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Added Mar 24 2014

I saw this via the Portage Park Neighborhood Association posting it to Facebook and here I am bouncing it to EveryBlock, now we just need someone to tweet a link to this entry:

http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20140324/portage-park/irving-austin-business-district-get-badly-needed-facelift

Heather Cherone's written a piece on a "facelift" coming to the Irving-Austin Business District. (As an aside - I really like some of the stuff Heather has written for dnainfo.com and I recommend people subscribe to the daily newsletter for the area.)

I had made a comment about a lack of "dynamism" in the 38th Ward to match what I saw in the 45th Ward. A facelift for the Irving-Austin Business District - if done well - would absolutely qualify. It's actually precisely what I had in mind.

One of the centerpieces is something called a "People Spot" and I guess this has popped up in other neighborhoods in the last year but I missed that. I don't really understand what it means.

If a facelift is coming though here are some of my suggestions:

* It's got to be bicycle friendly. The district is tough because Irving Park is not a bike-friendly street and it's far off any El line, but this makes a BIG difference in bringing people into some areas.

* A variety of restaurants. I don't mean 27 new restaurants. But it helps a lot when there are multiple choices. That's just not the case right now.

* More businesses for younger consumers. There's almost nothing there right now.

* A food co-op. There's only one co-op in the city - the Dill Pickle in Logan Square - and I think Irving-Austin is an excellent spot for another one, because there's no large grocery a half mile down either of those arteries.

* But no, I'm not talking about recreating Logan Square. To me, the Burgundy is a great anchor, and you can build up a business district that's more contemporary without being all-out hipster.

What would other people want to see?

  • FYI, there is a Jewel at Irving and Narragansett. There is also a new-ish "Montrose" deli (on Irving) just west of the Jewel.

    http://www.montrosedeli.com/

    A food co-op might still be nice, though.

  • Phil Huckelberry Green Party 38th Ward Committeeman

    Ah, my mistake. Narragansett somehow seems a lot farther west than that.

    I still think it'd be a good location though. I acknowledge that parking could be dicey but pick the exact right spot and I think it'd work out well. The Dill Pickle is in the middle of a block on Fullerton (an equivalently wide/busy street to Irving Park) and it works out.

  • Bill the Engineer Lifetime ChicagoNWside

    Some would consider the Patio Theater, and/or the Irving Austin Library the anchors of the business district....and while much can be done to improve the look of the area & increase occupancy in high profile properties, there are many establishments to patronize. Among them...

    Food Stores

    Szymanski Deli
    6016 W Irving Park Rd

    Boulevard Food Mart
    5922 W Irving Park Rd

    Restaurants

    Burgundy
    5959 W Irving Park Rd

    Giordano's Pizza
    5927 W Irving Park Rd

    Las Taracas Restaurante
    6011 W Irving Park Rd

    Leadbelly
    5739 W Irving Park Rd

    Bub's Place
    5800 W Irving Park Rd

    Activities

    Chicago Billiard Café
    5935 W Irving Park Rd

    Retail

    Time Treasures Antique Furniture
    6021 W Irving Park Rd, Chicago

    Thrift & Thrive
    6025 W Irving Park Rd

    JG Uniform & Career Apparel
    5949 W Irving Park Rd

    Kasia's Bridal
    6039 W. Irving Park Road

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Irving-Austin-Business-District/160110170784183

  • Bill the Engineer Lifetime ChicagoNWside

    I will add that Irving Austin Business District promotes events such as District Days street fair during the summer and the Christmas Spectacular at the Patio Theater. They also promote the events of O.A. Thorpe School and St. Pascal Church & School. And they receive much assistance from the 38th Ward and Alderman Cullerton.

    Wander the area....you'll find much more that what's been listed.

  • Bill the Engineer Lifetime ChicagoNWside

    Incidently Phil.....a fellow Everyblock neighbor did her part to make people aware of this before it happened.

    http://chicago.everyblock.com/neighbor-events/mar21-chgo-dept-transportation-mtg-3-21-12-pm-6042578/

  • Phil Huckelberry Green Party 38th Ward Committeeman

    We went to District Days. For what it was trying to be, it was bleak - not something we would go back to, because there was pretty much nothing to do and nowhere to shop.

    The Patio hasn't been an anchor. It would be nice if it could be more of one, but with all the problems they've had, it's a mistake to treat that like the centerpiece of a thriving business district.

    Those restaurants aren't enough. There's nothing Asian, there's nothing that leans vegetarian.

