fast food. Witness the experience of Toys Et Cetera when they moved out of dying HC for the greater foot traffic at Hyde Park Shopping Center.

You mean, you're not in favor of 'supporting local businesses'? Shame on you! Go now, fill-out the survey. The Big Boxes are Coming!

Mr. Rumsey's email:

Subject: Harper Court Survey

Please do the following:
1. Go to this link: www.hydepark.org/survey
2. Take the survey.
3. Send this link to ANY and EVERY one who might have an opinion about Harper Court.

I was bemused by Bob Borja's "comment" about my statement in last week's Herald. I said that because I think there is a movement afoot in Hyde Park to get development at any cost, and local businesses be damned. I wanted to be controversial and make people wake up.

Secondly, he was absolutely right in that anyone concerned about Harper Court should be attending our meeting. Why hasn't anyone from there be at any of our meetings? Harper Court Arts Council (Lesley Morgan and Mary Anton) have been representing the Arts Council. Who's been representing the businesses? Certainly not the TIF. So get with it, folks. Tell Borja I said so.

Next meeting 2/26 (Tuesday) with the city about the RFP. Then on 3/3 about developemnt. Then 3/10 with the TIF. Be there (or be out in the cold).But first take the survey and tell your friends, colleagues, kids, spouses, and any one else to take it (and don't skip the questions about supporting current businesses or continuing the HC mission, which had to fight like hell to keep the alderman's office from deleting).
g

George W. Rumsey

43 comments:

Peter Rossi said...

I note also that Mr. Rumsey is taking a trick from his Point Saver brethren: Get your KIDS to take the survey! The Point Savers were prone to having kids sign their silly petitions (you want limestone, don't you?) to pad the stats.

George said...

A couple of clarifying Points (no pun intended). That was an email to friends of mine at Artisans 21, trying to get them involved.

Secondly, I should make it clear the Alderman never said anything about what to include in the survey. There were folks on the committee who wanted to NOT mention the HC Arts Council or current businesses at all, but since that has been one of the concerns of HPKCC during the last couple of years, we included it to see what the public thinks. Per my prediction to Bob Borja, it's not doing too well in the survey, as I'll tell everyone at the TIF on Monday night. I ain't cooking the books, Peter!

I also think you're showing your age when you push "The Gap" as an option. I recently had a nice conversation with 8 young students from NEIU's urban studies program in Hyde Park for a quarter. I asked how many of them would shop at a Gap. They laughed at the thought. Maybe B-School students, but not the rest of HP!

Now, Old Navy...? Finding the right mix of businesses will be one key, in my opinion, to making HC redevelopment a success.

Keep encouraging EVERYONE to take the survey. We're up to 1,350 responses, and it will run until March 20.
george

Peter Rossi said...

George-

here at the HPP, we are not like the folks in your circles. We make fun of the positions and ideas put forth by NIMBYs like yourself not the people.

get with the plan. If you want to make fun of what I said, fine, but not my age. PLEASE, I'm so vain!

Peter Rossi said...

George-

by what authority have you decided that you know what the "right mix of businesses is?"

Isn't there ever a point of contact with economic reality? How can members of the HP-KFC have any knowledge of what is economically feasible? Are you experts in commercial real estate?

You are just gumming up the works. What stores are in any new development depends on the marketplace not your personal preferences.

It depends on the preferences of Hyde Park consumers. Is there some reason to doubt that a developer would not play attention to this and risk failure?

EdJ said...

Now, now boys. Don't make me stop this car.

I'm waiting to see the results of the survey. Don't give out too much on the findings so far, George. Hearing about results during the process can sometimes skew the outcome because too many people hear about it.

It's good to see George joining in the spirit of the blog with his tweaking Peter about The Gap. One thing about this neighborhood is that it can be too humorless - as seen at public meetings or on comments on other blogs (sheesh, lighten up Francis).

I think we should have a piece from Notes from the Undergrad about where the kids like to shop today. Reading the two of you go at that about what's hip is like watching Ali and Frasier fighting in the ring today at their current ages and skill level.

And you can tell how hip I am at almost 42 because I got excited at buying 10 white crew neck t-shirts at Old Navy on Friday downtown. Of course, I would have preferred to have just walked down 53rd Steet to do that, but....

