Hanging with unburdened Mayor Emanuel as Whole Foods Englewood marks second year | Chicago Sun Tim

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other officials broke ground for the Jewel-Osco coming to Woodlawn, at 61st & Cottage Grove on March 7, 2018. | Photo: Brooke Collins

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other officials broke ground for the Jewel-Osco coming to Woodlawn, at 61st & Cottage Grove on March 7, 2018. | Photo: Brooke Collins

For Emanuel, tackling the problem of South and West Side communities with few groceries and healthy-eating choices was a key mayoral mission. It’s reflected not only here in Englewood, but with a new Mariano’s in Bronzeville, a new Wal-Mart in Roseland. And as he leaves office, a Jewel-Osco is headed to Woodlawn and a Shop & Save to South Shore.

“Nothing has an impact on a neighborhood’s economy like a grocery store,” says Emanuel, as he leaves Whole Foods.

“If you build a grocery store, you get a Starbuck’s, a Chipotle, a microbrewery. You pull a grocery store out, each of those fold up, because nothing produces foot traffic like this. There’s the health of the neighborhood economy and the health of the person shopping there. Have I eliminated all food deserts? No. Have I made a significant dent? I can say I’ve done my part.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other officials cut the ribbon at the Oct. 10, 2016, opening of a new Mariano’s in Bronzeville, at 38th Street & King Drive. | Photo: Brooke Collins

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other officials cut the ribbon at the Oct. 10, 2016, opening of a new Mariano’s in Bronzeville, at 38th Street & King Drive. | Photo: Brooke Collins

A Year After Whole Foods, Starbucks Debuts, Englewood Asks, "Whats Next?"


ENGLEWOOD — Whole Foods first opened its doors in Englewood a year ago, and with its success, community members are now asking, "What's next?"

Last September, some customers waited for as long as four hours for the store's 9 a.m. grand opening, and store officials said more than 3,000 people had shopped at the store by the end of the day. Over the summer, many residents said the store had turned into a community hub.

But the store has had an impact that goes beyond bringing a single business to the area, community members say now.

Englewood Square, where the grocery store is housed at 63rd Street and Halsted, is practically full, with all but one of the 10 storefronts leased, developer Leon Walker of DL3 Realty said. There has been interest in the remaining spot, he said.



The square is home to a Starbucks; Chipotle; Villa, Join the Movement, a clothier; Dress Code: Fashion by the Code; Nail Works; Wing Stop; Oak Street Health, a primary care clinic with a pharmacy; and soon a PNC Bank, he said.

“It’s so amazing,” to celebrate a year in business, Walker said. “There were a lot of doubters before [Whole Foods] opened.”

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Business growing

Other stores in the complex said business is picking up.

Store managers from Dress Code and Villa said business is sometimes slow, but since the shopping center has filled up, there’s more foot traffic and cars in the parking lot.

“We’ve had our ups and downs,” Dress Code manager Taleb Hassan said. The store opened Sept. 9, even before Whole Foods. “The parking lot has been a lot fuller with Wing Stop next door. It’s helped a lot.”

And Villa’s store manager, Vivi Wilkes, has been working since last year. She got promoted in July.

“It can be slow” at times, she said, “but I think the other stores help bring customers.”

Mary Curtis, 29, lives at 56th and Loomis. She shops and eats in the shopping center all the time, she said.

“I don’t have to go Downtown for Chipotle or Starbucks,” she said. “This is going to last. Now we have the same opportunity as people in other parts of the city. When this opened, I said, ‘Finally.’”

More economic development is crucial for the revitalization of Englewood, 17th Ward Ald. David Moore said. He said he’s pleased with the impact Englewood Square has had on the community, but more needs to be done.

“After one year, we should’ve been seeing this going from one end of Halsted to the next,” he said, from 63rd to 79th streets.

“We need to redevelop that whole Halsted corridor."

Moore said he’s working on bringing more commercial and residential development.

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“We’re in talks right now with some developers. Nothing concrete just yet, but it’s looking good.”

He also wants affordable veteran housing.

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) said he also wants to see more for Greater Englewood. For him, that means more investment.

“As we move forward, our goal is to see how we can bring additional investment to the neighborhood,” he said.

Housing, better education and more jobs are just a few areas that need to be addressed for residents, Lopez said. He plans on working on them all in order to help improve the overall quality of life for Englewood residents, he said.

While new business is good for the community, he said he’s doing his part to ensure that it’s the right kind of business and something residents want.

To prevent developers or property owners from opening unwanted businesses without notice, Lopez said he’s been changing the zoning for parcels along 63rd Street to give residents a voice.

“Prior to my action, anyone could’ve popped in along 63rd street and other parts of the ward and just put up whatever they wanted to, as long as it met the zoning requirements,” he said. “And with no input from the community or alderman, we would quite literally wake up one day and see something brand new, and not necessarily something that was a positive for the neighborhood.”

