WEST LOOP — The West Loop needs more stores selling women’s clothing and more restaurants that cater to families, residents say.
But the residents aren't looking for more chains, they are hoping for smaller, locally owned shops featuring vintage clothing, books or bikes.
They'd also like to see a movie theater as well as a live-theater venue.
Those are some of the findings of a survey conducted by the West Loop Community Organization of 150 neighborhood business owners and residents.
The survey found that 54 percent of respondents wanted to see more women’s clothing options in the neighborhood. An equal number wanted more restaurant options.
While respondents said they were happy with the proximity to Randolph Street’s restaurant row, many ultimately wanted speedier and more affordable food options in the neighborhood.
Retail options have always been lacking in the West Loop, according to WLCP Executive Director Martha Goldstein.
"There's so much retail we need here. And we're gonna get it, it’s just a matter of time. Retail always comes last to a neighborhood," she said.
Although a Target recently opened at 1101 W. Jackson St., many surveyed also found the West Loop lacking in family-friendly retail spaces.
“The focus for many was small, locally owned businesses that add to the unique atmosphere of the West Loop,” the survey said. “One respondent commented, ‘The West Loop needs retail options that aren't available just anywhere,’ providing options like record stores, vintage clothing shops, independent bookstores and bicycle shops.”
When it came to women’s clothing, respondents said they wanted to see brands like Anthropologie, J Crew and Banana Republic in the neighborhood, while chains like Gap, H&M, American Apparel and DSW Shoes were given as examples of what many in the community did not want to see.
Robert Redford had planned to open a Sundance theatre at the former Fannie May factory site, but the plans fizzled and Target moved in instead. Now more than 62 percent of respondents would like to see a movie theater. More than 56 percent would support a live theater venue.
One of the most mentioned phrases in the survey was “parking,” a persistent problem in the West Loop which affected opinions about retail, entertainment and hotels.
In July, the West Loop Community Organization headed an effort that put parking restrictions along 14 blocks in the West Loop.
The signs, which prohibit parking from 1:30-3:30 p.m., are supposed to discourage those who park in the West Loop and take the train downtown for the day.
Goldstein said there's been mixed responses to the parking restrictions, a pilot program that ends in December. The WLCO ultimately plans to hold community meetings for feedback on the effectiveness of those restrictions.
"You have to start somewhere," Goldstein said. "Unfortunately, in the West Loop, you have to take something away to get something."
The survey also provided warnings for planners about make sure development was controlled.
“As one respondent put it, 'Please don't turn it into Lincoln Park or another over gentrified neighborhood with gridlock and no parking. It feels tighter and much more crowded every year,’” the survey said.