To answer the question about why more people don't come to the meetings, both my wife and I work full time, have two small kids and have a lot on our plates. It's tough to make time for everything. The survey is a good tool to get to us and our opinions. You'll probably note that those of us here less than 10 years want movement in Hyde Park and not the usual obstructionism to anything new. We're excited at the prospect of change (see the Treasure Island anda two-way 57th Street) and drained by foot dragging of people who want change only if it takes the neighborhood back to the 1980s, 1960s, or 30s. A lot of us think there's no point to going to these meetings when old timers are just going to try to shout us down. Look at the Co-op. Even after it was dead financailly and at the ballot and it was clear there was no chance of resurrection, people were shouting down those who were facing reality and wanted something new.

I think that while the survey is important, developers are going to have a feel for what's going to be successful.

Sorry. Got too serious there. Two guys walk into a bar....

chicago pop said...

George's comments on the preference for GAP clearly seem to have more to do with class than age. It's no secret that Old Navy is downmarket, GAP is mid-market, and Banana is more high market. I think GAP's hesitation (both the parent company and that chain of that name) to locate here would have less to do with consumer age and spending habits, than with the size of the market, once again. So far as I've been told, their reps have said as much when looking at possible neighborhood locations.

So yeah, while it's true that George and Peter are both old farts, that's not quite relevant to the issue of retail.

Here's a link to a Maroon story on a campus panel held on neighborhood development this past Friday.

What is interesting about the conversation reported in the article, is the degree of voluntarism and control it assumes over the "master plan for retail", which gets back to Peter's point that the market will ultimately have a lot of say in this. That needs to be recognized, not thwarted.

This particular exchange, for example, makes not sense to me:

However, one University graduate student said that the Gap is a nationwide chain that would not contribute to the Hyde Park’s community-oriented environment.

George Rumsey, president of the Hyde Park–Kenwood Community Conference, echoed the student’s concerns.

“We try to make it so chichi and so upscale and neat, it loses all character,” he said.


First of all, that assumes you have enough control to determine the outcome, which is questionable; secondly, it assumes that there is a fundamental contradiction between the way this neighborhood is organized, and modern capitalism. If so, then we are all @#$#$%^ screwed. It's nonsense. There's a GAP in Lakeview, Chicago's gay neighborhood. There are several Starbucks, and a Borders, and all sorts of other corporate stuff. Has that lessened it's particular sense of "community" or distinctive character? Nothing would indicate that this is so. Any chains that come into HP will serve great, unmet needs. But they will not arrive on a blank slate, and will blend into the (underserved) landscape. The fears of homogenization are alarmist reactions conditioned by 60s ideology.

The remainder of the discussion was about affordability. That's an issue. But so far, the only option that "community leaders" have brought to this quandry has been to thwart development for fear of too much success. The result is the widespread discontent that forms the basis of the "movement" for change that Mr. Rumsey has rightly noticed.

chicago pop said...

People who make the argument about HP losing its "community oriented character", whatever that means, need to explain one problem: why the "community oriented" institutions of the "community oriented" neighborhood are failing to deliver the goods that the "community" clearly wants.

Maybe it's because one (small) sub-community mistakes itself for a larger absolute "community".

I think this word should be banished from the English language; it's gotten so fuzzy as to mean nothing. (i.e., it's "all about building community"...)

George said...

Chicago Pop notes, "the goods that the "community" clearly wants." That would be three more branch banks and two more cell phone stores, I think, based on recent trends. (JUST joking.)

Actually, what I would like from Chicago Pop is another bit of clarification. You did such a nice job of elucidating The Gap versus Old Navy. Maybe you can help me out with this one:

Last week, I suggested to a client that I would like to see a Panera around here. She immediately told me "no," that we needed a Corner Bakery. Panera? Or Corner Bakery? And does either have good bagels?
g

Zig & Lou said...

You are wise Chicago Pop.

Who gets to decide who the HP 'community' is, and where is the membership list?

As the good Marx said, "I’d never join a club that would have me as a member…”

Peter Rossi said...

Here's another "comment" left by Mr. Rumsey on another blog.

"This is a community-funded arts and small business enclave left over from the 1960s, which the alderman et al. have decided to put up for “development.”"

as part of Mr. Rumsey's efforts to get the "right-minded" people to take his survey.

