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Saturday, August 09, 2014

How do I learn more about urban planning?

aerial photo of 63rd/Halsted Englewood
Last year I wrote about this "dreaded G word" over at my other blog - The Sixth Ward. It was in relation to the news that Whole Foods Market was coming into a low-income neighborhood in Chicago. That neighborhood is the south side's Englewood.

The point I was making was to address the concerns of the dreaded G word - gentrification - as it relates to Whole Foods which is basically a high-end grocer coming to a low-income neighborhood. Over the years in Chicago we've heard so much about a "food desert" where many Chicagoans don't have easy access to fresh produce and healthy foods. One means to attack this issue have been bringing in grocers in those areas were grocery stores are few and far in between.

But Whole Foods Market in Englewood of all places? Many nickname this place Whole Paychek, when I go in there the few items I have purchase could easily go up to $20 and it didn't take much for the bill to go up that high. I'm saying this recognizing that's a walk in the park compared to the bills of many other people who shop at a grocery store in general. Besides if you regularly pay $100 for groceries periodically, imagine how much the bill would be if you purchase that same amount from Whole Foods.

Either way since then I've periodically taken a look at this issue. Much more recently I showed some footage of a ceremonial ground breaking and the politicians and Whole Foods executives were saying the right things. While the issue of prices still keep coming up most of the coverage indicate that the products to be carried in this future store to open in 2016 will be affordable to residents of Englewood.

All the same the issue also is whether or not Whole Foods coming to Englewood is the start of movement. Will the many low-income residents of Englewood may in the near future find themselves forced to find another neighborhood to call home?

Not an easy answer to that question and the affordability question. To be sure, I only wish I knew more about urban planning so that there would be an better solution for everyone.

BTW, recently I learned that the west side of Chicago has a former grocery store - a former Moo & Oink -  looking for a tenant. If anyone fantasizes about another Chicago area grocer such as Mariano's come to that part of town they would be disappointed. Mariano's may not be quite right for the west side area for this former grocery store. So how is Englewood right for Whole Foods?

ALSO, another aspect of urban planning that I wish to understand is what it takes to bring certain types of retailers or businesses to a given area. Or indeed what it takes to attract these amenities to a community that certainly needs them. Will low-income people shop at a Whole Foods Market for example? If you build it will they come or will someone with the necessary income become regular shoppers?

Read more Whole Foods posts at The Sixth Ward!

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