SOUTH SHORE — Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said Tuesday she wants to rezone much of 71st Street as residential to limit the type of businesses that move onto South Shore’s major commercial strip.
Residents, the Chamber of Commerce and community groups raised questions this week about why Hairston was changing the zoning without meeting with the community first.
Hairston said she is planning a community meeting to explain her rationale on the zoning change before it comes up in a City Council committee in late May.
She said she’s struggled to find a way to limit the number of convenience stores, dollar stores, beauty supply shops and pay day loan stores on the strip.
There are nearly 30 of these types of businesses on the 14 blocks Hairston wants to rezone between Yates and Cottage Grove avenues, according to data from MapsCorps.
“People want things that generate synergy, and these businesses don’t generate any jobs. They hire their family members and take that money with them out of the neighborhood,” Hairston said.
She said she has tried the standard tool of aldermen to go after businesses licenses and found it too slow and easy to circumvent.
“We’ve been trying the business license route, and they get around it by just putting it in someone else’s name,” Hairston said.
She said she thinks rezoning will be a way to control who comes into South Shore to start a business while she manages problem businesses already there.
The zoning change will not affect existing businesses, but will require any new business hoping to locate on 71st Street to get a zoning change, which requires support from the alderman and takes up to three months.
“It’s not about prohibiting businesses from coming in, but we don’t want more of the same,” Hairston said. “I have to do what my constituents want me to do.”
There has been opposition from Reclaiming South Shore For All, and other groups, like the Chamber of Commerce, have held off supporting the plan because Hairston has not publicly explained the idea.
Other aldermen also have called for more resources to control the types of businesses in their wards.
Ald. Greg Mitchell (7th) has introduced an ordinance that would require businesses to get a letter of support from the alderman before being issued a license.
All of the aldermen representing the south lakefront, including Hairston, have signed on as co-sponsors for the ordinance, and Hairston said she might back off on her plans to rezone 71st Street if it passes.
Asked about why South Shore has not seen the same interest from retailers as Bronzeville and Woodlawn Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel attributed it to a lack of public investment.
“It’s not an accident now that more people are moving into Woodlawn,” Emanuel said. “They have the same pressures as South Shore.”
He said those neighborhoods have benefited from federal funding for projects like the Ellis Park field house and a new suspension bridge in Bronzeville, and the redevelopment of Grove Parc Plaza Apartments and CHA housing in Woodlawn.
“It’s not an accident,” Emanuel said.
Both neighborhoods have either recently opened new grocery stores or announced plans for a new grocery store, while South Shore continues to struggle to find a grocer to replace Dominick’s despite South Shore being a larger neighborhood with more people than either Woodlawn or Bronzeville.
Hairston is expected to announce a meeting on rezoning 71st Street in the coming weeks.