I thought my head would explode the day I realized another mattress store was opening just blocks from the one already in my neighborhood.
The only thing that bugged me more was seeing not one, but two branch banks being built near me.
How can such benign things spark my ire? Let me tell you.
In my neighborhood, like so many in the city, the commercial choices are limited. But it wasn’t always that way. When I moved here, nearby there was a cute card/gift shop, a good carryout/bakery, a flower shop where the guy would tell you neighborhood gossip while he arranged your bouquet. Any city dweller would tell you those are the types of businesses you need, the kind that give people a reason to get out in their neighborhood. In the process you meet your neighbors; all that foot traffic discourages crime and gives a neighborhood stability.
Those businesses are all gone now, and in its place are things like the bank branches or mattress stores. These businesses do little to foster the sense of community a stable neighborhood needs.
That’s why I love the idea of the Low-Line Market in Lake View, which is on Thursdays. Oh, it’s small and just seasonal now, but the plans are ambitious and this is just what an urban neighborhood needs to flourish.
There’s some fresh produce, but mostly there are packaged foods, flowers, meats, cheeses — all locally sourced and for sale under the Brown Line L stop at Southport. The idea is that one day there will be a number of different reasons for people to walk under the L track for a good six blocks, up to the Paulina stop.
It also means that when people get off the L, they hang around, but in a good way. The CTA likes that, too, says Heather Way Kitzes, executive director of the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce. “They like the idea of commuters having an alternate opportunity at the stop,” she says.
Kitzes points out that commuters don’t scurry away. Instead, as I saw when I visited, they stopped to check out what was going on, interacted with vendors, other shoppers. I think when you get to do things like that close to home you feel good about your neighborhood.
Brigid Novak of Cookie Yum.com was there with her dangerously delicious cookies. (As “research” I sampled the Milky Way and Red Velvet cookies. Yum indeed.) She lives in the community, likes being part of this local effort and “it’s a great opportunity for getting the cookies out there.”
Now this is what I call a good urban idea. Neighboring businesses have specials on Low-Line Market days, a good way to keep your permanent business part of the action, too. Everyone’s connected. That’s what you need in a neighborhood.
And just as I was wrapping up this column, I discovered that the new plaza at the Loyola Red Line stop is kicking off a number of activities to draw the community to that area, give them a good reason to be there. That sounds like it will be good, too.
I hope more of our neighborhoods get good ideas like the Low-Line Market and the Loyola Red Line Plaza. We need initiatives that encourage community. Tell your alderman that the next time you see another branch bank or mattress store sprouting up where you live and shop.