Friday, January 27, 2017

Saturday, January 14, 2017

a few thoughts for the new year

The new year inspired me to revisit a neighborhood blog that I've missed recently. I know that life can get in the way of writing and other pursuits. I've missed Jeff's thoughtful posts on his Main Street Beverly blog.

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:
Pullman Cafe
Ellie's Cafe
Kusanya Cafe
Ain't She Sweet
Sip and Savor

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday, January 6, 2017

non sequitur Friday

An homage to Elvis Presley.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Whistler Woods workday Sat. 1/7

It's great to get outdoors. Volunteers are needed this Saturday 1/7 from 10 am to 1 pm for a habitat restoration workday - invasive species removal.  Light snacks and water will be available.

Hiking boots or other boots or shoes that offer good support and traction are a good idea. When you arrive, look for volunteers along the lefthand side of the main parking lot, near the end of the parking lot. If you have work gloves, bring them, otherwise gloves will be available.  

How to get there:   Whistler Woods is just east of 13400 S Halsted in RiverdaleNote that the Halsted bridge is currently closed for construction.

By bike: if you're coming from the north, ride the Major Taylor Trail south until it ends in Whistler Woods and continue to the parking lot to find the volunteers.

By car: from the north - take Ashland south past Broadway in Blue Island. Make the first left after Broadway, then left onto Jackson St. (13400S). Continue east past the light at Halsted. Whistler Woods parking lot is the first left turn after Halsted.

From I-57, exit at eastbound 127th, then turn right on Ashland, and follow the directions above.

From I-94, exit at westbound 130th.  Continue past the viaduct, right (northbound) on Indiana, then continue left on 127th. Follow the directions above.

By transit:  Pace 352 Halsted bus

Monday, January 2, 2017

Christmas tree recycling at Kennedy Park and Mt. Greenwood starting Tuesday 1/3

Don't throw your tree in the trash! You can recycle it by dropping it off at Kennedy Park, Mt. Greenwood Park, the city forestry dept. at 900 E 103rd St and other locations starting tomorrow (1/3 thru 1/21).  This helps to keep trees out of landfills and generates mulch for use by residents and the city forestry department.

If you want free mulch from recycled trees, you can get it at Mt. Greenwood Park or 900 E 103rd St starting on 1/3.

Click here for more info.

changes in our neighborhood business districts

We're seeing changes in our neighborhood business districts - losses and gains of both independent and chain businesses.

Blossom Boys is gone from 99th and Walden. I've appreciated their mix of merchandise and the love that Steve and Ryan brought to the business. I will miss seeing them on Walden.

Potbelly sandwich shop is leaving the corner it has occupied at 95th and Western for a few years to move across Western to a new space at the revamped Evergreen Plaza. That will leave the recently constructed retail building at 95th and Western without tenants. It has always been an awkward fit on that corner. The location is very car centric, but has a parking lot that is awkward to access due to traffic volume there, with solid backups from the intersection more often than not. It's also a location close enough to home that I don't really want to drive there, while traffic around it doesn't make it very pleasant as a walking or biking destination.

Wild Blossom Meadery will be opening a new tasting room on the eastern edge of Beverly soon.

Ain't She Sweet is opening soon at 99th and Western. I've been enjoying the food at their Bronzeville location on 43rd St. for a few years now and I'm looking forward to their new location in Beverly.

Open Outcry Brewing will open on Western south of County Fair, giving us a second brewpub in the neighborhood.

A few neighborhood businesses have been affected by tax woes. Friends and neighbors saved Cullinan's Stadium Club with a GoFundMe campaign to pay past due taxes. Mt. Greenwood Hardware, a longtime favorite for old house needs, has reopened briefly for a liquidation sale before it's gone forever. Kiddie Kouture is closed. It's unknown whether it will reopen.

Barraco's new catering/event space is under construction on 95th St.  Down the street, the former Borders location was given a new life as an Advocate Health clinic for seniors.

Laine's Bake Shop's new storefront in Morgan Park has gotten off to a good start. I love their peach cobbler and other delicious treats.

I'm curious to see what other changes come to our neighborhood business districts in 2017.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

How do you get a sidewalk fixed?

Do you want to get on the City of Chicago's shared cost sidewalk replacement program?  Your chance is coming up soon - 1/10, to be exact. Read here for more info.