Many of us over the years have done a magazine quiz. I want to do one with you today. First I am making you to imagine yourself a city planner. You are one of those folks who looks at a community and determines what to bring to it. The community is Austin. The location is the former Pathway/Harris bank building at 5454 W. North Ave.
Now many of you who live in this community know what we need and don’t need. So the choices I have come up with are the kinds of viable businesses I would want a city planner to offer for that prime location.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, the building occupies the entire block from Linder to Lotus. It has enough parking for at least 100 cars. It sits directly across from Family Dollar.
OK, here are your choices:
A. Another bank.
B. Entrepreneur mall offering opportunities for locally owned businesses, including women’s and men’s clothing stores, shoes and millinery shop.
C. Sit down pizza restaurant with video games a la Chuckie Cheese.
D. Sit down restaurant offering fine dining.
E. Home theater and stereo store.
F. A coffeehouse with wireless Internet, ice cream parlor and maybe a deli, too,
G. A scooter store for the various walkers that seniors are using to get around.
H. Optical store.
I. Dollar store.
J. Auto supply store.
Now as a planner, I want you to pick two of the businesses to put into that building. OK, now let’s see what you chose.
It’s easy. If you picked any of the choices A through H, you are a creative thinker who wants to advance your community via viable businesses that add to the economic interest of the community. Those types of businesses offer opportunities for real jobs and a strong tax base.
Now if you picked I and J as your idea of what to put in that prime commercial real estate, then you are in the same category as Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Emma Mitts. I guess their idea of economic development for our area is to give us a second dollar store to compete with the other dollar store across the street.
When I started this column, it was early Tuesday morning and I was working the polls in the 23rd Precinct of the 37th Ward. But after seeing how only 96 people came out to vote in a precinct that has around 400 registered voters and probably another 400 that aren’t registered, I have concluded that crappy economic development is what we deserve to get when we don’t show up at the polls.
This community is sending the message loud and clear to the powers that be that we don’t give a damn about ourselves. They can and do everything they want, and we sit around and take it. So since we don’t want anything that is exactly what we are getting – nothing.
We have a major business strip going down North Avenue. Yet everything we need to be viable is located outside of our neighborhood. Years ago I wrote about how Harris Bank was preventing another bank from going into that location.
It’s kind of like the way Jewel, which owns the location of the former Aldi’s at North Avenue and Lawler, will only allow an auto parts store to go into its former location.
Yet the Jewel that was in Oak Park didn’t become an auto parts. They stood up to Jewel, and now that is the location of the North Avenue Fresh Market store.
Until the average person here recognizes that we aren’t going to be offered anything of value unless we demand it, we will travel for miles to go to work, we will travel for miles to buy what we need, we will travel for miles to eat what we want.
Then again, gasoline is expected to cost $5 a gallon soon. We obviously like and can afford to travel.