Monday, February 13, 2006

Banana Republic: When one leaves, is that Un-Gentrification?

One principle of observing city life as it evolves and gentrifies is that whenever a Banana Republic (or Starbucks) shows up in a cool, less expensive neighborhood, lament follows. (See here.)

What to think, then, when in my long-gentrified, more expensive neighborhood, a Banana Republic closes, taking a Baby Gap along with it?

Both stores' closed signs refer business to other locations that are less than half a mile away. They're on North Avenue just east of the I-90/94 expressway in a horrible zone of sprawl.

I hate it for a number of reasons, but mainly because a) it's all shopping mall without residences, so, consequently, b) there are no stakeholders to stand up to the ugliness of it all or add some humanity to it. I'll save the rest of my rant for another post.

What I wanted to get at is this: If the big chain retailers leave the arguably charming shopping area of Halsted Street for a strip mall a half mile away, is that a good sign for Halsted Street?

I'm hopeful it means that a new mix is filling in our community as I've noticed some other hipster outlets rubbing elbows here with the mighty upscales.

Is it the beginning of a post-gentrification emergence? I don't know.

But, I'll keep you posted on whether an independent store or a chain shows up in the empty Banana Republic and BabyGap. You probably don't have to guess which I'm rooting for.

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