Public Watchdog.org

Meet The New Retail, Same As The Old Retail?

02.26.13

For the past 22 years the City of Park Ridge, and both its public officials and its business community, have employed a variety of initiatives, plans and even gimmicks in its quest to attract more retail to our sleepy little burg.

First there was the Economic Development Corporation (the “EDC”), a group of citizens selected by who knows whom to come up with ways to attract and keep business here in Park Ridge.  The EDC got enough money from the City to hire a part-time director, Sharon Curcio (at around $39,000 a year, as we recall).  It even was able to keep its meetings closed to the public for all but the last year or so of its existence.  And, as best as we can tell, it accomplished little-to-nothing to keep or bring business to town.

Then there was the City’s economic development director, Kim Uhlig, a pleasant woman who was employed for several years and paid about $120,000 annually.  She, too, produced little-to-nothing in the way of keeping or bringing business to town – despite the arrival of all that new, modern retail space in the Uptown Redevelopment complex. 

And for the past year we’ve had the Economic Development Task Force (the “EDTF”), a collection of 29 citizens which just released the “work product” it developed over the past 12 months. 

We have reviewed that 14-page report and must confess that we expected more than that.  A lot more than that.

What’s missing?

Let’s start with the most basic thing: a clear understanding and articulation of exactly what Park Ridge offers to retailers that stands it apart from its neighbors, especially when competing for those established local, regional and national brands that the City presumably want to attract.  Maybe we missed it, but we couldn’t find even an attempt at defining that “special something” Park Ridge has which should be attractive to retailers.

At last night’s City Council Committee of the Whole meeting, one of the EDTF members who addressed the Council went off-script and said that Park Ridge has higher household incomes than neighboring Des Plaines and Niles.  That should come as no surprise to anybody who has lived here for even a short while.  But we’ve had those higher household incomes for some time now, and they have yet to turn Park Ridge into a retail mecca, or even translate into significant retail sales.

What else is missing from that report? 

How about the kinds of businesses we should be trying to attract, and why.  Even mayoral challenger Larry Ryles has come up with a few target retailers on his campaign web page: Urban Outfitters, Ann Taylor, Forever 21, Clarks and GameStop.  If Ryles can come up with 5 target retailer names, why couldn’t the 29-member EDTF identify its own set of Park Ridge’s Top 10 or Top 20 target retailers, along with the reasons why we want them, the reasons why they should want us, and the way we should go about getting them?

The report prescribes a variety of activities for the City staff and others.  Not surprisingly, a number of those activities require…wait for it…the expenditure of taxpayer dollars.  Unfortunately, the report doesn’t seem to identify any objectively-measurable outcomes from each of those recommended activities; i.e., it is devoid of metrics by which to determine the success or failure of any of those activities the EDTF has recommended. 

Apparently the EDTF members never heard of management guru Peter Drucker’s “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”; or legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden’s: “Don’t mistake activity for achievement.”

Heck, why didn’t somebody on the EDTF make the effort to contact the Whole Foods folks and ask them what about Park Ridge persuaded them to put up a store here?  How tough would that have been?

Judging solely from the EDTF report, one year’s worth of work product appears to be little more than a laundry list of ways for existing local retailers to off-load some of their marketing efforts and expenses onto the City, a/k/a the taxpayers.  As in: “Support ‘First Friday’ with wider Marketing help from City” (Page 10); and “Return of façade renovation matching program” (Page 8) – as if the last incarnation of the façade improvement program did anything more than give a few private property owners some taxpayer-subsidized building improvements, with no measurable increase in business and sales tax revenues for the City.

Brilliant!

Given that 29 “volunteers” spent a whole year coming up with this report, however, we assume the Mayor, the Council, and City Staff will praise it with “Huzzahs” and “Hossanahs.”  That’s because, in this town, “volunteerism” is sacred – irrespective of what, if anything, it actually accomplishes. 

Which, in the case of the EDTF, appears to be the resurrecting of more of the same old same old that has served us so ineffectively in attracting retail over the past 20+ years.  We can hear it now: “Get your façade improvement grant applications here!” “Paging Sharon Curcio!”  “Paging Kim Uhlig!”  

Or, perhaps more accurately: “Paging Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard!”

To read or post comments, click on title.

67 comments so far

Your points are valid but it would seem the Mayor does not agree. On his website under economic development he takes credit for…..”the Economic Development Task Force have worked hard to bring serious recommendations to the City Council which will help guide the Council’s policy and budget discussions. And I have already directed the City staff to implement certain no-cost changes to the City’s website which were recommended by the Economic Development Task Force”. He also does not agree about the Economic Development Director. You say little was accomplished. The Mayor feels….” I was opposed to the former City Manager’s decision to eliminate the position of Economic Development Director. That action led to two years of wasted time as the City’s staff largely ignored Economic Development and the business community. That failing is one major reason why the City Manager was replaced”.

Step one: Elected officials(s) have no ideas on how to improve an issue or refuse to be honest about if said issue can be realistically improved.

Step two: They name a task force.

Step three: They inflate what said task force did when they run for office again.

I believe the technical term is CYA.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A task force is not a bad thing, especially if there is local talent that can contribute something of value. We believe the flood task force did so, irrespective of how many of its recommendations ultimately get implemented.

Unfortunately, the EDTF seems to have seriously dropped the ball at the threshold stage by not identifying what Park Ridge has to sell, and to what retailers they should be selling it. Consequently, so much of what they actually have come up with could very well end up as little more than rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

We don’t see the task force as CYA. In fact, we encouraged it as one way the City might – through a group of citizens with retail knowledge and experience – figure out its appeal to retailers and what retailers it should be courting. The fact that the results are disappointing doesn’t seem to C anyone’s A.

That sounds extremely disappointing. And somewhat embarrassing. I filled out the survey they put on the City website, which asked for suggestions on retailers they should pursue. You’d think they’d be able to generate a list just from the responses.

But the bigger issue is that when I filled out the survey I assumed they knew what they were doing and that the people involved had some business, economic development or even real estate experience to bring to the table. Apparently I was wrong.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you look at the list of task force members on the first page of the Council Agenda Cover Memorandum accompanying the report, you can see for yourself that there are local retailers, restaurateurs, marketing specialists, etc. who could be expected to know something about retail.

Why the report is lacking the important information we listed in our post is beyond us.

Anon @1133am, if you read carefully, I said I directed staff to implement NO COST recommendations. I see no downside to that. Any recommendation that does have an expense attached to it must be discussed during the budget process and should be cost-justified before it will be implemented.

I do disagree with the ‘Dog on the value of having an employee at City Hall who can serve as a liaison, ie., a “go to” person for the business community, both existing businesses and businesses which are or might be interested in locating in Park Ridge. Of course, for that person’s salary to be justified, he or she would need to take on more roles than just that. The overall job description of such an employee will be one of the topics in an upcoming budget hearing.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Well then, Mr. Mayor, we hope the City gets it right this time, because it has had part-time and full-time people in that “go to” role, and neither one of them earned their keep if measured by what they brought in.

Your points are not valid, but that’s not surprising given your erroneous view of Kim Uhlig’s contribution. You were already calling the Econ Task Force a bust before they got started. The goal was not to identify retailers; the Gamestop/Ann Taylor wish list is no different than the Gamestop/Gap wish list produced when Kim was here — when, as you’ll recall, extensive research yielded the painful fact that the big retailers already believe Park Ridge residents to be served by their retail operations in nearby suburbs. The task force was supposed to come up with things the City was doing to earn its rep as “unfriendly to business” and then to fix them; that’s in the report. The task force was also supposed to come up with relatively (no, Bob, nothing is free, not even lawyers) inexpensive solutions, starting with at least the minimal staffing in economic development/marketing communications for a 37,000 resident community with a $55 million budget and a yen to get more shoppers here. The police department and the park district both are much better staffed in this area than the City. Hard to believe, eh? The task force did its job; beyond the fleshed out communications section recommendations you will find bulleted recommendations for other key functional areas that can and should be implemented. Identifying exactly how to re-chase the reluctant retailers from the old wish list will be an actual responsibility no volunteer can effectively take on solo. If you weren’t so distainful of the hope of shopping in general and Uptown Park Ridge shopping in particular, you’d see what a useful long-term and short-term punch list the task force provided. But that would get in the way of your oft-stated, longstanding bias.

