Saturday, February 23, 2008

New site pitches West Haven retail space

The thing about the digital revolution is that new things keep coming every day, and while that isn't always comfortable, I am often pleasantly surprised by some ingenious new application of new-media tools to serve community development goals.

For instance, I was elated the other day when I clicked through on a link sent to me by Mike Quinlan, program manager for the West Haven Revitalization Initiative. He had just launched the new West Haven Now web site for the Near West Side Community Development Corporation, and on that site I found property listings and photos for retail spaces along West Madison Street and Western Avenue, an area that has changed almost completely since I worked on the neighborhood's first quality-of-life plan in 2000.

The site showed me how the 2400 block of West Madison (photo above) is filling in with new condo-over-store buildings, and gave me the heads up that the Sweet Dreams Cafe will be opening soon in the historic "skyscraper" on the northwest corner of Madison and Western (photo right).

Other new buildings are at 28 S. Western, 115-125 S. Western, 2000 West Warren and elsewhere. These areas were once known for the Rockwell Gardens and Henry Horner Homes public housing developments, both of which are being redeveloped as mixed-income communities.

The West Haven site is the second I've seen that is very consciously trying to attract retailers to once-forgotten corners of the inner city. The other is the Quad Communities Development Corporation site, whose directory section is filled with hundreds of listings of existing businesses as well as available commercial properties, complete with photos. The group has already lined up more than $80 million in new development along the Cottage Grove corridor, and just announced a $12 million loan program to spruce up existing properties.

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