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Can Bronzeville Become Retail Strong?

Monday, October 21, 2013


In late 2009, the Bronzeville Alliance (the Alliance) asked the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) to assist in the development of a targeted retail plan for the Bronzeville community on Chicago’s South Side. The Alliance identified three commercial corridors on which to focus retail recruitment, commercial retention, and viable complementary uses, based on their proximity to transit assets, rich histories, and current retail activity. They invited MPC to help refine the plan and staff initial implementation efforts. MPC brought together 13 experts in various aspects of economic development: retail brokerage, market analysis, financing, and community-level implementation. On Aug. 9 and 10, 2011, these volunteers met in Bronzeville to address the following:

    •  Review the vision and develop a strategy
    • Assess the capacity of each corridor
    • Identify resources to develop capacity
    •  Identify priorities
    • Assess organizational capacity 


The 43rd, 47th, and 51st Street corridors touch five Chicago neighborhoods: Douglas, Grand Boulevard, Kenwood, Oakland, and Washington Park (see map at right). Two neighborhood market studies have been completed in the last three years: the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) MetroEdge market research group completed a retail scan of the area in January 2010; and the Chicago Community Loan Fund (CCLF) commissioned a market study of the State Street corridor completed in November 2009. The results provided the following insights:

• Income: Middle-income households are on a steady rise, contributing to an overall diversification of neighborhood incomes.

• Investment: New investments exceed $470 million since 2005.

• Safety and environment: Violent crime has decreased by 20 percent since 2004, while vacant lots have been reduced by half since 2006.

• Retail opportunity: Bronzeville boasts $175 million worth of concentrated buying power per square mile, which exceeds the City of Chicago’s average of $168 per square mile. General merchandise, home supply, restaurants and clothing stores remain high-opportunity retail categories.

• Capacity: Organizations like QCDC and 51st Street Business Association provide expertise and on-the ground capacity to support developers and business owners interested in the market (see chart below).

• State Street: State Street’s deeper lots provide greater opportunity for large-format retail than the other corridors, yet also present a need for increased density.

• Developer needs: Developers surveyed by CCLF indicated that they need certain elements in place to successfully market to new businesses, including an entity that is focused on land acquisition and assembly, a master plan, and a commitment to keeping streets clean.

When combined, the population of these five neighborhoods totals 75,643 and housing units total 41,059.

To read the details about the MPC recommendations and report, click here.