Phase two

Walker said he’s amazed at the impact his development has already had on the community, but it isn’t the end. He said the city is working on the next phase.

“There are a lot of plans being discussed,” Walker said. “It’s not public, but there’s certainly an active discussion. We hear there is a great deal of interest in just buying homes, and that’s really important to have that investment.”

Investing in Englewood is personal for Walker, he said, because his mother grew up in Englewood and went to Englewood High School. Both of his parents were teachers there.

And since construction for Englewood Square began in 2013, he and Moore said there have been no major violent crimes near that 63rd and Halsted intersection.

“Crime issues are still present throughout Chicago, but we’re starting to carve out zones of safety where people can live and shop and work,” he said. “So 63rd and Halsted is becoming one of those neighborhood hubs that people can come to and feel relatively safe.”

For Walker, everything that’s happening is a part of the ripple effect that he always said would happen.

“This shows that economic development has a role,” he said. “We can’t just evaluate the success by the four walls of the shopping center. We have to evaluate the success of the project by how it’s changing the narrative of Englewood.”

The community is more than ready for change, he said. 

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For Milton Taylor, who has lived in Englewood since 1976, the shopping center is a step in the right direction.

“Before this store, there was nothing at this caliber before,” Taylor said, adding that while it can be slow sometimes, “no business is declared successful in the first year.”

“This used to be a slum area, with just a Walgreens. So now we have options,” he said.

Englewood Square will officially celebrate its one-year anniversary Monday. The event will be co-hosted by Walker and will include food, awards, dignitaries and a VIP tasting. All of the nearly 40 local entrepreneurs who landed their products on the shelves of Whole Foods have been invited. 

Englewood Starbucks a Big Success After one year Opening

It may seem like there's a Starbucks on every corner in Chicago, but that's not the case in some of the city's more impoverished neighborhoods.

Which is why it was big news last year when Starbucks opened its first store in Englewood, a neighborhood infamous for high crime and low employment. But one year later, the store is a big success.

KK Williams is the manager of the Englewood Starbucks and like most of its employees, she's a resident of Englewood as well.

"It has been awesome. The customers, the partners, the area. Everybody's welcomed us. It's been one great ride,” Williams said.

On Wednesday, Starbucks threw a party to celebrate a successful first year as part of the new Englewood Square Development on West 63rd, which also includes a Whole Foods store and a handful of other retailers.

It’s been a rare success story in one of the city's poorest and most crime-ridden neighborhoods.

Also today, Chicago police met with customers as part of the department's "Coffee with a Cop" day.

"It has made a huge difference. Whole Foods, Starbucks, they are premier brands. And to bring those brands here into the Englewood community is saying 'Hi, Englewood is morning, Englewood is rising,'" said Officer Oneta Sampson.

Rachel Bernier-Green owns a Morgan Park bakery that supplies red velvet cheesecake brownies to this and ten other Starbucks on the south side.

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"It's been absolutely phenomenal. When you walk into any other sales meeting and you tell them I work with Starbucks, it opens a lot of other doors,” said Bernier-Green.

And the meeting room in the store is used as part of a jobs training program.

"To help young people ages 16 to 24 acquire some customer service training skills. So that's been really good because almost 100 people have gone through the program in the first year,” said Perry Gunn of Teamwork Englewood.

The city is hoping the new Englewood Square Development will jump-start other new investment along the 63rd Street corridor, which used to be one of Chicago’s busiest shopping areas.

Big names Tapped to lead Amazon Effort

Penny Pritzer

Penny Pritzer

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner have pulled together a mix of familiar and new faces from Chicago's corporate community to lead the city's effort to land a major Amazon expansion.

Co-chairs of the committee, a group of civic and community leaders that has more than 600 members, are Oscar Munoz, CEO of United Airlines; Penny Pritzker, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce who now runs investment firm PSP Capital; Jim Reynolds, CEO of Loop Capital; and Miles White, CEO of Abbott Laboratories and a former chairman of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club. (Check the full list at the end of this story.)

Pritzker, Reynolds and White are longtime civic leaders in Chicago. Munoz is a newcomer who grew up in Los Angeles and came to Chicago from Florida two years ago.

Emanuel and Rauner are honorary co-chairs of the committee; and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is honorary vice-chair.

Pritzker was among a small group that traveled to Seattle last week to see Amazon's campus and learn more about the company. Letters went out from the mayor and governor last week to potential supporters throughout the Chicago area, asking them to join the committee to help land Amazon, which set off a nationwide feeding frenzy Sept. 7 when it said it was looking for a second headquarters that could generate up to 50,000 jobs paying an average of more than $100,000 each over 10 to 15 years.

