ULI Chicago News

What Does Community-Focused Economic Development Look Like?

On April 13 2017, forty ULI Chicago members headed to the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago to take a behind-the-scenes look at Englewood Square, a new retail development that is trying to do just that.

Located at 63rd and Halsted, Englewood Square has brought back retail to the once bustling 63rd Street shopping corridor, known in its heyday to be the busiest neighborhood shopping district in the City. Besides an 18,000 SF Whole Foods Market, Englewood Square hosts Starbucks, Chipotle and 22,000 SF of additional retail/service tenants including Oak Street Health, a health care center for Medicare patients. After years of having to make long, inconvenient trips for basics like fresh groceries, Englewood residents can now shop close to home.

But as Leon Walker put it, the story of Englewood Square goes beyond the brick and mortar – in addition to providing access to goods and services, the development is catalyzing revitalization of Englewood and is helping create new economic opportunities for area residents. Our speakers, Leon Walker, Managing Partner, DL3 Realty, Perry Gunn, Executive Director, Teamwork Englewood, and Cecile De Mello, Community Engagement Specialist, Whole Foods, led our members on a tour of Whole Foods followed by an in-depth discussion to share the development’s unique story.

The key theme that emerged loud and clear through the discussion was the incredible power of strong community and corporate partnerships in affecting change.

Perry Gunn spoke about how Whole Foods, because of their willingness to listen to local residents and to modify their approach to respond to local needs, has proven to be a great corporate partner for the community. By hiring local contractors, local employees and even local vendors, Whole Foods has helped create a far-reaching economic impact in Englewood, which was a top priority for the community. Much before its official store opening, Whole Foods supported a multi-year, community-led effort to recruit and train residents in job and entrepreneurship skills. Instead of passive advertising through billboards and flyers, they used the old-school approach of actively knocking on doors and word-of-mouth marketing to engage residents that weren’t likely to respond to traditional outreach methods. As Cecile put it, their community engagement strategies were closer to “community gossip” than formal community meetings!

Additionally, the Englewood Square Starbucks is a community store, a concept that Starbucks has introduced in a few select locations in its global network of stores, “to support pathways to opportunity for young people in the community”.  As a part of this commitment, Starbucks, in partnership with Teamwork Englewood, is training monthly cohorts of young people from the neighborhood in barista and customer service skills, preparing them for jobs within the Starbucks network and elsewhere.

Englewood Square is a significant step in the right direction for the neighborhood, starting to lay the foundations of an economic ecosystem that can support and sustain local workers and entrepreneurs. If you missed the ULI Chicago tour, we encourage you to go visit on your own!

This entry was posted in (Re)discovering Chicagoland Neighborhoods, Building Healthy Places, Community Development, Event Re-cap, Events, News From Chicago. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *