When you walk around the greater South Loop area, you can't help but notice the vision of city planners and developers who dreamed of grand, shinny tall buildings occupied by urbanites who would live, sleep, eat and play in an interesting and dynamic neighborhood. And with all this big development would come numerous retail spots that would cater to the demands of the thousands of new residents flocking to the area.
Fast forward to present day South Loop and you'll find this vision partially realized but marred by the current recession (similar to many places throughout the city, nation and world). To be honest, the people seem to still be flocking to the neighborhood, but that's not the same case for retail within the South Loop.
To be fair, there has been some movement on the retail front lately. 1400 Museum Park, the high rise on the northeast corner of Michigan Avenue and 14th, has just leased out its fifth and final retail spot to Halo, a salon for men.
However, kitty-corner from here is Michigan Avenue Towers II which sits with numerous gigantic windows completely covered up with sales signs advertising available retail space. This isn't an isolated case. Continue down Michigan Avenue and you will see a similar story; huge signs advertising vacant retail.
Although we understand a recession means new businesses aren't popping up as frequently, today we were tipped by AK (a reader of the site) to a story by the NYT that provides an intriguing solution to the problem of vacant retail stores. The story titled, 'Luring Artists to Lend Life to Empty Storefronts' talks about a great concept that is being utilized in NYC that we would love to see applied in the Sloop:
As the recession drags on and storefronts across New York remain empty, commercial landlords are turning to an unlikely new class of tenants: artists, who in flusher times tend to get pushed out rather than lured in. And the price of entry is not deep pockets, but vivid imaginations and splashy exhibits — anything to lend the darkened buildings a sense of life.It's a fascinating read and an idea that would really help bring a lot of life, culture and vibrancy to a small blemish within our neighborhood.
What do you think of the idea? Any ideas on how we could get developers to consider this? We have a lot of artists in the area (either professionals or students at Columbia etc.) that could take advantage of this.
(Hat Tip AK!)
(Images from New York Times Gallery)