CHICAGO-Retailers displaced by construction of Kennedy-King College’s $192-million campus at 63rd and Halsted streets are staking out new space in a 160,000-sf center in the 5900 and 6000 blocks of S. Halsted Street. City officials say about 42% of the space in the $23-million project already has been claimed by 23 businesses that once operated in the heart of the Englewood community’s shopping district.

A business planned development for the 8.5 acres of mostly city-owned vacant lots was endorsed recently by the plan commission. Smithfield Properties, LLC was approved in 2002 for about $6 million in tax increment financing assistance and land write-downs for its nine-building project.

“This has been a long time coming,” says 16th Ward Alderman Shirley Coleman. “We are excited…It really will be a boost for us.”

The most serious issue for the plan commission was a proposed cantilevered pedestrian bridges spanning above Halsted Street in three locations. “We understand that’ll be a challenge for someone to get on that bridge and make a statement,” Coleman says. However, the benefits to the economically struggling Englewood community outweigh potential problems caused by the pedestrian bridges, adds 42nd Ward Alderman Burton Natarus. “This will revitalize the whole neighborhood,” he says. “This neighborhood needs this project.”

Smithfield Properties’ shopping center does not include a grocery store, as one already is planned for an 8.9-acre site at the northwest corner of 63rd and Halsted streets. Among the businesses still operating in the project site are three liquor stores and an electrical supply company. The liquor stores are doomed, as the new B3-2 zoning for the site prohibits them along with currency exchanges and pawn shops.

The land once belonged to a hospital, notes Henry P. Wilson, chairman of the Southeast Community Development Council. “This will enhance the ability of having our former tax base restored,” he adds.

Earlier this year, the city began moving to acquiring a 38-unit townhouse development at 61st and Halsted streets, many of which belong to HUD following foreclosures.

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