The opening of a Starbucks Coffee store is usually not a major happening in Chicago, where the chain seems to have a presence on every corner.


 

The opening of a Starbucks Coffee store is usually not a major happening in Chicago, where the chain seems to have a presence on every corner.


 


It was a different story Monday on the South Side, as city officials cut the ribbon on a fresh Starbucks location at State and 35th streets, in a once-distressed neighborhood previously dominated by public-housing towers. They portrayed the coffee shop as a retail stimulator for the new mixed-income residential redevelopment that has replaced the notorious high-rises.



Starbucks anchors a corner of the low-rise complex known as Park Boulevard.


“With the opening of this store, other retail interests will know that the residents of this ward want a quality retail option (and) good job possibilities,” local Ald. Pat Dowell said at a news conference with Mayor Richard Daley. “In the process, you can make some money.”


 


The location in Bronzeville is the only Starbucks for several blocks, and it is the ninth Chicago collaboration between Seattle-based Starbucks and Johnson Development Corp. Run by retired basketball icon Earvin “Magic” Johnson, JDC brings chain businesses to underserved, ethnically diverse urban neighborhoods.


 


Starbucks is known as the business that popularized the $3 or $4 espresso drink, in addition to offering regular brewed coffee. A company spokesman said people in poorer neighborhoods may not buy as many of the higher-priced drinks, but he added that most consumers think of coffee as an affordable luxury.


 


Meanwhile, the Bronzeville neighborhood also is being populated with the type of resident who may shell out the cash for the pricier menu items. In mixed-income developments like Park Boulevard, Chicago Housing Authority tenants live next to homeowners or renters with greater incomes.


 


Daley used the news conference Monday as a way to trumpet the larger transformation that has occurred within the city’s public-housing system. Many of the city’s CHA towers are being razed under a 15-year, $1.6 billion plan first launched in 1999.


 


“You cannot isolate the poor,” Daley said. “It has not worked presently throughout the world, or any city in America. It doesn’t work. When I decided to do this, all my political consultants would say, ‘You have lost your mind — what is wrong with you?’”


 


U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson said retail operations, including Starbucks, that locate in transitional neighborhoods represent “engines of prosperity.”



There are more than 400 Starbucks stores the Chicago region.


 


Mike Ramsey can be reached at (312) 857-2323 or ghns-ramsey@sbcglobal.net.