New report provides recommendations for developing vibrant retail districts in Bronzeville - Metropolitan Planning Council

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New report provides recommendations for developing vibrant retail districts in Bronzeville

(Chicago) … Neighborhoods across Chicago are rethinking retail in response to a changing housing market, shifting economic realities, and new and existing residents’ wants and needs. In partnership with the Bronzeville Alliance, a coalition of local community organizations in the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago’s near South Side, the nonprofit Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has released the report Developing Vibrant Retail in Bronzeville, which assesses the neighborhood’s existing retail market and its growth potential, and identifies strategies to support coordinated retail planning, retention, and recruitment. 

“We want to build on Bronzeville’s rich heritage as Chicago’s African-American center of culture and commerce, and also serve the needs of local residents, attract shoppers from across the region, and provide local jobs and business opportunities,” said Leana Flowers, chair, Bronzeville Retail Initiative, a project of the Bronzeville Alliance. “The recommendations in this report have encouraged us to focus our efforts where they will have the greatest impact – along specific corridors near public transportation, where we are already beginning to see signs of success.” 

To develop the recommendations, MPC convened 11 volunteer experts in retail brokerage, market analysis, financing, and community level implementation. Charged with guiding the Bronzeville Alliance to best execute its goal of vibrant and concentrated retail corridors, this volunteer task force analyzed past plans and market data, toured the community, and interviewed more than 75 residents and stakeholders. Their chief conclusion was that the local market can support one primary retail corridor in Bronzeville, and that corridor should be 47th Street due to its: 

  • Higher existing concentration of retail;
  • Strong anchor institutions (Harold Washington Cultural Center, Little Black Pearl);
  • Potential new developments planned on major intersections; and 
  • Good access, both by car (from the Dan Ryan Expressway to the west and Lake Shore Drive to the east) and by public transit (CTA Green Line and buses). 

“Communities like Bronzeville can overcome challenging trends, such as reduced population density and the loss of ‘mom and pop’ stores due to superstores by focusing retail development where people and local infrastructure are most likely to support it,” said MPC’s Marisa Novara. “The Bronzeville Retail Initiative is going to be successful by committing to creating a dense, clustered, pedestrian-friendly, exciting retail destination along 47th Street.” 

In addition to the 47th Street corridor, the volunteer task force encouraged ongoing support for clustering additional retail at 51st Street and the Green Line, and 43rd Street and Cottage Grove/43rd Street and the Green Line. However, businesses in other parts of the community continue to need technical and marketing support and capacity to do this should be expanded. They also urged the community to pursue broader strategies: 

  • Because Bronzeville spans the 3rd and 4th wards, establishing a cross-ward economic development arm will help drive development and be a central hub of economic development information for the entire community and on all three corridors.
  • Setting up new Special Service Areas (SSA) along 47th Street and 51st Street in the 3rd Ward will continue the progress made by SSA 47, which stops at the 4th Ward boundary; and support security and aesthetic improvements along 51st Street, near the Green Line station.
  • Addressing both real and perceived safety challenges through targeted interventions is critical.
  • To support existing and new businesses and attract new spending to the community, the Bronzeville Alliance should continue to support a range of neighborhood-wide strategies, such as increasing residential density, and creating and attracting new draws to the area, such as open spaces, plazas, and entertainment on vacant land throughout Bronzeville. 

The full report on the task force’s findings is available at, and will be distributed at the first public meeting of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP)’s Bronzeville Retail Land Use Plan, on Saturday, May 12, 2012, from 8:30 a.m. to noon, at the Charles Hayes Investment Center, 4859 S. Wabash Ave. As part of its Local Technical Assistance program, CMAP will work throughout 2012 with the Bronzeville Retail Initiative team and a steering committee representing business owners, residents, elected officials and other stakeholders to finalize a land use plan for the three corridors

CMAP, MPC and the Bronzeville Retail Initiative have been coordinating with the City of Chicago throughout this process, with the ultimate goal of using the neighborhood’s land use plan as a model for other Chicago neighborhoods also characterized by significant population loss and commercial over-zoning. MPC’s partnership with Bronzeville is an extension of Reconnecting Neighborhoods, a partnership since 2007 between the City of Chicago, Regional Transportation Authority, the consulting firm HNTB, and MPC’s Community Building Initiative, to advance retail, transit and pedestrian improvements in Chicago Housing Authority Plan for Transformation communities in Chicago’s Mid-South, Near West, and Near North sides. Learn more at

Marisa Novara, Project Manager 
Metropolitan Planning Council 

Leana Flowers, Chair
Bronzeville Retail Initiative, a project of the Bronzeville Alliance

Bronzeville Alliance
The Bronzeville Alliance is a group of Bronzeville residents and organizations committeed to the economic, social and cultural redevelopment of the historic Bronzeville community. Visit to learn more. 

Metropolitan Planning Council
Since 1934, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has been dedicated to shaping a more sustainable and prosperous greater Chicago region. As an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, MPC serves communities and residents by developing, promoting and implementing solutions for sound regional growth. Visit to learn more. 

Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning
The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) is the official regional planning organization for the northeastern Illinois counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will.  CMAP developed and now leads the implementation of GO TO 2040, metropolitan Chicago's first comprehensive regional plan in more than 100 years.  To address anticipated population growth of more than 2 million new residents, GO TO 2040 establishes coordinated strategies that help the region’s 284 communities address transportation, housing, economic development, open space, the environment, and other quality-of-life issues.  See for more information.


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