EDITOR’S NOTE: From the sound of things, you are/were a member of the EDTF, so no wonder your nose is out of joint.

We’re not “distainful” [sic] of Park Ridge retail, we’re just not delusional about it. We do find it amusing, however, that what appears to be the biggest retail “win” for the City in at least 10 years, Whole Foods, showed up when the City had nobody on payroll bird-dogging retail.

And we find it equally amusing that your EDTF is so attuned to the pulse of retail that it ripped the Council for not rolling over and giving WF and its developer millions of dollars in tax breaks…until WF accepted the deal without them. Where in your report is the section on bribing retailers to locate or stay here? Oh, wait, that must be the renewal of the facade improvement giveaway you folks are recommending.

Can you identify each of Ms. Uhlig’s “contribution”s for the six-figure salary she got while she was here?

And next time, try some paragraphs.

Mr. Mayor:

Not only did I read it carefully, if you read my post carefully you will notice I cut it an pasted it.

My post simply pointed out that while the blog owner feels the group was essentially a bust, you believe they made “serious recommendations to the City Council which will help guide the Council’s policy and budget discussions”.

I am not trying to twist words but one said “more of the same” and the other said “serious recommendations”. My post simply pointed out that difference of opinion.

EDITOR’S NOTE: And bully for you.

PD:

I did a bit of research but it is entirely possible that I missed something. With that in mind and to be fair I will ask the question. During the discussion about Hock and his tenure and eventual termination, was there ever any discussion and/or focus about the Economic Development Director being one of the main reasons that he was being terminated?? I could find none. As a follow up question, is there anything on the record about the Mayor fighting for this position when it was eliminated by Hock? I do not recall anything about that. I mean if the Mayor really thought that was a mistake wouldn’t there be some big skirmish that would have taken place at the time??

I will happily eat crow if my research has missed something.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You did miss something: Hock’s shell game re his retention of Acting Community Preservation & Development Director Carrie Davis, whom Schmidt and many aldermen wanted terminated instead of Uhlig. Hock apparently forced Uhlig into quitting – her resignation arguably aided by a nifty severance that Hock wasn’t authorized to give her – but didn’t tell the Council until after it had cut the deputy mayor’s position in order to save Uhlig’s job.

Because Hock didn’t tell the mayor or the Council about Uhlig’s departure until after it had occurred and she had already taken a job in Peoria, there was nothing more to fight about – other than whether to cancel Carrie Davis’ severance package that Hock also exceeded his authority in giving.

…….so the answer is there is nothing on the record defining his positions on either of these two questions.

Nothing to fight about?? He claims that he was opposed to the elimination of the position and states that this was to blame for two full years of our business cummunity being ignored!! He is the Mayor. Apparently he felt this way during the two years while there was no progress in this area. He could have sreamed bloody murder as he has done on many other issues (to his credit).

EDITOR’S NOTE: No, that’s NOT “the answer.”

As we understand and remember the budget discussions of March 2010, by the time the Mayor and the Council had done the budget manuvering needed to save Uhlig’s position, Uhlig already had resigned, accepted the unauthorized severance Hock gave her, and had accepted a job in Peoria. So there was nothing Schmidt could do about Uhlig, and there was nothing he could do about Hock (who could not be fired without Council action, which took two more years to happen.)

I understand what you are saying. But that does not change the fact that apparently for the better part of two years (according to his website) he believed that this was a critical position, and our business were being ignored and yet did nothing to comment on or fight for that position being filled.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hey, maybe Mayor Dave himself missed the irony of the City’s getting a Whole Foods without there being anybody on the City payroll collecting tax dollars to do little-to-nothing to bring in new business.

I can’t see Park Ridge re-inventing itself as a retail Mecca. Game Stop? Seriously? There’s a Game Stop in every low rent strip mall from here to Timbuktu. How about trying to develop small restaurants or a gastro pub that can survive in a small space? I never did get the final account of how the “Irish Pub” was run off of Main St, was it the work of the panic peddlers and NIMBYs who freaked out about the casino and jerked WF around about their liquor policy?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We can’t see it, either, which is why we have little patience for folks who seem more concerned with pocketing some taxpayer cash for themselves, or maybe getting that City economic development position that’s currently in the FY 2013-14 draft budget, than with actually analyzing and solving the problem of why Park Ridge sucks at attracting retail.

The Irish Pub seemed to die with a wimper instead of a bang, but the rumors we heard were all tied to some expensive remodeling – including some EPA issues.

The way I see it, we need a spark of creativity. Chain retailers already have a presence in the area. More of the same, boring stuff is not going to cut it. Is there not one young, former Park Ridge resident or Maine South graduate who has an interest in creative cuisine that could make Park Ridge a destination? I’m not into dumping municipal funds into private concerns but fostering independent, creative risk-takers may be the way to start some growth.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A “spark of creativity” by the EDTF would have been helpful, but we’ll take it from anywhere we can get it.

Realistically, however, until we can achieve an informed consensus about what Park Ridge has to offer which retailers – something the EDTF should have done, despite after-the-fact disclaimers by one or more of its apologists – we’ll just be chasing our collective tails, as we’ve been doing for the past 20+ years, and whining about City Hall being “unfriendly to business.”

“How about trying to develop small restaurants or a gastro pub that can survive in a small space?”

Yes! I am continually dismayed that we live adjacent to one of the country’s top dining cities and yet the best we can come up with is Houlihan’s and Noodles & Co.

And ironically we have a few proprietors of Chicago restaurants living here (at least three that I’m aware of). I am acquainted with one personally and he said he’d never open a place here. I didn’t press him on why because I could tell it was a sore topic for him.

I wish someone would take the leap. And I agree it would enhance our community far more than a Game Stop would.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We have spoken on several occasions over the past 5 years with one particular successful Chicago restaurateur who lives in Park Ridge, and the reasons given for not opening a restaurant here were, in descending order of significance: (1) rents too high for higher-quality, lower-volume dining; (2) few highly-desirable restaurant spaces; (3) insufficient disposable income to support higher price-point dining; (4) residents who prefer to do their dining and drinking outside of Park Ridge, even if just over the border in Edison Park; (5) Park Ridge is not a real “destination” for anything.

Whether those are valid reasons or simply alibis is debatable, but they should be debated publicly rather than being ignored while certain self-promoters keep on whistling past the graveyard while loudly and incessantly proclaiming how wonderful a market Park Ridge is, or would be, if it weren’t so…wait for it…”unfriendly to business.”

When Hock eliminated the Econ Dev position, he supposedly reassigned those duties to the Deputy City Manager, Juliana Maller. So the City “technically” had an Econ Dev person, but that person had many other duties as well and did not or could not place much emphasis on that aspect of her job despite my urging her to do so. Because of budget considerations and the presence of Mr. Hock, we were in a situation where it did not make sense to bring in another employee to work under both Maller and Hock. Now that they are both gone, we are in a position to discuss retaining an Econ dev professional.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We understand and agree with the accuracy of that explanation, Mr. Mayor.

But why would a new “Econ dev professional” be expected to do any better today than Kim Uhlig did, and Sharon Curcio before her – especially since 29 EDTF members didn’t shed one photon on why “name” retailers don’t seem to gravitate towards Park Ridge, or on what would attract “name” retailers to Park Ridge, or on what kinds of retailers (name or no-name) we should be targeting?