The main point is that it should not be left up to me, Mr. Rumsey, the Alderman, or the "development" mafia subcommittee to decide what stores. This is what the market is for -- if you can't make a go of it, you're gone.

Again, the main point is the HP is dead as far as development is concerned. The rest of the city is booming. Folks like Mr. Rumsey that make is clear that they want their "say" scare even reasonable developers away.

chicago pop said...

George asks about Panera vs. Corner Bakery...

Well, can't speak to that one, but I can say I've heard a few folks wish for Panera, if only because it's a good, low-key place to go have dinner with kids and not have to worry too much about stuff. Something along those lines I think would actually be pretty popular among families...a way to get out of the house without having to really "go out"...

chicago pop said...

Peter writes: The rest of the city is booming.

Well, a lot of it, but a lot of it isn't, too, and not just Hyde Park. A lot of the problems Hyde Park faces are problems the South Side faces as a whole, and there's a lot of history to that issue. Trying to get a GAP or other major retailer to Hyde Park pales in comparison to the difficulty of trying to get a similar store into many surrounding South Side neighborhoods; the same thing for new construction.

But Hyde Park does have an advantage in these respects, which is why I've always thought that by building up a stronger economic base in this neighborhood, we'd have a better chance of turning things around in neighboring ones.

Peter Rossi said...

who are we to have debates about GAP vs X or Corner Bakery vs. Panera?

I did not mean to suggest that I want those particular stores.

I just gave them as examples of national chains.

These comments about the merits of a particular store seem to be what some call an "academic" ie irrelevant discussion.

Does anyone seriously think that they can snap their fingers and retailer X will come a running?

EdJ said...

I don't really care if it's Corner Bakery or Panera Grill or Gap or Old Navy. If we're not careful, we won't get anything.

Do I care about "community-based businesses". Sure, but I don't think they can thrive without some national chains to help draw people. We can't be too cute about the issue or else it sends a signal that it's too hard to open a business in the neighborhood. That's why we only have cell phone and mattress stores and small bank branches.

Who in their right minds wants to put their business plan through Hyde Park community input meetings?

Elizabeth Fama said...

George is a good sport for writing in. And I'm glad he reads the blog.

Zig & Lou said...

Opening and operating a retail business is challenging (and much different than talking about it or reading about it). If being in HP right now was a good idea for a national chain they would be here now. They would not need an invitation. Hyde Park has some national chains currently, Borders is a nice example. Does HP actually support Borders? Does the Hyde Park Borders reflect the needs of the 'community'? Why does the HP Borders have so few books? There are so many facets to every consideration of each retail concept and business the mind reels (mine does daily). Local business can 'thrive' without national chains, the 'community' of businesses in HP would offer a stronger dynamic with a balance of independent and national businesses. I am still looking for the statue dedicated to the heroic 'Committee'.

catuca48 said...

FYI. Regardless of age, class, etc another reason we may not see the GAP in HP is that according to its web site it plans to open 15 stores and close 50 in North America in 2008. GAP INC. REPORTS FEBRUARY SALES FLAT; COMPARABLE STORE SALES DOWN 6 PERCENT, etc, etc...

chicago pop said...

George is a good sport for writing in. And I'm glad he reads the blog.

Elizabeth, I was going to say the same thing.

chicago pop said...

Opening and operating a retail business is challenging (and much different than talking about it or reading about it).

Zig & Lou, this is why you're our (or my) hero. And why I plan to come in and buy plenty of fancy little sausages from you as soon as you're open.

EdJ said...

I'll third the comment that George is a good sport for commenting on the blog. And I appreciate his use of humor in tweaking us here and there. We all look forward to hearing about the results of the survey.

Greg said...

One of the issues that helps keep national chains out of Hyde Park is the level of shoplifting that takes place here vs net sales. A friend who used to work at Borders on 53rd said that they lose huge amounts of money every week to shrink (shoplifting in retail lingo), in spite of the security guard and tag detectors at the door. They've been on the brink of shutting down several times because of this.

National retailers take note of things like this. Gap, Banana Republic, etc. don't want to open a store in a location where shrink losses make such a huge impact on net sales profit. If you're losing so much to shoplifters every week and your store isn't heavily trafficked (as a store on Michigan Avenue would be), you're not bringing in enough money to make up for the loss. The margins end up being pretty thin.

