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Old 03-26-2012, 10:51 PM
Uncle Goat Uncle Goat is offline
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The Workings of the City that Works

Noticed yet another store front suddenly empty after years of business.
This leads to a couple of questions:

1) Is it cheaper for the owner of retail property to have a empty space instead of an actual business?

2) How many of the vacant store fronts are owned by people or companies that are not located in Chicago?

3) Other than everyone agreeing these empty storefronts sure are a shame, is anyone in the City that Works trying to find a solution?
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Old 03-27-2012, 12:31 AM
Mr Downtown Mr Downtown is offline
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1. Well, it's a tiny bit cheaper to not have any utility bills—but generally he's not taking in any income, so he's going to see that as a big disadvantage. His property taxes don't go down, if that's what you mean.

2. Hard to know for sure, but it's not a large number if you're talking about ordinary shopfronts on the North Side, as opposed to power centers like Brickyard or Marshfield Plaza.

3. Yes, various city officials and aldermen go each year to the ICSC convention to try to persuade national credit retailers to take a chance on in-city Chicago locations. Is there another strategy you'd like to suggest?
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Old 03-27-2012, 09:40 PM
Uncle Goat Uncle Goat is offline
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1. But is there some kind of tax write off because you're not collecting rent on a commercial property? I've seen places that have been vacant for years. It certainly doesn't appear that whoever owns these places is going out of their way to rent them out as many do not any phone numbers or contact info for anyone to call.

2. If a place is empty and owned out of state, is there any way for the city to claim it via public domain? Or if the vacant store front has been that way for years, and the city finds that the landlord is just waiting for high rents to become possible again and is unwilling to lower rents for a start up, perhaps that could claimed as well.

3. Looking for national chains to come in is a huge mistake. Look at Borders. Huge spaces now vacant. Getting a national chain with national ambitions is a proven dog. They should be looking for local small businessmen instead, but then those guys don't give to campaigns do they?
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Old 03-28-2012, 12:36 AM
Mr Downtown Mr Downtown is offline
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1. Nope. Sometimes real estate is held for long-term speculation, or in expectation of an impending redevelopment. Sometimes it's tied up in family problems, multiple ownership, or probate issues.

2. Nope. The whole building isn't vacant, much less abandoned, just one portion. There are ways for the city to condemn areas for redevelopment, but it has to be a comprehensive plan, not just a vendetta against one storefront.

3. Want to look at the statistical averages on which kind of tenants are most likely to fail: undercapitalized locals or national chains? There's a reason the real estate industry calls them "national credit retailers." Because they have credit.
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Old 03-28-2012, 04:59 AM
Ken001 Ken001 is offline
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What you describe is a classic example of urban blight. For reasons I do not pretend to understand, European and American cities have a band of decrepit buildings just outside downtown. Buildings which are old, not maintained, partly-vacant, and home to a mix of cheap shops and living accommodation.

Interestingly Asian cities do not have this.
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Old 03-28-2012, 10:00 AM
Uncle Goat Uncle Goat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Downtown View Post
1. Nope. Sometimes real estate is held for long-term speculation, or in expectation of an impending redevelopment. Sometimes it's tied up in family problems, multiple ownership, or probate issues.
While one can sympathize with prolonged legal battles, the greater good of the community must be taken into account. Vacant store fronts are not positive assets and one of the ways to help a local economy is have a thriving business where once there was nothing. The long-term speculation should be focused on taking some risks with a potential business, not wait for someone else to take that risk so you can lure yet another Starbucks in.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Downtown View Post
2. Nope. The whole building isn't vacant, much less abandoned, just one portion. There are ways for the city to condemn areas for redevelopment, but it has to be a comprehensive plan, not just a vendetta against one storefront.
Hopefully no one is talking about vendettas against anyone. If there aren't tax breaks for empty store fronts, perhaps there should be for active ones. And this tax break could also be translated to lower rent cost for a possible business too.
Various carrot and stick solutions have to be out there, perhaps a larger carrot is the answer.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Downtown View Post
3. Want to look at the statistical averages on which kind of tenants are most likely to fail: undercapitalized locals or national chains? There's a reason the real estate industry calls them "national credit retailers." Because they have credit.
This is a false equivalency. Statistical evidence shows that most small businesses fail within five years, (sooner if the business is a restaurant), so why bother? Why not board up the windows and forever padlock the door? But clearly, that is not the desired solution.

National chains, in the "too big to fail" belief system, are failing all the time, often with greater impact as their arrival can force smaller independent stores under before they decide to pull up stakes and go elsewhere. A national chain has no invested interest in staying in a community through thick and thin. Sears can proudly take a huge bribe to stay in Illinois and still turn around and start closing stores because it serves their bottom line.

Worrying about maximizing profits for shareholders is not something we need in a local community store. Ideally, the person who runs the store also lives in the neighborhood. The owner hires local people and it is a supported by the local community. Not every business needs to be a millionaire making deal. Not every store needs to have a nationally recognizable image or brand to be successful.

I would much rather see a local guy have a coffee house that featured local folk musicians than another Starbucks, and I don't drink coffee and hate folk music.
The community should be actively thriving, not clearly dying. I would rather see a store front change hands once a year from one bad idea to the next than to see it empty and devoid of any promise.
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