In the years my family has lived here, I’ve watched “retail” (car dealerships, Thompson’s Finer Foods, the Mens and Boys Shop, Randahl’s, Moheisers) flee Park Ridge, except for Walgreens and the Uptown shops we have paid millions of dollars for. So I agree with you, PubDog, that our first order of business ought to be figuring out whether Park Ridge may be cursed as a retail magnet, much like that one storefront on NW Hwy (formerly Ron Santo’s) and that one free-standing building on Busse (formerly Copper Club, etc.) are cursed.

Your Einstein quote about insanity seems particularly appropriate to how Park Ridge deals with retail.

And while we’re talking about retail, what the hell does the Chamber of Commerce do besides recruit dues-paying members for networkig? Why doesn’t the Chamber take the lead on recruiting new businesses to Park Ridge?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re not superstitious, but “curesed” may have to do when more conventional explanations fail.

Einstein rules.

Networking does seem to be the Chamber’s raison d’etre.

Good lord!! Mr Mayor, all I did was read your website. You identify economic development as an issue. You even gave it a tab on your site!! So according to your site and your comments on this thread, you were against the city managers decision to eliminate the EDD positon even though you did not make an issue of it even though you knew that our businesses were being ignored (take a breath) only now the position was not actually eliminated but transfered to the deputy manager who you knew did not have time to do it even though you urged her to do so and even though you you were against it and it wasted 2 years it was in part a budget issue. Ahhhh!!!11

EDITOR’S NOTE: Good lord, Anon, what exactly is your point? Do you want the City to spend money on an in-house economic development person or not? If so, how much? If so, what will be his/her measures of success?

@11:47, your possible reasons for the reluctance of restauranteurs to locate here seem plausible, but I can think of one exception in a comparable town, Western Springs. I don’t think many people consider it a destination yet it boasts Chef Paul Virant’s successful Vie restaurant.

Anyway, does PR have to be a “destination” to attract a decent restaurant? I don’t buy that the residents don’t have the disposable income. And it doesn’t have to be high-end, fine dining. I’m thinking mid-priced restaurants with decent food that are kid friendly would draw a moderate to large local crowd.

Plus we’re close enough to O’Hare that you’d think visitors could make the short trip here to dine.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Paul Virant made a destination out of Vie (and Western Springs) by, among other things: being named one of the Best New Chef’s in America by Food & Wine Magazine in 2007; losing to Iron Chef Morimoto in 2009 by 1 point; winning a Michelin star; and creating a dinner menu where entrees basically start at $30 and a burger runs you $16. A la carte.

“[M]id-priced restaurants with decent food that are kid friendly would draw a moderate to large local crowd.” Seriously? Then why aren’t there more of those already?

We like 5 Guys, Maki Sushi, Houlihan’s, Hay Caramba, Gumba Joe’s, etc., but how many O’Hare travelers are going to blow past Rosemont for them?

Another thing that I wonder if the task force considered is how the retail climate has changed since the Uptown development was conceived. There seems to be a general backlash against big box stores and and chains an interest in revitalizing the Main Streets of towns with independent businesses. How can we capitalize on that shift?

Like someone noted above, we need a spark of creativity. How about tax or other incentives for small businesses? Not Whole Foods, who doesn’t need them, but real mom and pop entrepreneurs who might not otherwise take the risk?

Pursuing the Game Stops of the world seems like too much more of the same, which has basically gotten us nowhere.

EDITOR’S NOTE: So you’re encouraging giving taxpayer-funded welfare to “real mom and pop entrepreneurs who might not otherwise take the risk”? So effectively Park Ridge needs to bribe entrepreneurs to open a business here?

@2:03 those mid priced restaurants that you mention are fine, but as you said they’re not good enough to draw people from anywhere else. I guess what I’d like to see are the types of places you find all over Chicago like Chalkboard, M Henry, Anteprima, Bistro Campagne, Brown Trout and Sola. Places with real chefs using top quality ingredients yet priced for families on budgets. Places you can go a couple times a month vs. once a year. And places that don’t have locations all across the country.

It doesn’t seem like too much to ask. I remember a place in PR some years back, D Bobs, that sort of fit that bill. What happened to it? And why has nothing like opened since? It’s almost like the town has become a Bermuda Triangle of retail, to borrow a phrase from Jerry Seinfeld.

EDITOR’S NOTE: And that’s EXACTLY why we are ticked off that the EDTF spent an entire year allegedlyy studying and analyzing PR retail and yet didn’t even attempt to figure out why our town appears to have become a “Bermuda Triangle” for retail, including the kinds of restaurants you are talking about.

A tax incentive might be considered a bribe but there are other things we might do, like partner with a bank or company like AmEx, which is trying to promote small biz, to award a grant for a solid business plan.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A “tax incentive” IS a bribe – which the EDTF was insistent on the City giving Whole Foods. That should have been a clue as to what kind of report was in the works.

Let us know the next time AMEX, a bank, or some other company wants to partner with any new local business in the way you are suggesting, and we’ll give them a bark-out.

It is absolutely inaccurate to label Park Ridge as a “retail Bermuda Triangle.” The City’s retail sales tax revenues steadily increased from $4.5 million in Fiscal Year 2010 to a projected $5.5 million in the current fiscal year which ends on April 30, 2013.

All of this occurred during the worst economic downturn in our lifetimes. With the improvement in the national economy and the anticipated completion of the Whole Foods project in November, the future of the retail sector in Park Ridge looks very bright indeed.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr. Mayor, the “worst economic downturn in our lifetimes” – a/k/a, the Great Recession – officially ended in either May or June, 2009. So the sales tax increases you mention occurred AFTER the Great Recession.

While we applaud the sales tax increases you note, it would appear that they are the result of increased sales by existing retailers rather than new sales by new retailers.

I still contend that we are putting the cart before the horse when it comes to “luring” retail establishments. The only thing that “lures” business is money. And that needs to come from sales, rather than incentives.

Our sleepy little upper-middle class burg has shown for decades that it lacks the buying power to support dynamic consistant retail growth. (Although why we can make Houlihan’s one of the best grossing in thier chain, but can’t keep a owner/operator restaurant thriving in the old Romano’s/Santo’s spot is beyond me.)

What we need is more buyers. And that would come by getting our office spaces filled. We have too many vacancies and a recent small exodus from our office buildings. In the past there were several trade organizations who enjoyed our quiet community near the airport. I believe with a little marketing in the right trade mags the city and/or the Chamber could help fill those offices, bring in some tax revenue from outside sources, and help out the local retailer by increasing thier customer base.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Unfortunately, as we understand it, much of the City’s current office space is dated – which is one reason AmericanEagle moved out of the Chase Bank building (which is rumored to possibly be converted into apartments/condos).

@2:03 Paul Virant opened Vie long before he won all his major awards and accolades, most of which are probably connected to his Chicago restaurant. He was an aspiring chef who took a chance that suburbanites might want to experience city dining without the trip to the city and he was right. He lured — and continues to lure — people from all over with major pocketbooks.

And while I don’t know for sure, I would guess that other businesses in Western Springs have been positively affected. All it takes is one business like that to put us on the map, so to speak.

EDITOR’S NOTE: According to our Western Springs connections, Vie was more of a local gem from the time it opened in 2004 until Virant started getting the major recognition a year later from Chicago Magazine. And then it really took off with the national recognition after that – and people started coming in from far and wide, ticking off some of the locals who now had a tougher time getting a table.

All Park Ridge needs is somebody with CIA training, apprenticeships at Trotters, Ambria, Everest, Blackbird, and a “hook” like Virant’s canning/preserving/curing artisanry. Now, where do you want to put it; and how many Park Ridgians will pay $35-40 for an entree with any regularity?

