Most of my fellow Skokie residents have at some point heard the rumors that Trader Joes was being courted to move to our town. Or perhaps you heard or even expressed an opinion that Starbucks should be courted to open a Downtown Skokie location. I’ve heard all these suggestions, and while I love them – I think there are other solutions to our economic development concerns that we can take an active role in.
On Dempster Street, both the West AND the East ends, we have dozens of vacant storefronts. For many of those properties, their appearance, lack of marketing, and the reason they have remained empty for such a long time is entirely due to the landlord’s lack of response and ignoring the Village code. The Village has taken an aggressive and progressive approach at scooping up properties, rehabbing them, making them visible attractive, and putting them back on the market. Our community is now fortunate to have an Oberweis Dairy and several other local businesses opening entirely due to those efforts. These are exciting and encouraging developments for the Dempster Street neighborhood.
I’ve seen firsthand how filling one storefront at a time – no matter the size – can create the synergy to fill other properties and storefronts on a block, area, and even across a community. My hope is that with the opening of the new AAA North Suburban Agency on Dempster & Skokie Boulevard, we can fill the remaining vacancy in that shopping center, and perhaps even recruit a few inquiries on the infamous Barnum & Bagel property which is its immediate neighbor.
So, while the Village economic development staff do their part in recruiting larger corporations to consider Skokie as a home (and they have made major progress in those efforts), we can do our part. Take a stroll in Skokie, notice the smaller buildings and office space and take a moment to think about a friend that may have a small business that would fit into that space.
Let’s build that momentum and work one storefront at a time to strong economic development in Skokie.