    Given that one of the problems is empty storefronts, it's hardly a stretch to say that more businesses are needed. The question is what kinds of businesses. Obviously the District itself wants a facelift or we wouldn't be talking about this. It doesn't make sense to me to field a counterargument that the district is essentially fine as is when they clearly don't think so themselves.

  • @Phil: By lack of "dynamism in the 38th compared to the 45th, I am not sure what you are seeing in the 45th that is so dynamic. Is it the closed Portage Theater compared to the open but struggling Patio. Is it all the dollar stores in the 45th? Is it all the empty storefronts in the 45th? I see no reason to start a battle between Austin/Irving and Six Corners. Both have their problems; both are in need of help.

  • Phil Huckelberry Green Party 38th Ward Committeeman

    I'm not really talking about Six Corners. I think Six Corners remains rough and difficult to work with and Milwaukee-Lawrence needs a lot as well.

    What I *am* talking about are things like Jeff Fest and the Fringe Festival coming to Jefferson Park. The Fringe Festival isn't quite my cup of tea, but it certainly qualifies as a dynamic score for the ward.

  • Bill the Engineer Lifetime ChicagoNWside

    Phil you appear to be diminishing the honest effort being expended by individuals, families and institutions to improve things at Austin/Irving.

    I've been here a very long time so I know what it was like when it was fillled with all sorts of small businesses, what it was like when they left, and how it is now with measured improvements by those that are actually spending their time, money and even life savings to get there. They are DOING something about it. It's a similar story as Six Corners. Jefferson Park. Belmont Central. In fact all across the city.

    You should also know that people here have been making an effort to get city agencies to pay attention to this area for some time. That effort is beginning to pay off with the CDOT street scapping plan.

    <"empty storefronts"> An issue that plagues many communities....how do you propose to deal with property owners that are not or cannot be flexible with rent/lease rates? What about high commercial property taxes?

    <"The question is what kinds of businesses."> Are you saying you would exclude businesses because they may not meet your criteria for what should be there? If so, you should know that can't be done as long as zoning and regulatory requirements are met.

  • Shot-n-Beer Guy Retired from Jefferson's Park.

    Um Jeff Fest ain't something that just popped up over the last 3 years it's been around while. Taste of Polonia is much bigger by the way & has a bigger impact on local shops than the others.

  • This comment has been removed by EveryBlock staff because it is a personal attack.
  • I agree - it's all good stuff, but is there anything being done to attract new businesses to fill the storefronts?

  • southsideandy A South Side outpost in the heart of the N.W. Side

    One of my favorite ongoing themes of EB is:
    "Great news, that empty storefront is getting filled!"
    Typical response: "Wait, that's not the exact kind of business I wanted there, therefore, the neighborhood isn't getting any better because it doesn't fit my personal needs! We should have XYZ business instead."
    Followed by: "Yeah, XYZ neighborhood has one of those, why can't we have one?"

    I admittedly don't patronize the Irving-Austin district as much as I could -- but in return, no one will hear me complain about any particular business opening there either. If it fits my needs, great...if it doesn't, I'm not going to sit and say that we should have something else there.

    I give props to the folks who have tried to fill those storefronts -- some successfully, some not -- and agree that their efforts shouldn't be overlooked. Heck, nearly a decade ago, that district was an afterthought, something I drove past without even looking at on the way to the HIP...now, there are some noticeable things happening -- it's happening in fits and starts, but things don't change overnight, especially following a recession such as the one we just had.

  • Bill the Engineer Lifetime ChicagoNWside

    Exactly Andy..... throw in the complaints over chains also.

    @ Althea.... ultimately it's the responsibility of the property owners to fill their empty spaces with suitable tenants. Some are making an honest effort to do so on their own or with the assistance of brokers. Others, for reasons only they can explain, won't make the needed improvements to make space or properties suitable for occupancy or seem to be content to let them sit idle.

    Besides the property owners, typically local chambers of commerce, elected officials and community groups also take the initiative and promote a business district and pitch it as an opportunity to prospective companies, entrepreneurs and investors. This is being done by all three, and I know with their effort and our support, prospects are improving at Irving/Austin and in the other nearby districts of commerce.

  • Good to hear that the alderman and such are working on it - can't wait to see what they bring in! I'm not trying to be a downer, I love the neighborhood - wouldn't have bought a home here if I didn't. I think it has great growth potential, too.