5:53, you make it sound so easy! And yet it’s possible — and it doesn’t have to be just Park Ridgians who pay to eat at this fantasy place. I’d hope people would come from other communities, just like we go to Glenview for Wildfire or we used to to go Evanston for Trio — and still go to Evanston for non-chains like Davis Street Fishmarket, Blind Faith Cafe and Dave’s Italian Kitchen.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We share your audacity of hope, but would you care to explain why such a solid plan hasn’t been tried until now? And what’s the City (a/k/a, its taxpayers) supposed to do to make it happen?

I just read that the Big 10 headquarters are moving from PR to Rosemont. Not sure how big the business was for the City, but it was a high profile name. Seems like a shame.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Given the location of the Big 10’s offices on the far south-western edge of Park Ridge, it’s impact on Park Ridge’s tax base is probably minimal. So its departure is more of a social slap than an economic one.

Some things I question.

The anonymous Chicago reasrtaurant owner says he won’t open a location here because of high rents. Which maybe true, but low volume dining, people who rather dine elsewhere, and a few others he mentions I question. The Pickwick Restaurant which didn’t originally exist when the theater opened has existed I believe since the 60’s. So how would he explain that opening a location of his wouldn’t work?

Also it’s claimed that the office space is dated. Well then how come they just don’t build a new building or rehab what already exists?

EDITOR’S NOTE: No slap to the Pickwick Restaurant, but that’s not remotely close to “fine dining.”

Good question to ask the building owners and developers. But if we understand the situation correctly, Park Ridge also has lost a few of its traditional association tenants and gained no replacements – so maybe we have issues with office tenants as well as with retail. If you look at many of the buildings in town that are perennially vacant or under-tenanted, they look like they would need hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, to totally renovate; or more than $1 million to replace. Apparently few people think that’s a good investment.

Once again, that’s something that we believe the EDTF should have been exploring. But it didn’t.

To the old guard who wrote in lamenting Thompson’s, Randall’s Jewelers, etc. — why not add Ben Franklin while you’re at it? Turnover in retail is not always due to somebody’s “fault” –Randall’s, Moheisers and Thompsons are just a few that aged naturally. Do you get that hardly any businesses make it into the second generation, and even fewer into the third generation? Why do you think companies who have a history longer than 10 years harp on that less-than-thrilling-to-customers fact every chance they get? Because it’s rare. Chains were not always big demons — they were once little single-store ops that got it right — and kept on getting it right, pleasing customers by understanding their local market and pricing things low enough to attract biz and high enough to stay in biz. Are rents too high for the traffic retail locations provide? Of course. Are retailers unwilling and/or unable to pay for professional, persuasive marketing tools? Of course. But still some prosper or at least hang in there. It would be easy to blame the City or the retailers or the cheapskate residents or the economy. Easy, but not useful. Meanwhile, all who worry about this problem, start here, start now: Shop locally first before you head out to the big malls elsewhere.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah.

“Shop locally” has been the mantra of local business and politicians for years, and it doesn’t seem to have done much to produce new retail – or even new office space. More activity without achievement, as we see it. But if it makes you feel better, keep mumbling it.

Mr. Editor, I would quarrel with your premise that the downturn ended when we were no longer officially in a recession. Unemployment remained quite high for three more years, capital for new and existing businesses was very tight, and relative consumer spending power was flat at best because wages were flat and the tax burden, at least in Illinois, was higher.

My point is that I believe our local economy way outperformed the state and national economies over the last four years. As a result, we were able to generate General Fund surpluses with mimimal property tax increases while a good part of America was sinking into a financial abyss.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr. Mayor, you can quarrel with us if you want, but the Great Recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private, nonprofit research group that even the U.S. government websites refer to.

And if you’re really curious, that same NBER defines a recession as “a period of falling economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales.”

So if you’ve got a beef with any of that, take it up with NBER.

As I stated in a previous blog, the layout of downtown Park Ridge is not condusive to retail “strolling” customers. It is disected by major roads (Touhy) diagonal streets (Prospect/Northwest Highway) and railroad tracks, with very little convenient parking that serves the entire downtown district. Have you ever tried to walk from Main Street (the old hobby store) to Northwest Highway ( Trader Joe’s)with a baby stroller ? You can get there by it is hardly a pleasant walk. Look at the downtowns like Naperville, Elmhurst, and Arlington Heights. They have centralized compact areas with shops and resturants. As far as dining in Park Ridge the dispersed locations make you choose a resturant and then park accordingly.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sounds about right to us. But we didn’t see any mention of that in the EDTF report, either. Guess it didn’t work and play well with facade improvement subsidies and City-funded advertising.

Friends of the Park:

How about we have the Park take over Touhy and make it a Park!! After all we need more green space. It would only represent a small tax increase.

EDITOR’S NOTE: About 15 years ago, when the TIF and Uptown Redevelopment were just beginning to be seriously discussed, then-resident activist Charles Baldacchino suggested that the City arrange with IDOT to “bury” Touhy under decking much like was done by Chicago in “burying” the tracks and decking Milennium Park over them. The estimate back then was $40-50 million, as we recall.

Baldacchino was mocked by then-mayor Ron Wietecha, the then-Council, and City Staff.

Fast forward 15 years, and the City is $40 million in debt for a TIF that is eating up $1-1.5 million or so each year in tax dollars – and is likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future – while at least some folks are viewing Touhy as a kind of “Berlin Wall” dividing Uptown.

What’s that they say about a prophet not being without honor except in his own hometown?

@12:31, I hear you but how does that explain why businesses in Chicago are successful when they have far more obstacles to getting people in the door, most notably congestion and parking? Navigating around the areas in Uptown you mention is a breeze in comparison. It may be one factor in this puzzle but I don’t think it’s a significant one. Something else is going on that makes us unappealing to people wanting to start a business.

As for current businesses, I just noticed the baby boutique on NW Hwy is leaving. And we have a new yogurt shop next to Blue Fish but you’d hardly know it because it’s so hidden in that complex. I’d guess people passing by would definitely never know because the signage on NW Hwy is so minimal.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We are familiar with certain areas of Chicago that appear to be thriving retail meccas – until you notice over time that, while all the storefronts are occupied, it’s with a revolving cast of retailers.

We agree that “[s]omething else is going on that makes us unappealing to people wanting to start a business.” And once again, we wonder why the EDTF spent an entire year piddling around rearranging deck chairs and coming up with ways to spend tax dollars rather than looking into the most important questions for Park Ridge retail: Who are we? What do we really offer? What retailers do we really want? And how do we go about getting THOSE retailers?

On Larry Ryles’ Facebook page, he states: “When elected, I will take the lead in reaching out to retailers, both local and national brands, and will convince them to bring their stores to Park Ridge.”

In light of what I have been reading in your post, including the EDTF report and the comments, that does not seem very likely to me. What do you think, PW?

EDITOR’S NOTE: It all depends on whether Ryles actually believes it (and is merely deluding himself) or whether he is just mindlessly parroting whatever propaganda his campaign brain-trust, Paul Sheehan and Howard Frimark, have cooked up for him.

Irrespective of whether he is delusional, mindless, or something more benign, we can’t wait to hear his sales pitch. Hopefully he will share it with the public at the upcoming debates and candidate forums. We’re betting it involves some amount of groveling, throwing around a lot to tax dollars in incentive/bribe money, and perhaps changing the City’s name to something more ritzy sounding…like Park Place or Park Avenue?

Do you have any idea how long people have struggled to get 6 corners made into a walkable intersection? It was all we could do to get the darned Busse/Summit crossing and I understand even the wimpy little “don’t kill us” sign by the big Starbucks has been removed. God forbid anything should impede vehicular traffic speeds!
That’s a lot of what killed the Teen Center – if you can’t get there from here, on foot, you aren’t going. But when it’s a state or federal throughway, what can Park Ridge do? Looks like the Task Force focused on things we might actually be able to change. What a concept! Perhaps you’d rather go back to fighting that hub of international commerce called O’Hare?

