The auto parts store mentioned in his most recent blog post opened a while back. Barraco's new banquet and catering location a few blocks west is under construction. We've seen a few changes on 95th St., but not a lot that's worth noting.
A recent conversation with a friend on related issues inspired me to revisit Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Though it was originally published in the 1960s, many of the observations she made about urban life and urban planning are as relevant today as they were 50+ years ago.
The long-term trend of car-centric planning, widening streets and highways and segregating residential and retail has been disastrous for the vitality of many neighborhood business districts. Loss of old commercial buildings, as we've seen on 95th St. recently, creates additional barriers to the creation of new small businesses. The following passage from Jane Jacobs' book is as true now as it was in the 1960s.
"If a city area has only new buildings, the enterprises that can exist there are automatically limited to those that can support the high costs of new construction. These high costs of occupying new buildings may be levied in the form of rent, or they may be levied in the form of an owner’s interest and amortization payments on the capital costs of the construction. However the costs are paid off, they have to be paid off. And for this reason, enterprises that support the cost of new construction must be capable of paying a relatively high overhead.
Chain stores, chain restaurants and banks go into new construction. But neighborhood bars, foreign restaurants and pawn go into older buildings. Supermarkets and shoe stores often go into new buildings; good bookstores and antique dealers seldom do. Well-subsidized opera and art museums often go into new buildings. But the unformalized feeders of the arts – studios, galleries, stores for musical instruments and art supplies, backrooms where the low earning power of a seat and a table can absorb uneconomic discussions – these go into old buildings. Perhaps more significant, hundreds of ordinary enterprises, necessary to the safety and public life of streets and neighborhoods, and appreciate for the convenience and personal quality, can make out successfully in old buildings, but are inexorably slain by the high overhead of new construction."
The old pedestrian-centric practice of integrating small retail spaces into residential blocks makes a neighborhood more vibrant. Having small businesses adjacent to homes can make a block much more lively than nearby residential areas that are isolated from small businesses.
The Pullman Cafe in Pullman, Ellie's Cafe in Morgan Park, Kusanya Cafe in Englewood and Ain't She Sweet and Sip and Savor in Bronzeville are good examples of these kinds of spaces.
Conversations about expanding the Divvy Bikes service area further south inspire questions about where we might be able to put stations in between our major business streets and Metra stations in order to effectively service each new neighborhood. Neighborhood small businesses are natural destination for bike share, as well as being more suitable locations than in front of single family homes.
Independent neighborhood businesses can add a special vitality that isn't usually created by chain businesses. Well maintained vintage buildings add to the character of a neighborhood in ways that new construction rarely does. Let's not waste the resources we've got.
For more info on the businesses above, click here:
Ain't She Sweet
Sip and Savor