Tuesday, May 20, 1997

Co-op plans 47th Street Branch

Co-op plans 47th Street Branch
The Chicago Maroon
By Pamela Appea

The Hyde Park Co-op Supermarket chain is planning to open a new store within a shopping complex located at 47th Street and Lake Park Avenue. The store is slated to open in June of 1998.

The Fund for Community Development and Revitalization (FFCDR), a coalition of several South Side-based community organizations, are supporting and sponsoring the endeavor. The University of Chicago, a member of the FFCDR, will be investing money in the multi-million dollar project. The City of Chicago cleared the space a few months ago in preparation for the project.

The Hyde Park supermarket co-operative currently has two locations in Hyde Park, one on 55th Street and one on 53rd Street. Mr. G’s Supermarket on 53rd Street, which was previously owned by Bill Gerstein was sold to Hyde Park Co-op. Continuing its expansion, the Co-op plans to buy the property at 47th Street in the near future and begin construction soon after.

The Co-op will be the main tenant of the new shopping complex for which the city of Chicago paid for the demolition and the purchase of the designated area. A general estimate of the total cost of the project is not yet apparent, according to Dick Fisk, general manager of the Co-op.

According to Josh Deth, the 47th Street Co-op will include everything the 55th street Co-op has: “a comprehensive produce section, a self-service meat section and a fresh seafood section. The Co-op management will also include wine/liquor and video stores. The supermarket also aims to provide a bulk foods section and a Starbucks-type coffee shop.

“I think it’s a good idea. I would support the 47th Street Co-op,” said Doris Crocket, a community resident, who lives closer to the 47th Street area than to the 57th Street Co-op, where she currently shops.

According to Bill Gerstein, director of community relations at the Hyde Park Co-op, other possible tenants in the 47th Street shopping complex include Citibank, Doc Fish Restaurant, and South Shore Decorating Company. Other business chains like Walgreens and Pep Boys, an auto store, “have expressed an interest in “leasing out retained space at the 47th Street complex.”

The 47th Street shopping mall project has been in planning sine the early 1990s. The push for revitalization in the South Side and other Chicago neighborhoods, however, has been around for the past 30 years.

The South Side and other communities in the late 1960s and early 1970s experienced “white flight” during which many businesses and community residents began to leave these neighborhoods and move to the suburbs. Consequently land value depreciated and, by the late 1970s, many areas in certain Chicago neighborhoods experienced economics depression.

“When I was elected in 1991, it was a priority [of mine] to [commercially]develop the Kenwood/Woodlawn area,” said Toni Preckwinkle, Fourth Ward Alderperson. “I am pleased that this commercial development is taking place.” Preckwinkle went on to add that the project is hardly “small change,” as it is a multi-million dollar endeavor.

There were, and continue to be, complaints from community residents and Co-op members that the Hyde Park Co-op is attempting to monopolize the local South Side area supermarket business. Some people have opined that there was not enough collective decision making in the process.

However, according to Gerstein, other Chicago supermarket chains did not show interest in the 47th Street project. He felt that the Co-op was right to jump at the chance when it presented itself.

Many Co-op store members have expressed some concerns, some with extremely negative reactions to the expansion. “It’s a big capital outlay. I don’t want the health of the parent store [to suffer],” said Carol Browning, a Hyde Park resident. “[So, while] I am concerned about [the 47th Street project], my general feeling is positive.” Browning added that, as a member, she would like to be kept informed about the 47th Street logistics in the months to come.

“Every past Co-op expansion beyond our basic store was a disaster; we lost big money on our Harper Court furniture operation. We lost money on the Short-Stop Co-op on 53rd Street,” said Hal Weinstein, a Co-op member and an electoral candidate in his statement printed in The Evergreen, the co-op’s newspaper.

Both the Co-op Furniture store and the Short-Stop Co-op were businesses that were founded in the 1970s and closed in the early 1980s.

“The former Mr. G’s [Co-op] we acquired is running 20 percent below the Co-op productions, and we’ve lose $65,000 in just seven months—$22,000 in the last reported month [April] alone,” Weinstein said.

Some hope that the new 47th Street will create a lot of jobs or allow current Co-op employees to work closer to their homes. “[The 47th Street area] is supposed to be a an up and coming neighborhood. It will produce jobs. I know a lot of people here who currently are employed here at [55th Street Co-op] who will like to transfer their location,” said a Co-op employee who spoke anonymously.

Others believe that the new Co-op memberships and other sources of funding will allow the project to be a success in the years to come.

“Opportunity exists in the revitalized north Kenwood area both for serve to the community and for growth in sales,” said George Cooley, a former treasurer for the Co-op board committee and a electoral candidate in current elections.

Originally published Tuesday, May 20, 1997