EDITOR’S NOTE: And do you have any idea how long people have struggled to create cold fusion, or peace in the Middle East?

Looks like the EDTF focused on making a list of all the things that have been tried over the past 10-15 years and have failed, inexplicably spent an entire year tweaking and repackaging them into a “report,” and then shouted “Eureka!” and hoped nobody would notice what a lame collection of leftovers they really were.

I like Park Place. Then maybe Niles could change its name to Boardwalk! Kidding.

I think one key is density. We actually need numerous attractive businesses, so that when someone makes a trip Uptown it’s worth their while. I think that’s what makes certain towns or areas of big cities successful. People can make numerous stops because a good mix of places is in fairly close proximity. The City has the right idea by hosting the farmer’s market. That draws people in.

It seems like, on paper, Park Ridge should be working better but somehow it’s just not. I do think Whole Foods might help. Someone else needs to be willing to invest in one or two decent new businesses and it could make a big difference.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Okay, we’ll bite: What is there “on paper” that makes you think that “Park Ridge should be working better” than it is when it comes to retail…or offices, for that matter?

@12:37. “On paper,” we have an affluent population, a walkable Uptown area, a nice anchor for residents in the library at the center of Uptown and a nice draw for out of towners in the Pickwick. To me it’s the perfect set-up for a thriving, bustling “Main Street” with quality shops and restaurants (that are not, I should clarify, all corporate chains).

EDITOR’S NOTE: Several commentators would disagree with you on “a walkable Uptown”; and we would disagree on how much of an “anchor” the Library is for the vast majority of residents who rarely go there, or how nice a “draw” the Pickwick is for out of towners who aren’t particularly drawn to iconic theaters.

Again @12:37. Sorry, forgot to mention offices. We have the train station, easy access to major expressways, and the CTA not far away. We’re situated ideally between the city and outlying suburbs. Actually these are many reasons why commuters find this to be a good location, so why wouldn’t offices?

EDITOR’S NOTE: You’re calling the train station and the CTA features that should draw retail?

One of the main reasons commuters find Park Ridge “a good location” because it’s 1/2 hour by train from the Loop, less than that by car from O’Hare, and no more than 1/2 hour to the main shopping areas of Oak Brook, Northbrook Court and Woodfield, as well as all points in between. And yet we can’t lure retail without bribery?

1:31. That’s a depressing reply. I wasn’t aware that either the library or the Pickwick were hurting for business. If that’s really the case, then maybe if we upgrade our retail options people would be more likely to go to those places, too.

In any case, without library or the Pickwick, I’d think we’d really be up a creek. Those places offer something tangible for the residents (books and other media, programs, a place to gather, a place to catch the latest movies) and that little piece of Uptown is the one area that has a modicum of quaintness and charm. Without them I’d think we’d be nothing more than a Niles or DesPlaines. And that would be really depressing.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We love Uptown’s “quaintness and charm.” But we wouldn’t be having this discussion if it was the retail mecca certain people think it can and should be.

But while the Library reports roughly 40,000 “visitors” a month (which, in reality, are “visits” because that number is calculated by how many times a body or bodies click the counter at the front door; i.e., the same person going in and out 5 times a day is reported as 5 “visitors”). And from what has been observed, that 40,000 figure is a lot closer to 5,000 people making 8 visits a month than it is to 20,000 people making 2 visits a month. But the Library has no way of telling for certain, and neither do we.

The Pickwick is the jewel of Uptown, in our opinion. But how many people do you think drive from miles away – past other theaters showing the same movies – just for the Pickwick experience?

Not walkable…..toooo funny!! I am tryimg to think of the last time my wife and I discussed taking our family on a shopping trip or to dinner and one of said…..”Oh not there!!! It’s just not walkable”.

I can’t decide what is worse, our lack of green space or the fact that we are not walkable.

What is really funny is I have lived here for over 10 years. My family walks all over Uptown and PR in general and never once has it dawned on me that this was an issue.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hey, we just report what we hear. People also beef about “no parking,” which we don’t understand, either.

“You’re calling the train station and the CTA features that should draw retail?”

Apparently I was unclear. I think those are features that would attract businesses to locate their offices here. More business people to patronize the yet-to-materialize hot new retail.

EDITOR’S NOTE: What you, or we, or anybody else in Park Ridge thinks about why businesses and/or retail should locate here is meaningless because, bottom line, businesses and retail haven’t flocked here.

Why? Ask the EDTF!

Oh, wait, its members didn’t concern themselves with that question because they were too busy trying to come up with innovative ideas – like resuscitating the City’s failed facade improvement bribery program, or getting one of their own hired by the City for that new economic development position that might be budgeted this year.

Look, here is the problem with the EDTF and with this thread. I should state that is not there fault or anyone of the psoters fault. It is not a simple A+B=C equation. If we just add parking or make it more walkable of fix the facades or, fill in your own, we will have a successful retail area.

There are stores and resturants that are very successful in what appear to be terrible areas. As an example, we have always enjoyed Francesca’s from our days inthe city. Now in the burbs we still like to go but sometimes we go to a suburban location. Some are in some god awful places. The northbrook location is in a stripmall but it is always jammed. People don’t go there to stroll, they go to eat.

I have friends and family who live near Deerfield, Libertyville, Wilmette, Highland Park and others. There are empty storefronts in these towns as well and I wonder if they are doing dramatically better comapred to PR. THe people in these towns, like PR, have many choices from nearby towns, cities and shopping complexes.

I know Naperville was mentioned by a prior poster but I am not sure how fair that is. If not downtown Naperville I think the closest stores are in Iowa.

EDITOR’S NOTE: What’s your point? Should the City – as opposed to the Chamber or private groups – be doing things to bring in business, or is that just a waste of time and/or tax dollars?

The extent of the issue is enormous. Look at some of the issues that have recently come to light. How attractive is it to business when it takes a business owner (in this case Dunkin Donuts) approximately 2 years just to have the letters identifying the business placed on an already existing sign. If population density facilitates retail traffic why are developers constantly prevented from developing vacant areas ? Look at the number of empty lots along Northwest Highway. Wasn’t a developer (Greenwood and Northwest Highway) just turned down ? In today’s Advocate, six corners was listed as the 8th most dangerous intersection in Park Ridge. Yes, these are all real drawing cards for retail business.

EDITOR’S NOTE: So why is Whole Foods coming to Park Ridge…was it looking for Harwood Heights and just made a wrong turn?

The developer of Greenwood and NW Hwy. wanted an overly-dense condominium complex. Definitely not retail.

Seems to us that Six Corners should have done better than a mere 8th place, given that much traffic and all those choices.

@4:28. Yes the grass is always greener on the other side. Just the other week my spouse’s boss was lamenting how lame he thought Wilmette’s “uptown” was compared to PR.

Maybe it is just that “Main Streets” are in fact dead. Maybe the majority of people prefer to drive from mall to mall or shop online. Or get everything they need at their nearest Costco or Wal-Mart because it’s cheap and convenient.

I know there are towns and communities that are proving otherwise but maybe Park Ridge will simply never be one of them.

Whole Foods will be very successful. Why ? It will be a destination point with easy access and ample parking. It’s a win for Park Ridge and I’m glad its coming, but it extends the retail problem by creating another island of retail business. Look at how disected the area has become. You have the Trader Joe island, the Whole Foods island, the Gumbo Joe’s island. These islands cut off by streets, railroads, and intersections don’t lend themselves to facilitating retail traffic flow. I was aware that the developer was turned down. The point I was trying to make was that a condo complex would a least place potential retail customers near the downtown center. I would not expect it to have any retail.

EDITOR’S NOTE: So are you suggesting that our “retail” problem is really a lack of customer density; i.e., the more people we jam into our 8 square mile City, the more likely retailers will be to locate here to tap our market?