This is why we have so many restaurants/food related sales stores. There isn't much to shoplift from them. And as for the mattress store, it's pretty hard to shoplift a mattress. If you look at each of the kinds of shops we DO have here, they tend to be for goods/services that can't really be affected by shoplifting, or dollar stores that get their stuff so cheap it doesn't matter if they lose some inventory to shrink.

We need to figure out better ways to deal with shrink in our stores. We may say this is up to the stores themselves, but it's our concern too because it affects whether or not those stores even want to open businesses here.

chicago pop said...

This is why we have so many restaurants/food related sales stores. There isn't much to shoplift from them. And as for the mattress store, it's pretty hard to shoplift a mattress.

Some interesting insight here. Pretty pathetic, tho'.

Community anti-shrink squads, anyone? (No offense to my therapist, by the way...)

J/tati said...

Opening and operating a retail business is challenging (and much different than talking about it or reading about it).

Word.

In my corner of the retail world (bicycles), I've spent a lot of time over the past year talking with other shop owners about why they haven't expanded into the neighborhood. Most recognize that it's an underserved market and that there is plenty of available commercial real estate -- but point out that for niche retail, you either need to be a very well funded destination store (ie chain), else a neighborhood needs a clustering effect... personally, in my shop's case, I would embrace either a chain or well funded independent as a competitor/collaborator, because it would work only to raise the visibility and credibility of bike shops as a viable retail category. And folks from neighboring communities would come here to visit two or three shops, just as they currently do in elsewhere in the city.

An associate who has been actively pursuing the expansion of his current business into Hyde Park explained that the main reason it's top on his list was this clustering effect... (he's a well known Chicago artisinal coffee roaster and wants to open a coffee house in the neighborhood within walking distance of one or two other coffeeouses).

Others have stated this before, but surely this contributes to the dearth of, for example, clothing boutiques. This is not to say that Hyde Park will ever or should ever become Wicker or Lincoln Park, but you don't get a Nau or Akira without a Gap (or equivalent) first. And yet, I talk with HP customers who shop at these boutiques with great regularity... Do we have it backwards? PHLI will not attract Foot Locker, but isn't the converse true? I am confusing myself now.

Elizabeth Fama said...

I dunno, Freehling Pot and Pan, Toys etc., Walgreens, Elston Ace, the U of C bookstore, 57th Street Bookstore, University Market, etc. all seem to have shop-liftable items, and they're surviving. I'd like to hear from a retailer about this issue. (Hey, KHS, are you still reading the blog?)

Maybe the difference is they're smaller shops where the employees have better sight-lines.

George said...

Very interesting.

As a business owner on 53rd Street (since 1991, service-oriented, not retail), I've often wondered what keeps a business IN BUSINESS in Hyde Park. My "theory" had been that businesses that appeal to a very diverse group of people (like restaurants and toy stores and even mattress stores) do well here.

But I've often wondered if there were any studies about why business go OUT of business in HP. That would be VERY interesting to read. (If it exists already, someone please let me know.)

By the way, looking into the note on the Gap, I read that Gap is the parent corp of both Banana Republic AND Old Navy. Who knew?
g

khs said...

Yup, still reading :)

I also find it hard to believe shoplifting is a business killer. Sure, there is plenty of it but with vigilant employees it’s not as much of an issue. I’ve made a commitment to prosecute all offenders so as to be sure to send the message that shoplifting is not tolerated and it generally just doesn’t happen any more (with the exception of the occational Labbie just doing it for kick every now and again).

A bigger issue for our local businesses is the pan handlers and Streetwise vendors that drive customers away. I’ve had many customers state that they walk by on the other side of the street or don’t stop the car if they see these people; one person even stating that it’s easier just to drive to the north side where you can walk around with out all the hassle. While I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration, pan handlers are a problem. Streetwise is legal and the cops don’t see the pan handling as an issue (it can take up to three calls to get someone “move them along” and even then the offender is back in hours).

If you combine all this with high rents, lousy land lords and the NIMBYS you can see why many businesses just don’t want to bother with Hyde Park.

EdJ said...

What kind of impact does the Hyde Park image of spotty customer service have on decisions to locate here? Do potential stores feel that its difficult to get good employees? Some places have tremendous service, while others are poor at best.

Zig & Lou said...

