Yes, 79th Street is a great street. It's one of the longest continuous running streets in Cook County. The 79th street CTA route has the highest ridership in the city because it has the greatest number of north/south connections than any other route. The intersection of 79th State Street has over 100,000 people pass through on a daily basis. If you go west to Halsted, you will run into the Salaam Restaurant, a beautiful granite facade building and if you go east, you run into the Chatham Executive Building, a newly renovated building and one of the "greenest" buildings on the southside. But, there is one problem, both buildings are empty.
The great 79th street once was the home of grocery stores such as Dominicks and A&P, car dealerships such as RL Dukes Cadillac and entertainment venues such as Perv's Place and the Rhodes Theater. Fast Forward to 2011 and the car dealership and theater are gone, Dominick's has been replaced by a limited option grocery store Save a Lot and Perv's Place has a new name and lost its once famous luster. When 79th street is mentioned in the press its usually is not in a positive light. Most of the time it's about senseless violence that is taxing the Chicago Police Department 6th district and failing business. This has become a point of frustration with residents who are demanding radical change along 79th. The new mayor Rahm Emmanuel comes to Chatham but avoids 79th Street, like the plague, after receiving a not so warm welcome during his campaign.
The question is how radical of a change is needed, some argue that older storefronts need to be torn down and replaced with national fast casual dining spots such as Panera Bread, Qdoba, etc. They believe that this will make the community more marketable to northsiders of all nationalities, who currently will not come into or consider moving to Chatham. Others believe that we need to recruit more small businesses that offer a variety of product and services. Currently, Roderick Sawyer, Alderman of the 6th ward is focusing his efforts on building a transit base economy that will cater to the 100,000 plus individuals at the 79th State Street intersection and others who ride public transportation, through the Chatham community.
Whatever the plan, we will need infrastruture improvements such as new lighting, dedicated cleaning crews to keep current businesses such as Chatham Food Market and Pride Cleaners and attract new business such as the new Whitney Young Library. The future of Chatham will be depend on the rejuvenation of 79th Street. Mayor Emmanuel we would love to walk 79th street with you, so you can see it through our eyes.
What would you like to see change to make 79th Street a great street again?