So…put homes, if not condos/townhouses, at the Youth Campus? Modify the density limits of our Zoning Code?

I don’t know, I’d rather have those “islands” than have every single retail space crammed into one Disneyland-like central area. Imagine what parking would be like if that were the case. I think it’s OK to break it up. I routinely walk or drive or bike between those areas without a problem, they’re pretty close together.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As we’ve said before, a business will generally go wherever it thinks it can make the most money; and there appears to be darn little the City can do to influence that, short of bribery.

Friends of the Park:

You keep bringing up issues (many I do not agree with by the way) that have no answers. For example, you talk about WF creating another island. Fair enough if that is what you think.

I would point out that from the site of WF to the Pickwick is about a quarter mile but the more important question is this. Where do you want them to put it?? What exactly in a perfect world would you have done to avoid this “island” you refer to? You seem to be saying it should be smack center in Uptown. THere is no space for it. The closest space to Uptown is exactly where they are putting it. They could have put it at the old car dealer site in Greenwood and Busse. Would that have helped uptown traffic?

The same goes for the railroad tracks. You can talk about them creating bad “retail traffic flow” all you want but they ain’t going away.

the one thing this thread has proved is that it’s a complex problem with lots of moving (or not moving) parts, and that there’s no silver bullet except incentives, or as you’d put it, bribery. Compared to the bribes we’d have to offer (with no guarantee the recipient wouldn’t move out two years later as has happened in so many desperate communities), a salary or two devoted to isolating problems and tackling them consistently is chump change. Meanwhile, let’s insist the City implement the no-cost and low-cost improvements the Task Force has recommended and stop acting as if this will solve itself, somehow, someday.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “[A] salary or two devoted to isolating problems and tackling them consistently is chump change” – is still wasted money unless we actually get something for that money. One of the early commentators talked about all of Kim Uhlig’s “contributions” but never offered any concrete examples.

As a community at every level of local government, we have wasted far too much time, effort (including “volunteer” effort) and money just doing something. Isn’t time we actually aimed before we fired?

I have a couple family members and friends who work on both sides of this economic development issue – the municipal side and the corporate side and I have asked them for their opinions. While this comment is not what the blog owner, nor me or any other taxpayer wants to hear, there are two big things working against Park Ridge right now.

First is the fact that legalized bribery (“incentives” by means of lower taxes, rebates, permit fee reductions) is the norm these days in municipal government. The towns that are getting the big retail are playing this game because the retailers have all the cards right now. There are multiple “conventions” in Vegas and other sunny places each year where municipal representatives literally line up to beg retailers to come to their town. Park Ridge not only needs a person on the payroll to do this work, but also needs to be able to play by the rules in this new economy, and get some dirt on its hands. It is more noble to try to play it straight and fair like the Council did with Whole Foods, but your success rate won’t set any records.
The second issue concerns the type of retail a city needs. The real sources of revenue for municipalities are car dealerships and then large site retail. Put all the little shops Uptown together and they still don’t equal the cash brought in by one car dealership. Towns right now are doing anything they can to get those in their city limits.
The other major revenue sources are going to always be tough to get into Park Ridge. We are wedged in between Niles and Rosemont and will never get a nice big Target to build here. And, when it comes to restaurants, the blog owner is right that it is hard to bypass the big bucks top notch options in Rosemont or the multiple choices just a little further down Northwest Highway in Edison Park. Worrying about the financial hit that we will take from the closing of Lisa’s Italian Ice or Dominick’s Kitchen Supplies is futile.
Either we get a hired gun to go swimming in the cesspool of legalized bribery or we take the high road that happens to be paved with increased property taxes alone.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sorry, Anonymous, but you’re all wet.

Bribery “is the norm these days” only because local government bureaucrats/lemmings all sing the same silly songs, from the same hymnal, that they learn at all these “professional conferences” they attend for the primary purpose of learning the latest tricks for how to manipulate clueless elected officials, which every town seems to have.

Over the years Park Ridge HAS had “a person on the payroll” to play footsie with business owners, and both of them failed – because the game is stacked against a landlocked community like Park Ridge and will never get un-stacked in its favor for the simple reason that retailers can go anywhere they want, but Park Ridge is stuck where it is. So if Park Ridge tries to play that game, it will end up paying premium prices for mediocre or transitory results – as it has done with the Uptown TIF project.

We got Whole Foods WITHOUT giving them the tax breaks they asked for because they apparently wanted to be here. Not suprisingly, the folks on the EDTF screamed bloody murder when the Mayor and the Council (less a clueless Ald. Jim “Smitty” Smith) held the line, because they made the same assumptions and engaged in the same shallow thinking you have on this point.

We do agree with you, however, that car dealerships and large-site retail is where the money is. But we don’t have much space to put them; and, as we saw with Napleton Cadillac, car manufacturers don’t want their dealerships in “pockets” like NW Hwy. and Meacham.

Whole Foods is a shining repudiation of your “[e]ither we get a hired gun to go swimming in the cesspool of legalized bribery or we take the high road that happens to be paved with increased property taxes alone.” Whole Foods didn’t need to be sold on Park Ridge by bribes and cesspool swimming. And, at least for the time being, we will assume/hope there are others out there like WF.

Anon:

I am not asking WF to move the location. Where they are putting it makes perfect sense. My point is that if WF is a drawing card for retail customers it would be nice if other surrounding businesses could benefit from the increased retail traffic flow. For example, my guess is that the recently closed kitchen store on Main (Gumbo Joe’s island) would have had much more success had it been located on Trader Joe’s island. How easy was it for Trader Joe’s customers to purchase kitchen accessories ( a complementary product line) from a store across Touhy and over the tracks ? Again the lay out of the downtown area fragments retail customer flow. Unfortunately it is what it is. As I see it there is not an economical solution to this fundamental issue. Having worked with companies that planned and established retail locations, they were very quick to identify both natural and manmade barriers to retail customer traffic flow.

Friend:

Again we are back to things that will not change.

Let’s look at your example of the kitchen store. I happened to like that place very much and thought it was a mistake for him to move (In part becuase of retail traffic), but that was his choice as a business owner. You may say that he would have been better served in a space by TJ’s (or maybe reoepning in a complex next to WF) but he was factoring in many other things, like price per square foot for example.

As a business owner, if they see a benefit to moving to an area where they perceive better retail flow that will translate into more money in their pocket and their is space available at a cost the deen reasonable, they are perfectly free to do so.

@11:14: And I thought some of the earlier posts on this thread were depressing.

It’s too bad that some of the very important lessons I try to teach my kids every day — such as “just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t make it right” — don’t seem to apply to so many adults in this world.

It makes me kind of glad that we haven’t had anybody dedicated to the ED job because the thought of someone standing in line in Vegas, or wherever, wearing a “Park Ridge, IL” name tag and “begging” retailers to come here just makes my stomach turn.

I’d also like to see the stats on some of the towns and cities that routinely do business this way. Are their “main streets” really thriving? Are they more fiscally healthy? Or are simply a few people’s pockets a bit fatter?

Call me naive but there has got to be a better way.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If we actually thought hiring a full-time ED staffer, or having Larry Ryles in full beret at the Las Vegas Convention Center with a sign that reads “Ask Me About Retail In Park Ridge,” would actually work, it might at least be worth discussing.

But we don’t think it will – although we have no problem with Ryles taking his Sham-Wow pitch to Vegas on his own dime, irrespective of whether or not he is elected mayor.

11:14PM,

I’d like to add to the editor’s response. Your comments on incentives may apply to locations in the exurbs where it is possible for Target or a car dealership to purchase a cornfield for development in any municipality near their customers. To the business, either side of the county/city line is equally good so the decision may come down to who will give them the best incentives.

