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What Should Go Here: Empty Lot at 87th and Troy

The Evergreen Parker wants to hear what you think should go in the block-long empty space along 87th Street east of Troy Street

Here's a tough one – the empty lot along the south side of 87th Street between Troy Street and Albany Avenue. There are a lot of uses around this lot, which makes figuring out a single use more difficult. On the surface, it seems to make sense to build – this will shock regular readers – a mixed-use development. To the west across Troy Street is an apartment building. Across 87th Street is a school. To the south are single-family homes. To the west are a giant strip shopping center with a grocery store on the northwest corner of 87th and Kedzie, a little strip mall carved out of the cemetery on the southwest corner of 87th and Kedzie, and a little tobacco shop that is totally out of context by itself on the southeast corner.

This is an area that is not particularly well served by transit although one could conceivably take the Kedzie CTA bus to the Southwest Service Metra stop at 79th Street, or the 87th Street bus east to the CTA Red Line. The Kedzie corridor north of 87th Street is an eclectic mix of little shops and eateries, refreshingly devoid of chain stores for the most part.

I could see apartments working here, with ground-floor retail primarily serving the neighborhood to the south. A coffee shop, maybe a dry cleaners and a restaurant with a little grocery store – a small one for necessities – serving people who don't want to venture across Kedzie and 87th to the Ultra Foods, or across Kedzie to the Walgreens.

Eighty-Seventh Street could use a little love in the form of a nice, classy development.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments.

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northside June 20, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Yes. I think it would be very nice to make 87th street a nice part of EP along with all of the other improvements going on. One thing that might help - do we really need all those north/south streets blocked off from 87th? Might be more attractive to businesses if more accessable.
EP Lover June 21, 2012 at 12:54 AM
This column illustrates how out of touch with reality Mr. Clair is with regard to some aspects of life in EP. An apartment building in that location (whether it's mixed used or not), will very likely bring more relatively unstable, somewhat transient families into EP which in turn could likely result in more underperforming students at Northeast Elememntary. Potentially, such students would impact the entire district as NE is a choice school. Our schools have enough challenges - let's not invite more students in until the district gets a handle on the current issues it faces. Additionally, with the soft real estate market, it stands to reason that the only demand for rentals (particularly on a busy, heavily traveled street) will be from those who do not have the resources for a more desirable home purchase or rental on the quieter streets of EP. Going into next week's forum, EP residents need to consider how adding housing to a flagging real estate market will actually impact our village. While I hate to seem as though I'm criticizing Mr. Clair's ideas just for the purpose of being critical , I thin his ideas are too idealistic for the realities of EP and that residents need to critically examine his proposals before automatically supporting them.
Dee June 21, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Agreed
Chris Clair June 21, 2012 at 07:27 PM
So, EP Lover and Dee, back to the original question. What would you like to see there?
EP Lover June 21, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Maybe a full sized, sit down restaurant with unique appeal? Maybe an eatery with an specialized offering along the lines of Chuck's or a family friendly pub with a diverse and extensive beer list and beet garden? A successful establishment that brings people to the area could be the catalyst to making 87th a more appealing part of EP. The site would need ample parking to accommodate those not in walking distance.
epsouthwest June 22, 2012 at 05:10 AM
EP Lover--Yes! We need something there that will make the 87th Street corridor more a part of our neighborhood. I live in NE, and I think it would be wonderful for there to be desirable businesses in ALL parts of our community. If one part of EP is neglected or lacks a strong economic/social base, that causes problems for ALL of our neighborhood.
epsouthwest June 22, 2012 at 05:12 AM
Amen. Yes, I often agree with Chris Clair--we need to move away from strip-mall developments. But mixed-use in a neighborhood (or just in a time) where the housing market isn't all that great is a mistake. The unfortunate reality is that the apartments in EP don't often draw people who are "in it" for the long-haul.
EP Lover June 22, 2012 at 12:44 PM
To be clear, I think mixed used developments sound interesting but I don't think they are appropriate in all instances and possibly not at all for EP given the current real estate market. I'd love to read about other alternatives to strip mall development.
monica June 24, 2012 at 12:43 AM
I like the idea of a nice restaurant, we don't have enough in this neighborhood.
Chris Clair June 25, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Wonderful suggestions! A restaurant is an excellent call for that area, it seems to me, although it did not occur to me at the time. A Chuck's eastern outpost, or a Honky Tonk BBQ-south location, for example, would be fabulous as would a pub. Now that I think about it, it might be nice to have a place with live music a couple of nights a week. Not refried rock or a dance club but some good Chicago alt-country groups, or blues, or jazz, or folk.... Or all of it on different nights. I suggested apartments above because there are stand-alone apartments just to the west, across Troy Street, that should probably go away someday to make room for commercial development closer to the main intersection there. I'm not trying to sound like a broken record with mixed-use; it's just my nature. To me a single-story, single use building along a major street like 87th, which could be (and should be) a bustling and vibrant business district serving EP and Chicago, leaves opportunity (and potential revenue) on the table. In the case of a restaurant there, the current reality is that you'd need a parking lot at the east end of the property to attract enough patrons to make it work. But you could build a two-story building out to the sidewalk on the west half of the lot that could accommodate a ground-floor restaurant and offices above, or brewing operations and a bar on the first floor with a sit-down restaurant upstairs, or a restaurant/bar on the first floor and music upstairs.
monica June 26, 2012 at 04:28 PM
How about something healthier and wide ranging than BBQ? vegetarian, fish, or a good place that has multiple selections? Just because we are on the southside doesn't mean we all eat pizza and BBQ. We need to expand our horizons a bit. It was an adjustment for me to move here from a life of living on the north side and Naperville. But I liked the affordable, family neighborhoods and quietness of this neighborhood which brought me back to where my grandmother was born in Beverly in the 1920's. The lack of variety down here is astounding. I like the music idea as well...classy stuff, like jazz or blues.
anita garrison June 27, 2012 at 12:11 PM
Addressing your comment about north/south streets blocked off from 87th: I live in the 8700 block of Francisco and think I speak for all my neighbors when I say yes, we want the streets to stay blocked off. Opening the streets would greatly increase traffic. Kids who now play catch or ride their bikes would be at risk. Opening to traffic would make it tempting for wrong-doers to strike and make a quick getaway. I agree with others who think a nice sit-down restaurant or music venue would be nice for that empty lot . Maybe a dinner place with jazz or similar ?
EP in the EP June 27, 2012 at 05:57 PM
I'd LOVE to see a vegan restaurant or one with healthier options open up in EP! Yes, I said VEGAN! (or at least, vegetarian-friendly - and that doesn't just mean a wide array of salads - I'm talking seitan dishes, my friends!!). If you've ever eaten at Pick Me Up Cafe in Chicago, you know what I'm talking about. I don't like the idea of apartments for the reasons previously stated. Trying to think of what we DON'T have that would offer a little more diversity to the southside than the usual (delicious, I may add) pizza, beer, hot dogs, grease traps. Delicious, yes...but let's get something DIFFERENT! I adore the idea of a Jazz club, or any sort of venue catering to music (maybe different nights of the week features different music - and can offer dance lessons on weeknights for salsa, etc?). Ok thinking out loud here.
monica June 28, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Haha...see, I said vegan/vegetarian at the EP mall site. Oh well...as long as we get some variety in this hood. Maybe my friends will want to come and visit me instead of me going to downtown or to Lincoln park all the time!
David g July 02, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Buffalo wild wings...

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