  • Dennis McCall They Call Me Hollywood

    It's about time only 20 years behind its a dead zone in that strip when's the Patio going to play a decent movie for the love of god lol

  • It would be fantastic to see a brewpub or another dining option in the old bank building!
    I do patronize some of the existing businesses and expect that in many cases, new businesses could actually help the existing businesses. I also appreciate the long term and ongoing efforts of various groups and individuals to enhance this area. I'm looking forward to meeting some of you at the People Spot!

  • Phil Huckelberry Green Party 38th Ward Committeeman

    Althea: We saw/see a lot of promise in the area as well. It's with an eye toward that promise that I posted this.

    Bill: Obviously you're a long-time resident, you're very passionate about the area, you know a lot of people, etc. I respect all of that. And you're protective of where you live. I respect that too.

    But please understand: We live here too. I know you mean well, but your responses come off as gatekeeping. New people who want to engage the neighborhood, and who see a lot of deficits - a lot of "missing" types of businesses where they would seem to be natural fits - should be encouraged to get involved and invested. Talking about what people would like to see is NOT about diminishing the work that's been done to keep the district afloat. Sometimes it's about the distinction between working hard and working smart. And one of the things I'm suggesting is that there are a growing number of people who can offer valuable input as to how to work _smarter_, and in turn make that hard work prove more fruitful. I'd ask you to embrace that, not try to talk it down.

  • pattymelt is mostly in charge

    @Phil: If you are not already, I encourage you to become involved with a neighborhood association, there is the PPNA, the JPNA, and a new group in Dunning. There is also RAIS, though I'm not sure if they are still active, see amiez's comments in these old threads:

    http://chicago.everyblock.com/kindness/sep29-art-windows-old-bruce-kens-building-5387680/#comment-227984

    http://chicago.everyblock.com/announcements/jun16-too-many-empty-trashed-store-fronts-austin-irving-5045252/

  • Phil, I get no gatekeeping vibes from Bill's post. In fact, I was happy to see Bill posting the names of the businesses to remind me that they are there. Bill goes on to summarize some deeper issues with regard to building owners and landlords, which I appreciate. I thought you asked for input and people are giving it. In your last post you seem to add a curve ball wherein you're talking about "working smarter." Where did that come from? You began this post asking for input and somehow you are asking a contributor to "embrace" a notion. I'm trying to understand how you want this discussion to evolve.

  • yeah, I think bill did the same thing as this:

    http://ward45.org/your-ward/chicagos-northwest-corridor-brochure/

    just without the pictures, maybe if something like that is expected to help one area, it maybe good for another.

    anyone want to take pictures of the places bill mentioned?

  • southsideandy A South Side outpost in the heart of the N.W. Side

    @Bill: Don't get me started on the complaints about those horrible national chains coming in, bringing a completely failed business model, and destroying the very fabric of the neighborhood by running the mom-and-pop empty-storefront business out of business. ;)

    @Inactive: You should wait to ask when it's warmer outside. Plus, the ugly dirty-ice photos won't reflect very well on the neighborhood, ha ha ha. In seriousness, I'm betting there will be even better photos when the improvements are done...question is, can the district wait that long?

  • Bill the Engineer Lifetime ChicagoNWside

    Phil.... Nobody was talking down ideas, but pointing out that groups and individuals have been making a sincere effort to improve that business district. And they are getting results that should be recognized and further encouraged.

    The bottom line is they (and all of us) must continue that effort...Which is convincing companies and individuals that have a record of success and the financial resources to invest in the community.

  • David in Mont Clare Been around for 31 years.

    I'm all for any business facelift in the area, Irving and Austin is in the heart of my work territory (pest control), between this and six corners starting to go through a bit of a renaissance, my route is going to explode.

    Now, if we can only get something going for my neighborhood in Mont Clare, Grand and Harlem needs to get some of its glory back.

  • I'm just pumped Regulus is coming back. I love the hell out of that place.

  • Their comming back?

  • arnie

    Assuming they get enough donations from the public at next week's fundraiser. I wonder if a private business has to treat donations as income? Nonprofits are tax exempt but private businesses soliciting donations seems a recent thing.

  • I think they're coming back regardless of the amount they get with the fundraiser, but this will help with some planned renovations they want to make. They reportedly are rethinking their game plan, taking what they learned over the course of the year they were opened, and giving it another go. I hope people turn out. Regulus should be a great PP staple and a nice anchor of the improving business district over there.

    I'm about to go see a flick at Patio and I wish Regulus was there right NOW so I could grab some coffee. haha

  • From what I have read elsewhere on here, their planned renovations should include keeping regular business hours and hiring helpful employees.

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