Park Ridge is in a different situation. The business decision is determined by where the customers are located and what property is available. As you correctly point out, there won’t be a Target in PR because there is no land for a Target. The presence or lack of incentives will not make or break a deal, as the Whole Foods development proved. WF found their customers, they found an appropriate parcel of land to develop, and came to PR despite the lack of incentives.

PR is a different world than Algonquin or Aurora. Our city employees should not adopt the incentive tactics that those cities use because they just don’t apply here.

Anon @6:40

I agree with you 100% costs are definitely a factor. I am just trying to make the point about complementary retail store on a subjective basis. I too enjoyed shopping there and I wish they had been successful. Its ironic that a produce store is now a few shops away from the vacated storefront. The two stores could have been good for each other.

8:16:

I am very glad the council and mayor made what had to be a difficult decision (clling a bluff always takes some ba#*s) that worked by not caving.

That said, your postion that incentives are something that takes place only in “cornfield developments” or in places like Aurora and Algonquin is just flat out wrong.

To be clear, I am not defending incentives but only pointing out that your case against them is simply not true.

Do five minutes of googlin with development incentives as your search words.

Not at all convinced that Larry in his beret or Sham-Wow chamois set loose like some Marketing Bruce Willis will do any good, and could do harm. Nobody should be self-appointing as the representative of the City’s various options and opportunities without a solid package of professional material created using solid stats on why we’re so danged special. And no, this isn’t something a beleagured City administrative assistant can knock out in her nonexistent spare time. There is NO coordinated, professional outreach in any medium being done on the City’s behalf. Until you believe that matters, nothing will change.
That said, the discussion about auto dealers and food stores reminds me of PubDog 1.0 during the Baldacchino era that helped stall Uptown redevelopment until the recession hit. You were quoted then as saying it would take a helluvalot of wasabi mayo jar sales to equal one economy car sale in sales tax revenue. Looks like you were right ’bout that.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Until somebody figures out whether, and specifically why, Park Ridge “is so danged special,” there’s no way to even put together “a solid package of professional material created using solid stats” about our alleged special-ness; and no reason to pay some “professional” to coordinate the City’s “outreach.”

And only a complete sap would buy into the revisionist history Howard Frimark and his fellow Uptown TIF enthusiasts are trying to create – through scapegoating of “the Baldacchino era that helped stall Uptown redevelopment until the recession hit” – to cover their derrieres now that their pet TIF has proven to be an economic black hole for the City rather than the gold mine they previously touted.

From Day One of Baldacchino’s unsuccessful attempt to obtain a restraining order against the Uptown project, Circuit Judge Richard Siebel made it painfully clear that Baldacchino didn’t hava a snowball’s chance in hell of prevailing. But that didn’t stop then-mayor Frimark from stampeding all but one of the then-alderman (Jeannie Markech, 2nd Ward) into rolling over and putting the City and its taxpayers on the hook as guarantors of the project’s financing, ostensibly so that the project wouldn’t be delayed.

And much as we like TJ’s wasabi mayo, the Kane McKenna report makes it pretty darn clear that, beneath the lipstick, the Uptown TIF is a real economic P-I-G hog.

No matter where the “incentives” or “legalized bribery” occurs most frequently, I think it’s clear that we need to pursue the smaller, independent retailers rather than the big names simply because of our location.

Places like Paper Source, which like Potbelly’s (once a single shop on Lincoln Ave in Chicago not that many years ago) are locally-based chains so they seem to know how to cater to a local clientele, would be a great start. Then maybe the moms and pops and investors would become brave enough to hang shingles alongside places that seems viable and stable.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Pursue” them how? What do they need that isn’t already available here?

“Pursue” them why? We didn’t “pursue” Whole Foods, but they appeared to figure out for themselves that there is some kind of opportunity here for them. If these other retailers you’re talking about can’t figure that out for themselves, what is the City supposed to do – give them a brain? Pay for their MBA?

“‘Pursue’ them why? We didn’t ‘pursue’ Whole Foods, but they appeared to figure out for themselves that there is some kind of opportunity here for them.

So we just sit by and wait for retailers to have their light bulb moments about Park Ridge as a possible location? Seems like a pretty passive approach. Even Whole Foods has a page on their web site that solicits zip codes from the general public for future development opportunities. In fact I used to plug 60068 in periodically. For all I know it was my online suggestion that sparked their interest.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sure it was…and the 1981 quarter we’ve been carrying around in our pocket since 1982 has prevented us from being trampled by elephants.

Since the EDTF fired without aiming – coming up with a whole list of deck chair rearrangements without having any clue what about Park Ridge is attractive to retailers, to what type of retailers, and why – what “active approach” are you proposing? Besides Larry Ryles going to Vegas with his “Ask me about Retail in Park Ridge” sign, that is.

This is clearly an important issue to the people of PR. It is not often that a topic generates over 50 posts. It does not appear to me that either candidate has a rock solid plan or position. I look forward to hearing them both flesh out their positions at the first debate.

EDITOR’S NOTE: So do we, although it won’t be until the SECOND debate – because challenger Ryles was a no-show for the first one.

[Editor: Until somebody figures out whether, and specifically why, Park Ridge “is so danged special,” there’s no way to even put together “a solid package of professional material created using solid stats” about our alleged special-ness; and no reason to pay some “professional” to coordinate the City’s “outreach.”]

You pay someone to first figure out what the selling points are, then create the promotional package, then target the market, then figure out the best way to promote it, then execute it.

Sounds like a full time job to me. In their spare time they can walk aspiring businesses through the permit processes, and make sure those are easily understandable, quick and consistant.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If we have to “pay someone to first figure out what the selling points [of Park Ridge] are,” there must not be very many; and they must be hidden.

Au contraire, mon frere; some of us understand very well what makes Park Ridge special, and a few of us can even articulate it. That’s important, but it’s not everything, unfortunately.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Articulate away, if you can.

11:16 AM,

8:16 AM responding to your post. I have personally negotiated for governmental incentives for manufacturing plants with several local, state and federal (foreign, not US) governments so I have some knowledge about the practice of government incentives. That said, I do not have any personal experience with negotiating incentives for retail stores.

To address your points – I did not say that incentives take place only in cornfield developments; I said that the incentives may be the deciding factor that determines the specific location of the development in those markets.

I agree with you that incentives are handed out by municipalities other than cornfield developments. If you reread my post you will note that I never said otherwise.

I still stand by my statement that the incentive tactics used in those cornfield developments should not be adopted by PR because they don’t apply to our community. Just because some other community is doing something doesn’t necessarily make it right for us. Finding some examples in a Google search doesn’t make an action correct for PR, it only means that there are some examples of people doing it.

The Whole Foods example shows that if a business has a reason to locate in PR then the business will come here without incentives. The converse also applies. If there aren’t enough customers in our community to make a business profitable, then the business won’t come even with some reasonable incentives.

@ 7:49 – You obviously have every right to be repulsed by the thought of someone trying to beg retailers to move to Park Ridge, but then you lose your right to be repulsed, angered or anything about watching your taxes go up. The moral high ground ain’t cheap.

@ 8:16 I know another poster beat me to it, but no one is talking about any towns with cornfields. Look at a map of our area and about every town within 10 miles of us is playing this game. Keep an eye on the local papers or check out the Daily Herald to see how often you see stories of incentives, tax breaks and every trick in the book.

And while you are right about no room for Target, there are plenty of places to put a car dealership. Actually, a lot of the empty land used to be car dealerships. The boondoggle trips to Vegas that pretend to be conventions are full of economic development employees chasing the car dealerships and one-upping the benefits offered. Call it sad, funny, depressing, disgusting, but it is reality.

