January 9, 2013

LV SSA #25 Market Analysis & Economic Development Plan

26th Street in Little Village is one of the most vibrant commercial districts in the City of Chicago. Called “The Mexican Capital of the Midwest,” Little Village is a center for restaurants, stores, jobs, and housing.

Little Village restaurants and stores do not only serve the community. They serve the City of Chicago, suburbs, and are a center of tourism from other states from throughout the Midwest. While the area has fared better than most commercial districts in Chicago during the recession, there are still a troubling number of vacancies in an area that had traditionally had few vacancies, if any.

In September, 2012 Teska Associates, in association with Axia Development, was retained by Little Village SSA #25 to conduct a market analysis and economic development strategic plan for Little Village SSA #25.

This study aims to answer the following questions:
1) What is the current make-up of businesses in SSA #25?
2) What are the current market conditions facing these businesses?
3) What is the demand (or gap) for additional retail and restaurants?
4) What are the desires of businesses, customers, and residents as expressed through a survey and a series of focus groups?
5) What are the characteristics of competing business districts?
6) What are the challenges to redevelopment and reuse of properties?
7) What economic development strategies would improve the business climate, retain businesses, and attract new businesses to SSA #25?

Executive Summary

Little Village SSA #25 is home to one of the most vibrant commercial districts in the City of Chicago. Six distinct sectors make up the SSA, which is best known for 26th Street between California and Kostner, but also includes a mixed use area along 25th Street between Kedzie and Lawndale, auto-oriented commercial arterials along Kedzie and Pulaski, and a small commercial district on 31st Street. Together, there are over 600 business licenses in SSA #25, with a prevalence of restaurants, specialty grocery stores, and bridal/ quinceañera stores. In all, there are 110 restaurants, 96 miscellaneous retailers, and 33 beauty salons, making the area a destination retail district that draws customers from throughout Chicago, the suburbs, and the Midwest.

Retail is supported through several factors, including high traffic counts, high density of population and a large concentration of employers. 26th Street, Kostner Avenue, Pulaski Road, and Kedzie Avenue all have over 18,000 Average Daily Traffic which are very healthy numbers to support retail. There are over 95,000 residents within a five minute drive, and over 350,000 people within a ten minute drive. Finally, there are over 1,800 employers with over 30,000 employees within a five minute drive.

Yet, a rise in vacancies in the SSA has raised concerns. A retail gap analysis conducted for this study determined large gaps for general merchandise, health and personal care, and convenience shopping. The study also confirmed the importance of restaurants and groceries as an engine of growth for the SSA.

Three market comparisons were conducted: Pilsen, Wicker Park/Division Street, and Cicero/Berwyn/N. Riverside. The market comparisons showed relatively high rent levels in Little Village and less land available for new development and national retailers. Many of the services offered by the SSA are similar to other areas, although the SSA may consider offering loan packaging to assist its members.

Key recommendations include:

1 | A retail retention strategy to include marketing current SSA programs such as the Façade Rebate Program and Signage Improvement Grant (SIG). Consider a program to add WI FI across 26th Street to entice younger customers and increase support for restaurants and places to go to work off-site. Expand on the use of the La Villita Facebook page, and expand the branding/identity program to improve signage throughout the SSA.

2 | Enhance public safety through continuing to build relationships with the Chicago Police Department and other local organizations focused on public safety. Improvements to improve lighting, litter and graffiti removal, and consider private security or guides especially on peak evenings.

3 | Attract new businesses through proactively recruiting a mix of local, national, and Mexican-owned businesses to expand into Little Village. Seek opportunities for shared parking with local businesses during off-business hours. Pursue strategic acquisition of vacant parcels to add parking. Establish a Creative Arts District along 25th Street to attract artists and creative industries that are getting priced out of other neighborhoods and want a more genuine neighborhood experience. Attract new development along Pulaski and Kedzie, such as at the former Armando’s Supermarket site and the underutilized properties stretching down to 27th Street.

4 | Promote quality urban design through a branding campaign, renovation of Manuel Perez Jr. Plaza to add lighting and decorative gates that respect veterans and attract additional families and space for small events. Undertake parking improvements at key intersections to add diagonal parking spaces and/or provide additional sidewalk space for outdoor seating for restaurants.  Create a new outdoor public space by working with Little Village Plaza between Troy Street and Whipple Street.

5 | Coordinate with street vendors so that they add character and vitality but limit locations to not compete directly with similar businesses that have additional real estate and operating expenses.

6 | Investigate establishing or amending a TIF District so that increment derived from new developments is reinvested in the heart of the SSA to benefit the small businesses in the community.

7 | Expand recreation and open space opportunities such as new fields planned on Kedzie, consider attracting sports facilities into former industrial spaces that would attract people to Little Village, and work with local organizations to expand positive opportunities for youth to enhance public safety.

You can download a copy of the Executive Summary by clicking on this link.  Please note that Acrobat Reader is required to open the executive summary.  You can download the free Acrobat Reader directly from Adobe from here.

For additional study details, contact the Little Village Chamber of Commerce at 773.521.5387