"...for niche retail, you either need to be a very well funded destination store (ie chain), else a neighborhood needs a clustering effect... personally, in my shop's case, I would embrace either a chain or well funded independent as a competitor/collaborator, because it would work only to raise the visibility and credibility of bike shops as a viable retail category. And folks from neighboring communities would come here to visit two or three shops, just as they currently do in elsewhere in the city.

An associate who has been actively pursuing the expansion of his current business into Hyde Park explained that the main reason it's top on his list was this clustering effect... (he's a well known Chicago artisinal coffee roaster and wants to open a coffee house in the neighborhood within walking distance of one or two other coffeeouses)."

Beautiful. Well said J/tati. If you ever want to discuss these issues further let me know. Also, I have some people that your coffee riaster friend should talk with. Also, why don't you and your friend partner? (example: REVO Bicycles & Espresso Bar, in Dana Point CA)

catuca48 said...

I think it is unfair to blame the 'neighborhood' for the problems that Borders experiences. The entire mid south side is underserved in terms of retail. A well run and well managed store should not be on the verge of closing because of shoplifitng. I have to believe there are many other factors. Borders as a company has been struggling the past few years. Its annual sales are down everywhere, the stock has tanked and I believe is at an all time low, nobody buys CD's anymore, Amazon is a stiff competitor, etc.

For the most part retailers are like sheep. Natioinal chains do not want to be the first. Look at Damen Avenue, now that all the independent boutiques established the market, the national designers etc, are moving in.

53rd St is lacking a 'critical mass' of retail that woudl attract others. Let's hope that some new retailers at 53rd & Harper in the HP Herald buidling will start to build the critical mass we need & interst others.

HomeMade Pizza came to HP because they heard from Potbelly how well Potbelly was doing. I have heard HP is Home Made Pizza's top performing store. The Office Depot does quite well too.

We need well capitalized, savy business people who understand the market and have a very good product to sell.

The lac of competition does contribute to the survival of some of the mediocrity that persists.

The issue of clustering or co-tenancy is also key.

Greg said...

I wasn't really blaming the neighborhood, just stating that narrow profit margins can be affected by heavy shrink, causing companies to rethink expansion. True that the parent company of Borders isn't doing so well, which is likely why they'd be looking to shut down underperforming stores. But we should look at why a store would underperform.

I'm not sure about Freehling, but Walgreens is a high-traffic store that (I assume) grosses enough to offset shrink loss. A lot of the items from places like Office Depot are either hard to concel or inexpensive enough that it doesn't matter. In the case of Ace Hardware, they actually have a lot of their smaller and pricier items locked up and you have to ask someone to open the case for you.

We need well capitalized, savy business people who understand the market and have a very good product to sell.

Agree 100%.

Zig & Lou said...

Sadly, much of the existing worthwhile retail space in HP is not, and never will available to independent retailers. In retail "well capitalized" means two different things to corporate landlords and independent business people. Thus you have lots of jewel box branch banks on high traffic retail corners. Or Starbucks. The lease Starbucks has for the 55th Street store is an amazingly generous document for one of the largest, most profitable quick serve chain restaurants in the country. Not the kind of lease even the best independent retail could ever hope to see. These circumstances could all change as more new retail is built in the area (Cottage Grove corridor, as an example), but this will only take retail away from the current retail blocks, as the retail space on current HP retail blocks (53rd and 57th) is not configured for modern retail space requirements. But hey, there will be plenty of street parking.

EdJ said...

Is Lake Park configured any better for modern retail (from 55th through 51st)? That is, focusing on a corner development at 53rd and Lake Park to Village Crossing? Could that provide an anchor for development on 53rd using its existing configuration. Or is Cottage Grove the better anchor?

chicago pop said...

Well, we've come a long way from George Rumsfeld, and I have to say I've learned a tremendous amount from this discussion. Some of you all are out there making it happen, which is fantastic, and what this blog is meant to encourage.

Hopefully, this will take some of the air out of rants against "chains" and "local businesses," and get people focused on the real issues behind all of this -- the limitations of commercial real estate in the area, which Z&L has shed some light on, and the need for some degree of balance between "well funded destination stores" (chains) and/or clusters of specialty shops, as J/Tati pointed out, and maybe even the role of what are perceived to be adverse conditions (shrinkage -- though it's easy for this to blend into racism in the optic of the big corporation; this is certainly Preckwinkle's hunch on why no one comes south)

All of this is helpful to keep in mind -- for the University, for the alderman, and for various development partnerships that may emerge -- in contrast to the simplistic notion that "unique local businesses" will flourish in the absence of the oppressive weight of globally capitalized chains.

