Target breaks ground in Cabrini
Leaders and residents have high expectations for retail giant
10/24/2012 3:08 PM
Last Thursday morning, in a tent pitched near the corner of Larrabee and Division Streets in Cabrini-Green, State Rep. Ken Dunkin took to the podium and addressed a group of residents and community leaders who had gathered to celebrate the start of work on a new Target retail store at the site.
“I’m Ken Dunkin, and I approve of this Target,” said Dunkin, meeting a round of applause and laughter from the audience. “This is my neighborhood.”
For Dunkin, whose 5th district reaches from the Near South Side up to his childhood home of Cabrini, the groundbreaking offered a rare chance to celebrate a neighborhood that has for decades been defined by negative rhetoric; the area’s “notorious” reputation for violence and gang activity seems to have outlasted even its own public housing high-rises, the last of which were demolished in March 2011.
From those ashes, Target will rise: A 150,000-square-foot store, set to open on the block next year, is expected to bring 200 permanent jobs in tow. Designs for the outlet include 360 ground-level parking spaces, a widened sidewalk along Division and a green roof.
Minneapolis-based Target Corp. acquired the 3.5-acre site in a land swap agreement with the Chicago Housing Authority that saw the agency pick up a property north of the proposed development, the former site of the White Way Sign & Maintenance Co. at 1317 N. Clybourn Ave. That parcel is said to be worth $8.8 million, an appraisal that is “at or above the appraised value of the CHA land,” CHA spokesperson Matt Aguilar told Skyline.
Target has promised that CHA residents will also be offered 75 positions — but the store’s influence in the neighborhood could reach beyond employment prospects, according Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), who has been an avid supporter of the project.
Burnett, another Cabrini native, stated that the store would bring “other potential development to the neighborhood,” such as a grocers, restaurants and other commercial and retail ventures which have come into the works in the area since word of the retail project first came to light last year.
“The banks were very considerate in investing in more development in this community when they saw that Target made an investment in this neighborhood,” the alderman said. “We’re going to have construction going on for the next 10 years.”
While the area is not necessarily lacking retail tenants — a Dominick’s grocery store anchors a shopping plaza about a block away — Cabrini does have one of the city’s most expansive stocks of workable space, much of which still lies in the city’s trust.
As Target moves forward on the building phase, public housing residents, many of whom once called the block their home, still await the CHA’s plans for future residential development in Cabrini.
Some CHA residents remain in the rehabbed rowhouses and mixed-income developments located near the site, while others have moved to other developments throughout the city, including Wentworth Gardens and Dearborn Homes on the South Side.
“We need those folks back here,” said Maurice Edwards, vice president of the tenant-led Cabrini Local Advisory Council.
Like many residents, Edwards — who once resided in the high-rise that stood on Target’s site and now lives in a development down the street — was at first taken aback by the news that CHA was in talks with the big box company to build on Cabrini land, where replacement housing was expected to return per a 2000 consent decree but was delayed by a shaky real estate market.
But though still pressing for that housing to return in Cabrini, Edwards’ outlook on the Target project seems to have softened.
“We’re given opportunities to bring jobs to this community and its residents, so we’re in a situation for everybody,” he said, adding that the local advisory council was also satisfied with the swapped land that came out of the agreement.
On the gray morning of the groundbreaking ceremony, Cabrini residents — a handful in hard hats — mingled with local officials and Target representatives at the site. Inside, State Rep. Dunkin, who joined in tossing the first shovels’ full of dirt on the site, told the crowd that the “dichotomy of businesses coming on public land” marked a new day for the neighborhood.
“The best thing you can do for any community — especially the black community, when you see high unemployment rate, issues of complacency, drug activity — is to create job opportunities,” he said. “That’s what this is about.”