West 95th Street looks to development, post-Borders

Chicago's Beverly neighborhood is known for independent businesses

May 2, 2011

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(WBEZ/Natalie Moore)
A shuttered Borders on West 95th Street in Chicago.

Six Borders bookstores have disappeared from Chicago, and that’s bad news for several neighborhoods that depended on them for more than just something to read.

Borders outlets sometimes secured other stores.

That was especially true in the Southwest Side neighborhood of Beverly, where Borders spurred a bit of a retail renaissance a decade ago.

 

 ambi: Customer ordering a burger with sharp cheddar

Some stores on west 95th Street are doing just fine.

Like, Top Notch – one of the best burger joints in Chicago.

young boy: I want a chocolate milkshake

Top Notch is a hub for people in the Beverly neighborhood. 

One topic of conversation is the neighborhood’s economic pulse.

People wonder, because just a block west, a 25,000 square foot store recently went dark.

Borders bookstore closed as the company reorganized under bankruptcy.

Lois Weber is executive director of the 95th Street Business Association,which focuses on Ashland to Western.

WEBER: A developer said to me once, ‘Lois, if we took an aerial view, we want to see rooftops, not trees. You love your trees but we want to see more density.’

Weber says the Borders wasn’t just any other store – it lived up to being called an “anchor.”

WEBER: Borders opened its doors in November of 1998. It was kind of a pioneer. For one of the first time ever was willing to redefine its mall store and fit it in a city in-line space. Borders coming had a very positive impact on the commercial district of 95th Street.

Borders helped attract new chain outlets – like Chipotle and Panera Bread.

Weber’s take is that Beverly needs a good fit – not just any replacement.

After all, Beverly isn’t some dire neighborhood. It’s an educated community with one of the city’s loveliest housing stocks.

Matt Walsh would agree with that.

He’s with the Beverly Area Planning Association.

Walsh says the neighborhood should ideally try to attract development that will foster local, independent businesses – places important to Beverly’s identity.

WALSH: That’s fine with us. Speaking as a community, we don’t want to be Orland Park or Tinley Park, which are fine towns but they have the space for the giant box stores. We don’t have the room for that here. It would change the relationship between our commercial strip and the houses that are just off the commercial strip.

ambi of Top Notch fades

Local business owners have some thoughts, too, about the strip that’s weathered many changes.

ambi: inside Southtown Health Foods; carts

owner: no, that’s not the one

Emil Mahler owns Southtown Health Foods.

From his vantage – there’s just not enough development on 95th Street.

MAHLER: After being on in this street since 1961, I’ve seen a lot of closure and a lot of re-openings.

But he has a tinge of optimism.

MAHLER: I always think there’s going to be a rebirth on this street. What do I want to see here? I want to see companies that are viable. I’ll let the marketplace do it’s on rebirth.

ambi fades

The 95th Street retail corridor in Beverly has a new alderman, and replacing the Borders store appears to be a top priority.

Matt O’Shea says he’s making calls about it – before he’s even sworn in.

OSHEA: Those developers that reached out to to ask for ideas or just some advice have made it that is a terrible time to lose an anchor.There’s no question about it – this is a serious blow to our community.

O’Shea says the update is not good: some big businesses have flat-out said no to taking over the space.

So, maybe it will take time to re-use the hulking Borders building.

But O’Shea says there’s a small silver lining.

95th Street could really use more parking. And the empty Borders store, has a 107-car parking lot – the biggest on the strip.

 

 

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