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Hairston Delaying 71st Rezoning After Building Owners Object

By Sam Cholke | May 24, 2017 5:54am | Updated on May 26, 2017 9:41am
 Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) delayed a plan to rezone 71st Street after a divided meeting with residents on Tuesday.
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) delayed a plan to rezone 71st Street after a divided meeting with residents on Tuesday.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

SOUTH SHORE — Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said a proposal to change the zoning of 71st Street needs some tweaks after a raucous ward meeting Tuesday night.

Hairston wants to change the zoning to residential from commercial so new businesses would have to get her approval for a zoning change before they could open on 71st Street east of Stony Island Avenue.

The goal of limiting new convenience stores, nail shops and beauty supply stores from locating on 71st Street was widely cheered by more than the 150 people who crammed into Bryn Mawr Community Church, 7000 S. Jeffery Blvd., Tuesday night.

But the crowd was split on whether rezoning the street was the way to reach that goal and what unintended consequences it might have.

Some building owners worried the zoning change would immediately reduce the value of their property.

“I will go bankrupt and my kid will not go to college,” said Steve Salmen, who owns the building housing Give Me Some Sugah, 2234 E. 71st St. and another building and at 71st and Euclid Avenue.

He said he’s worried banks will view the businesses in buildings rezoned as residential as illegitimate and won’t lend to them. He said that would scuttle his plan to sell his buildings.

“What’s going to happen is a lot of building value is going to go away immediately,” Salmen said.

Hairston said she was considering exempting Salmen and other building owners she liked on 71st Street from the plan.

Alisa Starks, who is developing an entertainment venue at 7054 S. Jeffery Blvd., said she’s supporting the change and wants to see it happen before she sinks $12 million into redeveloping the former Urban Partnership Bank.

“I don’t want another nail salon opening next to me,” Starks said.

Beth Kregor, director of the Institute for Justice’s clinic on entrepreneurship and a University of Chicago law school professor, said many of the start-up businesses she advises will not have the time or money to go through the process of getting the zoning change needed to open. She said the small mom-and-pop-size businesses she works with will likely look for an area without any additional hurdles to opening.

Susan Campbell, a South Shore resident and director of Cook County Department of Planning and Development, said many of those hurdles could be overcome with better neighborhood branding and an active and engaged community.

She said the neighborhood has tried tax increment financing and special service areas to improve the commercial strip and needs to look to new options.

Campbell said the process has been used successfully in the past, but is usually done when a single entity controls most of the property or by aldermen trying to slow displacement from gentrification.

Hairston said she needed to go back and do more research and would report back at her June ward meeting.

“I need to get more info and figure out how to tweak it,” Hairston said.