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Can Clark Street At Wilson Be Transformed To Be Andersonville-esque?

By Josh McGhee | May 8, 2017 8:19am | Updated on May 9, 2017 8:52am
 Adorro Wholesale at 4541 N. Clark St. is one of several businesses that would be displaced by the proposed development.
Adorro Wholesale at 4541 N. Clark St. is one of several businesses that would be displaced by the proposed development.
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DNAinfo/Josh McGhee

UPTOWN — Conversations between neighbors and the Longford Group this week about the latter's plan to build a 24-unit transit-oriented condo development at 4537- 4545 N. Clark St. focused less on the four floors of three-bedroom, two-bathroom condos, and more on the ground floor retail and its potential to reshape the neighborhood.

A presentation by Padraic Connolly of the Longford Group at a community meeting Wednesday mapped out a plan to "pioneer" the area's rebranding into a shopping destination that would rival Uptown's neighbors, Andersonville and Wrigleyville, both of which boast populat commercial stretches dotted with boutiques, restaurants and chain stores. 

But business owners say the 4500 block of North Clark Street already has a distinct identity as a wholesale destination that's recently been undercut by construction that's taken parking spaces, driven profits down and left the block peppered with vacant storefronts.

"People have been [coming] here a long time," said Jackie, who owns Adorro Wholesale, 4541 N. Clark St., and who declined to give her last name.

Her businesses is one of several that would be replaced by the proposed development.

Adorro sells sunglasses, handbags and accessories at bargain prices and offers steeper discounts for large-volume purchases that could be supplying those very boutiques in Andersonville and Wrigleyville that Longford hopes to attract.

"Internet business[es] hurt retail," said Jackie, adding that "every year, business is going down."

But she also blamed construction on the block for turning away foot traffic, a temporary problem she thinks businesses on Clark Street can bounce back from if given the chance.

"People have always liked to come here and shop around," she said. "They don't have to go to too many places, and it's affordable. If we move out, the stores will be all dispersed in different locations" and the block's unique identity as a low-cost shopping destination will disappear.

"The retail business has always been difficult, but eventually people come back," she said, adding that when construction work pauses "on weekends, there's a lot of out-of-towners."

"We work with more business people. [Even] if there's construction, people need to buy so they still come... even without parking," she said.

But by the time the pendulum of foot traffic swings back — if that happens — Jackie worries she and her fellow Clark Street businesses already will have been displaced by the development, which is under contract to purchase pending a zoning change, according to the Longford Group.

Connolly said he wasn't prepared to answer questions about the types of tenants developers would seek for the first-floor retail. Shops like Jackie's and Crown Jewel, at 4537 N. Clark St., aren't optimistic they'll be invited back, said Aggie Beat, who works for the jewelry store that recently moved to a new location a few doors down on the same block. 

"We are definitely moving, but we're not sure if we're going to [return] to the strip," Jackie said.

Ald. James Cappleman (46th) will look for input from Dover Street Neighbors before approving the project. Tuesday, representatives from the Dover Street Neighbors Association asked the developer to conduct a shadow study and share its findings before they would weigh in on the project.