Today is the deadline for real estate developers to submit to the city possible sites for the Amazon project, which is expected to start with at least 500,000 square feet but could grow to 8 million square feet.

Pritzker and her co-chairs will help lead the corporate charge and rally community support, as well as help orchestrate the city's message, should Chicago become a serious contender for the Amazon project, dubbed HQ2.

If the playbook seems familiar, it's very similar to how Chicago tackled the 2016 Olympic bid a decade ago. The key difference will be speed. The Olympic bid played out over years. The Amazon chase will be done in months.

The e-commerce giant set an Oct. 16-19 deadline for responses to its request for proposals. More than 50 cities have indicated plans to bid on the project. Bidders and observers expect Amazon to move quickly, potentially choosing a list of finalists as early as year-end with a final decision in the first or second quarter of 2018.

Whole Foods' first year in Englewood Proved To Be A 'Mixed Year'


One year ago, the much-anticipated Whole Foods grocery opened in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, a black South Side community with corner stores more overstocked with junk food than groceries brimming with healthy options.

Questions swirled about how the store would be affordable to shoppers in this low-income community. While store officials said sales are not what the company had hoped, the store has emerged as a local hub and catalyst for bringing in new businesses to the long-disinvested corridor around 63rd and Halsted streets.

“It’s been definitely a mixed year in terms of results,” said Walter Robb, the former Whole Foods co-CEO who chairs the nonprofit Whole Cities Foundation. “Have we accomplished everything we wanted to? No. Have the sales been all that we hoped? No. Have we created a gathering place for people? Have we created some jobs? Have we brought some new choices to the community that perhaps didn’t exist before? Yes we have.”

On Thursday, the store celebrated its one-year anniversary with a free farmers market in the parking lot. Residents said there are advantages to note, and also more to be done.

Englewood residents Linda Love and Douglas Carr get free farmer’s market tickets from Vivana Proano, a regional marketer with Whole Foods. (Andrew Gill/WBEZ)


What’s worked

Englewood residents have a place to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. This Whole Foods is also one of the few sit-down restaurants in the neighborhood. On Friday nights, the grocery hosts a happy hour with wine tastings, food stations, and music — either a live band or DJ — making it a community hub. The store also offers yoga, nutrition, and belly dancing classes.

The store stocks products from local vendors and has provided more than 70 jobs, according to store officials. Whole Cities Foundation has sponsored a business competition challenge for Englewood. The foundation has also given Englewood groups $74,000.

“This place has become a center for the community and that’s something that we all thought of, but it unfolded in a way past what I thought could happen, my vision for it,” said Cecile De Mello, community engagement specialist for the Whole Foods Englewood store.


Room for improvement

Community activists said the company has kept its promises to the neighborhood. Prices are cheaper than other area Whole Foods, but they’ve also fluctuated. When the store first opened, sandwiches were six dollars — now they are eight. Whole Foods officials said there are more opportunities for price reductions since Amazon acquired the grocer. For example, the price of bananas in Englewood have continued to decrease. Milk and eggs tend to be cheaper than other Whole Foods.

The price of organic shredded mozzarella cheese also dropped a few cents after Amazon bought Whole Foods. (Andrew Gill/WBEZ)

There’s still the perception that the fresh and organic grocer lives up to the moniker “Whole Paycheck.” Asiaha Butler, of the community groups R.A.G.E. and Grow Greater Englewood, said while it’s a community hub on Friday nights, weekends tend to be empty.

Butler said the company appears to be committed to the store and the neighborhood, but more food education is needed.

“The community activists and advocates are totally aware of what’s happening at Whole Foods and love it,” Butler said. “It’s become a meet-up place. But those grandmothers on the block may not know what’s here and what’s accessible. Some more heavier marketing [is needed,].”

Other critiques are that the store needs to offer more cooking classes and lessons on how to shop at the specialty store.

A mural in the Englewood Whole Foods shows a child biting into a bright green apple. Some residents say awareness of increased options for fresh produce hasn't reached the community in the way the store had envisioned. (Andrew Gill/WBEZ)


New Businesses

The Whole Foods helped attract a Starbucks and Chipotle to the Englewood Square shopping area, officials said last year.

“It’s brought a whole different type of energy to the corner of 63rd and Halsted. It’s bringing attention to get new investors to come back,” said Perry Gunn, executive director of the nonprofit Teamwork Englewood, which is located directly across the street from Whole Foods.

This year, the city named part of 63rd Street a retail thrive zone, which means local small businesses are able to get grants up to $250,000. Nine businesses have gotten grants to come to 63rd Street. They include black retailers from Englewood. By next year, a brewery, soul food restaurant, design firm, shared commercial kitchen space, and barber college are expected to open.