Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Big Box Retail - Not So Bad in Urban Settings?

We've heard many local critics snicker at the South Loop (particularly Roosevelt Road) because of it's "big box retail" identity. While we discredit this notion and aren't huge fans of big box stores, the reality is that they are very convenient.

The Atlantic Cities website provides an interesting post on some of the positives big box retailers bring to an urban setting:
City-dwellers love to rag on big box stores. They’re large and ugly and kind of dehumanizing. They require vast seas of surface parking. They sell the antithesis of the idealized urban shopping experience, in which a shopper on foot might hit multiple locally owned specialty shops for her hardware, her art supplies and her bubble bath.

What’s there to possibly like about the big-box alternative?

Well, here is one factor urban critics may not have considered: What if in-town big box stores encourage people to drive less? That is, after all, a major policy objective of smart growth. Plenty of people who don’t want a big box store in their midst still drive 20 miles to get to one. Why not cut out those unnecessary emissions? And if you could go to a Sam’s Club once a month instead of a Safeway every week, wouldn’t that get people out of their cars more, too?
It's an interesting post and logically seems to make sense to us.

For the South Loop particularly our "big box" stretch seems to mainly center around Roosevelt Road while the North/South streets seem to cater to local businesses. If you ask us, we have to best of both worlds - convenient big box stores on Roosevelt and a growing local/small business community on the North/South streets.

What do you think? Are big box stores on Roosevelt good or bad for the Sloop?

(Hat tip: Curbed Chicago!)
(Image from Walsh Construction)

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love the city feel, but the South Loop has the best of both worlds like Sloopin said. We have a huge residentail population, then small/mid-size businesses everyone and have Roosevelt Road for larger shopping. Take a look at West Loop residents who head to the South Loop to shop and everyone that lives in River North who go to Lincoln Park's North Ave area to shop. (West Loop is gaining their own Target and Grocery Stores, so at least for now they come in droves to our area). All the other NICE neighborhoods drive out to other areas to shop.

MarkChicago said...

Of course it makes sense for a mix of Mom & Pop (local) and Big Box. This is one of the reasons I moved to the sloop.

Anonymous said...

Where are the mom and pop stores in the sloop? Anyone who claims to have moved to the sloop "for the mom and pop shops" is joking, right?

Anonymous said...

It was the harmonious mix of Mom & Pop and Big Box retail that attracted me to the South Loop when I moved to Chicago last March. I love that from my apartment I can easily walk to both. It's perfect!

Broomy said...

Obviously, "Mom and Pop", is a colloquialism for smaller, independently-owned stores. (although they may in fact be owned by actual Moms and Pops) We have those in the sloop in the form of shops like Sky Grocer, South Loop Market, Printers Row wine Shop etc... Let's not argue semantics.

Anonymous said...

Best of both worlds - urban streets with suburban sized big boxes within walking distance. Its good planning and a legacy of having the land to actually build these thanks to the large disused railroad and industrial parcels.

tayiah said...

I have found that the people who complain about the big box stores are frequent customers. If there wasn't a demand they wouldn't be here. There are people on the southwest side who wish they had those big box stores that affluent people complain about while supporting.

NUAlum said...

The boxes make the sloop the perfect location for us. We spend little (both time and money) doing the "necessary chores". Shopping Mom&Pop is a luxury to us, and we can treat it as so.

Kirsten said...

I love the big box stores in the South Loop. A lot of things I pick up at Target I can't get anywhere else nearby. And I think the blog post is right, one stop shopping at a big box does prevent me from driving more, taking more busses, etc.

AC said...

My problem with big box retail is how it can segregate retail from residential. If Roosevelt Collection actually filled it, I feel it would be a great example of how to do it right. The Target on the other hand suffers because it separates commercial from residential, decreasing the (potential) population density of the area. It would have been great if they could have built condos above it.

Anonymous said...

I love shopping in the South Loop. I love Succatash boutique, The Wine Consortium ( when it comes back ) and other stores like Target, Sky Grocers, Trader Joes, Whole Foods..and lets not forget DSW!!!

We truly have the best of both/all worlds here in our neighborhood. I love South Loop living.

Anonymous said...

I wish some of the stores would cater more to white people though. Alot of the boutiques are for black women.

Anonymous said...

I think if there is a solid grocery store + RETAIL along State and 26th area - it would benefit both the South Loop and those areas. Too many people from the south and west come to the south loop to shop and it does not feel like our neighborhood. I think Ald Dowell has some plans, but it is just rumor. By the way, I love Bridgeport (Sox, Nana's, Chinatown, coffee shops); Bronzeville just does not have anything to offer, but it is good safe area close to the city.

Anonymous said...

Keep shopping at "big box" stores and the "mom and pop" stores will not exist. One stop shop? Yes of course. Even though items cost more at independent stores you'll never get the love at a Huge retail store. If I wanted all these Targets and Best Buys I would move to the burbs. I am worried about what the Target on State streets going to do to the vibe of that great street. If they provide a unique Target that can not be found anywhere else in the world then cool. If they open up just another plain Target then that will really be a downer. Especially being in such an iconic building.

Clarissa Fidler said...

I think having mass retailers intermixed with local businesses within an urban setting provides consumers and the community with the best of both worlds. If residents are able to find everything they need within walking distance they are less apt to go outside their neighborhood to make purchases. The presence of both types of retailers helps sustain the local economy.