The Obama economy really is the pits

I’ve been in a mild funk lately because of all of the changes to one of my favorite little corners of Chicago Land. Closed and vacant shops mixed in with lightly populated high-end condo buildings turned rental. Halted construction and empty lots from development projects that fell through after the 2008 “crash”. Noisy restaurants where once stood second hand mom-and-pop shops, stationers and book stores. Closed, closed and closed. And yet, the local government persists in its grand 20-year economic development plans (I am not making that up) so that citizens are paying good money to brick streets, put up complicated and fashionable street lights, or have closed door meetings between developers and governmental officials. Welcome to Chicago and its suburbs. Lots of this-FEST and that-FEST sponsored by local officials in order to bring in business traffic, although many residents are inconvenienced by the crowds, noise and garbage. Some months ago while walking through the hospital, I overheard a conversation about this very neighborhood. It wasn’t very reassuring. I heard the words “scary” and “changes”. Urban blight. The beginnings of urban blight. People are so in denial.

10 thoughts on “The Obama economy really is the pits”

  1. Out here in California you will see a lot of empty storefronts in the strip malls.

    I closed my business 3 years ago (unrelated to this economy) and our small office is still for lease 3 years later.

  2. Tim – the governmemt and all their employees is my guess ….Out here I was talking about the Lake Tahoe region with friends – how the real estate is boom or bust – why?

    Because so many homes are 2nd homes and when you lose your job the first thing you want to sell is that 2nd house…


  3. I, too, wonder what neighborhood this is.

    Not to say that Chicago isn’t in extreme trouble (because holy moley, is it ever), but my neck of the woods (near Horner Park) is seeing some tentative recovery. Storefronts are generally occupied by small shops geared to Latino customers. Nothing fancy, many with handwritten/painted signs, but at least someone is attempting commerce.

    Also, the empty condos seem to be filling up, either with renters or people buying them at reduced price. Someone even broke ground for a single family home on our block, on a lot that’s been empty for seven years.

    (Of course, a lot of the real estate turnover has been foreclosure sales, as the comps from our most recent appraisal strongly indicate.)

    Maybe the reason we’re seeing some signs of life is that no one is talking “redevelopment” – the power brokers seem to be leaving us alone.

  4. Westie, I think that. A lot.

    If the Chicago Mercantile Exchange moves (and rumors are they are thinking seriously about it), that might open the floodgates for firms to leave. More likely, they’ll arm-twist the legislature into a massive tax break, which small and medium sized businesses (a.k.a. schmucks) will never get a chance to get.

  5. Hey all,

    The overheard conversation was about the Oak Park-Forest Park Madison St. business corridor, especially the OP side.

    The state spent a million or so brick paving Roosevelt Rd through Oak Park/Berwyn/Cicero and now the TIF fun starts.

    And as long as I am in complain mode: the last time I was on State St, there were a ton of vacancies. Loehmann’s is gone and a couple other big storefronts are empty. Millennium Park is a glittery surface under which lies rot.

    – Madhu

  6. The John Batchelor show had a little segment on the Gap closing stores. Borders and the Gap filled a lot of big awkward spaces in various cities, spaces where small department stores used to be. What will take their place?

    – Madhu

  7. One final point. A local NPR program talked recently about how IL debt is spooking off some businesses even if Chicago does have advantages. The piper has to be paid. Scary.

    – Madhu

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