Tuesday, October 13, 2009

An Interesting Solution for the Vacant Retail in the Sloop

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)


Anonymous said...

Awesome idea. If you live in a high-rise, I guess you could try asking your association to contact the developer (and pitch this idea).

Anonymous said...

I have no sympathy for these idiots who control all the retail space and have been jacking up rates. They should have lowered these rates 3 or 4 years ago. Had Michigan Ave rates been reasonable, there would be no Roosevelt Collection needed, and Michigan ave would be filled by now.

resident said...

Very creative idea. Further, the stores that would someday occupy the space could leave the artwork on the walls for aesthetics.

This would also market the area as a welcome home to artists - which is what wicker park and ukrainian village did in the 90s and this spurred incredible growth and positive gentrification in those areas.

I also agree with the last poster's comments about rents on Michigan Ave - they are WAY to high. Unfortunately, The Roosevelt Collection is only going to further complicate things by adding more inventory.

With all the young kids and babies in the south loop I can't believe someone hasn't opened a "South Loop Baby" clothing store. It would be a huge success.

Anonymous said...

I have a couple random questions relating to this topic:

What affect, if any, does this have on the already struggling established gallery district(s)?

Is anyone buying artwork in this economy?

Anonymous said...

The kinds of retailers who would be interested in the Roosevelt Collection would most likely not want or even be able to fit in to the newer buildings on Michigan Ave.

Anonymous said...

Have to disagree. There are lots of open spaces, lots, and buildings that could be easily converted on Michigan Avenue. The problem is some of these community groups smoking pole of any developer, and not reviewing or challenging for better retail or ground floor design. As long as they have their building height and perceived density, they spend no time on the left over retail that now sits empty.

Bad planning by these dolts.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the last comment. The Roosevelt Collection resembles a suburban strip mall. If you look at other neighborhoods throughout the city, commercial that usually goes in suburban malls is retro-fitted to city spaces such as three flats, lofts, and high-rise storefronts. Terrible marketing by developers in the south loop is to blame for the scant retail options. Problem is, the retailers that have opened recently will surely close-up shop in the near future since they ALL seem empty because they are isolated on an island in this neighborhood.