This is where there is a role for things like TIF financing or patient investors like the University -- to lay down the rails for the locomotive of the market to roll down. Leaving it to the market alone, as is sometimes encouraged by my esteemed GSB associates, only very rarely accomplishes anything in core urban neighborhoods like ours. With this kind of knowledge, it will be easier for future players to make things happen.

There have almost always got to be lots and lots of incentives, or at least some assistance along the way, and a few sweeteners to make the first few who jump into the pool less nervous about what's at the bottom. What happens on Cottage Grove and 47th (Preckwinkle's current big TIF financed project) may have a big impact on the confidence of future investors in the south side generally; at the same time, the gradual establishment of smaller, entrepreneurial ventures in the neighborhood may have the kind of positive "clustering effect" discussed above, and help to build momentum from the bottom up.

George said...

Ye gods and little fishes. First you call me "closeted," then --much worse-- you make me a Republican Rumsfeld. Is there no decency? I am mortally (almost) offended.

Anyone attend tonight's TIF meeting?
g

gogomama said...

Late again, but couldn't resist after reading about your ambivalence regarding Gap vs. Old Navy, Panera vs. Corner Bakery. Would you like some help over those speed bumps?

The clothing retailer you want to keep your eye on is what Forbes called the "fastest growing company you never heard of." The firm does almost NO advertising, only PR and viral mktg. It started out selling university logo apparel to whup the butts of overpriced U-stores. (Penn) It expanded its line to sell cheap items for women and children.

(Baby onesies for $2.00--grad student moms, say it with me now: "woo-hoo"!)

Then it signed licensing deals with Stephon Marbury, Venus Williams, and Sarah Jessica Parker to sell clothing and sneakers retailing at $20.00 or less.

Locations expanded from college centers to shopping malls, with the owners having a sharp eye out for fading suburban malls (Chicago Ridge, Riverside) and negotiating leases for which they paid low rates. Strategy = find undervalued locations with adequate population. Mall owners love S&B because it attracts heavy traffic they thought they'd lost permanently. The the owners get new tenants who are excited about the traffic. They also fill empty big boxes and supermarkets. (Are the wheels turning yet?)

Now they are opening branches in Manhattan and (soon) just off Michigan in Chicago in an empty 2nd story former Office Max, and another in Evanston Plaza.

You know who it is. Many of you won't like it.
It's Steve and Barry's.

I know it's low end. I don't want to think about how they make such cheap stuff. But I can tell you that you have neighbors that need cheap stuff and will buy it.

The likelihood of a Gap here is remote. This year they are closing almost as many stores as they will open. They just announced they are closing the "luxury" Forth & Town unit. Piperlime is next, I bet. Check out their specs for developers here and tell me a Gap or Old Navy is coming soon.

www.gapinc.com/public/Investors/inv_re_landlords.shtml

Gap is struggling, S&B is growing.

So think for a second . . . Could a Steve and Barry's work in the shopping center at 47th and Lake Park? 47th& Cottage? Or more better, somewhere on South Cottage near the new southwest campus action? Perhaps this is a retail option that would serve both Hyde Park AND its neighbors.

If a retailer like this succeeded and attracted enough traffic, the Lake Park strip running from 51st to 53rd might indeed someday include something like your Panera/Gap dream. (Too bad there's a gas station and a drive through McD's smack dab in that strip--talk about "vision" for density and pedestrian valhalla!)

Go ahead and wiki S&B's, and read more:

www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_15/b3979091.htm

www.forbes.com/forbes/2005/0704/076.html

www.onmilwaukee.com/articles/steveandbarrys.html

Time to do more homework on our retail wishes (or should I say prospects), if we want to identify national retailers that are actually interested in coming here. Or am I gumming up the works?

chicago pop said...

gogomama, that's great intelligence, thanks for sharing.

Both you and catuca48 are right to point out the cyclical difficulties most retailers are experiencing right now as well as the iffy long-term prospects of a lot of these companies that took off in the 90s.

There might not be anything any of us can do about it, but it's good to get smarter about what might realistically happen here, and what might not.

Zig & Lou said...

Tenant Improvement (TI) money. If a large, well funded landlord is not willing to play ball with any tenant (national or otherwise) there will be no store. The landlord (who will remain nameless) at the large dark space at 47th and Lake Park will not pony-up the significant amount of TI money that any retailer needs to renovate that large space, thus the space will remain dark.

chicago pop said...

zig & lou writes:The landlord (who will remain nameless) at the large dark space at 47th and Lake Park will not pony-up the significant amount of TI money that any retailer needs to renovate that large space, thus the space will remain dark.

We've already named them. But we didn't know they were being stingy about fixing up their cash cow empty property on 47th St. The current landlords clearly have the best interests of the "community" at heart. Especially interesting given the quantity of funds they received to get this project going.

Thanks for connecting the dots on the subject of TI and one of our most conspicuous vacant properties

Excerpt: During the final agony of the Hyde Park Co-Op, very little media attention was paid to the details of the deal at 47th, who had made how much, and who was still cashing checks from the Co-Op and Certified to pay for an empty store.

The Fund for Community Redevelopment and Revitalization (FCRR) was founded by the prominent civil-rights era activist, Arthur M. Brazier, who together with Leon Finney has founded a number of similar redevelopment funds centered in the Woodlawn area.

As a partner in the Lake Pointe venture, the FCRR was able to obtain a $2,000,000 combined grant from the City of Chicago and HUD, and approximately $1.5 in loans from a national non-profit redevelopment organization to undertake the project at 47th Street in the mid 90s.

Zig & Lou said...

And I thought I was being 'nice'.

ScottM said...

Don't forget Certified is still on the hook for 47th so Finney & Brazier aren't losing any sleep over this one yet.

It was also my understanding when I was on the Co-Op board that when we went to Preckwinkle about getting the FCRR to cut us some slack they were uninterested (& so was Toni, but...)

As another aside about the 47th street location, don't forget that location is sited horribly. By being so close to the lake you effectively cut your retail geography by 1/2 since you don't get many customers who actually live on (or under) the lake. Couple that with the lack of density above 47th and you have no population to support a large supermarket (especially when you have the One Stop serving the same area.)

It will be more interesting next year when Certified starts actually losing money on 47th to see who actually has more clout Brazier/Finney or Certified/Butera. Since I'm sure both will bring this back to the City (and/or even the useless 53rd st TIF) to renegotiate/break lease/lending terms.

Zig & Lou said...

"As another aside about the 47th street location, don't forget that location is sited horribly. By being so close to the lake you effectively cut your retail geography by 1/2 since you don't get many customers who actually live on (or under) the lake."

This is an interesting perspective. A positive mitigating factor on the siting of the old coop location on 47th is that LSD is a huge traffic conduit running N and S immediately E of the location. This helps to move customers from longer, non-typical shopping commuter distances efficiently and effectively. Further, the bizarrely low ridership numbers of travelers using the 47th Street METRA station is an issue that is often overlooked. Proximity to the lake does not seem to be high on the list of reasons why the 47th coop location failed (many retail businesses thrive because of proximity to the lake and LSD). I would like to know who the lawyer(s) was(were) who negotiated the terrible lease for the coop, and who was advising the coop on real estate and location selection within the coop organization at the time these decisions were made. It has the making of a Shakespearean tragedy. Death By Committee.

Elizabeth Fama said...

I agree with Zig & Lou. In a perfect world, all of those hundreds of thousands of new south loop condo owners would hop in their cars deliberately to go to that cute little Trader Joe's at 47th and Lake Park ("You know, the one that's an easy exit from and entrance onto Lake Shore Drive? The one with open-air parking that lets out onto a wide street?").

Zig & Lou said...

With apologies to W. P. Kinsella.

"Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come to Kenwood and Hyde Park for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn onto 47th Street not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your neighborhood retail as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. We have an eclectic and high quality range of retail, you'll say. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And afterwards, they'll walk out to the Point; sit in shirtsleeves among the rubble on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have spread a blanket out on the grass, open a perfect picnic basket filled with delicious treats from Z&H (blatant plug alert), where they sit remembering what the lakefront was like when they were children. And they'll watch the people passing and the boats bobbing and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been the lake - and delicious food. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But Hyde Park has marked the time. This community, this neighborhood: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.