So, please don’t kill the messenger here. I don’t like the new reality of municipal development either, but when there is more supply (towns with empty lots) then demand (new retail moving in), the retail demands what it wants. And while PubDog might “hope” there are more longshots like Whole Foods that will come here, you know what they say. Why don’t you hope in one hand and do you know what in the other and see which one fills up quicker.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Fine, let’s fight the battle of the “incentives” with our neighboring communities. How much do you want to fund the “war chest” with initially – $1 million? $2 million? What kind of ROI is acceptable?

We’ve got at least two vacant parcels that used to be car lots. Should the City reject any development proposals for those parcels unless the proposal includes a car dealership?

Seems as if the majority opinion here is no special deals!! I take that to mean we all want to step up to the plate and give up our own special deals?? Bahhhhh!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Let’s see now…the City, under the “leadership” of former mayors Ron Wietecha, Mike Marous and Howard Frimark, gave millions of dollars in incentives to PRC to develop the Uptown TIF project; and the taxpayers are almost certain to be forced to “step up to the plate” with additional millions of tax dollars over the next 14 years or more, with a strong likelihood that they will never be made whole on that “investment.”

The City, under the leadership of Mayor Dave Schmidt and the current City Council, told Whole Foods and its developer “no” on millions of dollars of tax revenue sharing; and it looks like WF will be providing nothing but money to the City – in enhanced property taxes and sales taxes – for the foreseeable future.

That’s the kind of “special deal” for the taxpayers we endorse. Why don’t you?

Of course I am for what the Mayor and the Council did. You did not answer my question.

EDITOR’S NOTE: What question is that – your statement about “our own special deals” (which you didn’t identify)that you label a “question” because you stuck a question mark on the end of it?

@10:27: “The moral high ground ain’t cheap.”

So the low moral ground is cheap and therefore better?

You also suggest that because I don’t necessarily agree with doing business that involves “legalized bribery” and “getting your hands dirty,” that I also oppose higher taxes. I don’t even see the connection. And actually for what it’s worth I support both the Youth Campus and Centennial pool projects so no one can accuse me about being repulsed or angered at the prospect of higher taxes.

Like I said, you can call me naive but I believe there has to be a better way than you’re suggesting to attract more businesses to PR and keep them here.

And to the person at 8:03 who asked if we want special deals to end we have to be willing to give up the special deals of our own? And what special deals are the taxpayers like me getting? Maybe a free workout day at the community center once in a while. I guess I haven’t looked for all the “incentives” that are apparently out there just waiting to be grabbed, silly me.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Businesses that demand concessions and incentives from local governments are extortionists, plain and simple. And everyone knows that paying off extortionists just encourages more extortion.

So not giving concessions isn’t about being “moral”: it’s about not being stupid.

Reading through this thread, the mention of the PR Houlihan’s being one of the best performers in its chain made me think about Starbucks as well and how they operate both a flagship location (the NW highway one) and a smaller original shop so close to each other and so successfully…

Maybe this trend of businesses that do well in town REALLY doing well has been lost on any ED efforts up to this point!? I think it might be the single most notable trend in PR retail business, but then I wasn’t on the EDTF…

But it makes me wonder what the town would have been like if the TIF wasn’t pushed through and that plot of land had remained undeveloped until 2012 for Whole Foods to come along and take a look at? On slightly hazy days in town you can almost see a flagship location of theirs where Amphora is now, rivalling the much talked about one on North in Lincoln Park and totally upshowing the other nearby ones in Sauganash, Glenview and Schaumburg. And it might have been built without taxpayer money for a good land value.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Or if Walter E. Smythe had been allowed to construct its free-standing store and parking on that site, which it reportedly wanted to do BACK THEN, but was turned down by the City – with then-City Mgr. Tim Schuenke insisting on a “unified” concept for the whole stretch from 6-corners to Meacham, and assuring anyone who would listen that “Walter E. Smithe will still be there” once the rest of the development is built.

What a horse’s patoot!

I also can’t help but comment on another serendipity this morning when I happened across a USDA Forest Service research paper published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine on the issue of trees and human health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23332329

I had been pondering how the “Tree City” status in this town might also have economic advantages over other nearby, more industry-heavy towns and how Larry Ryles seems to take that somewhat for granted with his Issue #5 (“Residents Before Trees”) stance. I personally see the trees, especially in more populated, commerical public spaces, as key to differentiating a PR shopping experience from a mall or Glen or Wicker Park type of experience, which can become depressing and numbing after awhile. It is hard to calculate how much greenery has a soothing effect on the human brain, but any prolonged trip to Woodfield or down Damen Ave. lends a clue!

Anyway, then I found that report and had to laugh a bit because it at least shows a hard end to a topic that someone like Ryles can easily push aside as unimportant (afterall it is just TREES, right?) But sure enough, it shows “that loss of trees to the emerald ash borer increased mortality related to cardiovascular illness”, which at the very least is likely to benefit only a very few businesses in town…

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re big on trees, especially what they contribute to the “character” of our particular community. And we think the long-term evidence shows that trees make a positive contribution to air quality, cooling, etc.

But given the relative newness of the emerald ash borer and its adverse effects on our tree stock, we suspect reports of its effect on mortality are (like those of Mark Twain’s demise) exaggerated.

Dominick’s Kitchen Store did a lot right and a couple of major things wrong, business-wise; he doubled his ruinously costly retail frontage to open a cooking school along with retail. A logical line extension but apparently not researched well enough to yield dependable info on ROI. Every business requires risk; that’s the rationale for the owner taking home the lion’s share when things work, right? But in this case, the volume of biz wasn’t enough to offset his costs. Same for Burke’s Books. People open retail to do what they love, but sales (and even more, profits) must be the deciding factors, despite what the happy-sappy how-to books tell you. Retailers can get help from SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Execs) that offer free private consults at the Chamber of Commerce (720 Garden St.) But you still have to sell what the locals want (not just what you like), source it at costs that let you sell it at competitive prices, and walk the line between investing and skimping enough to market aggressively, deliver good service with motivated staff and still make a profit. Not a hobby, done right, I’m afraid. We should be encouraging landlord support for new retail, if they’re really pillars of the community and not just lucky in the families they were born into. But even with that, not every independent store or restaurant will survive into the second generation or even to the 5-year mark. That’s not the City’s fault.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Which is why, except for public safety concerns as represented in the zoning and building codes, food standards, etc., government serves business best by simply getting out of the way.

…so if the laissez-faire approach isn’t working, oh, well on the taxpayers, right? Suck it up or move.
That’s how ideology trumps the public’s best interest. Just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing, as you said yourself to an earlier comment.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Not sure we understand your point. What “public’s best interest” and what “ideology” are you talking about?

This is the most entertaining thing I have ever read here.

Nothing will ever develop in this town except for a grocery store like the WF deal.
This the US Capitol for the NIMBYs. Bunch of crybabies here, well actually the 45+ crowd. A bar in PR…..ohhh noooo. A cigar lounge….ohh nooo. A restaurant……ohhh noooo, they cant have a TV that airs sports……
We need a traffic study! There is probably a traffic study on every other corner in this town. Don’t put that waterpark there, don’t let Dunkin Donuts put their name on an existing sign. Don’t put those houses on that parcel of land, we want a park to increase our property values, but do entertain the idea to put 80 apartments on NWH and Greenwood. Don’t fly those planes over my house. Don’t put those billboards on the highway, we don’t want the 9 condo residents that bought their place overlooking 294 to have an eyesore and make the decision to loose revenue for the entire town. Don’t build your home on old marshland with a 10 foot basement whose prior house was on a slab for a reason and cry that you flood now. Don’t let new construction put a 2 car garage door on their house cause its appearance is bad, but two 1 car doors so my SUV won’t fit and I leave it in the driveway for all to see now. Don’t allow us to put vinyl/abs fencing on our houses, instead let my neighbor put a wood one so after the first year it looks like crap cause he does not stain it every year. Don’t forget the red light cameras, cause we are keeping the deaths at the intersections down.
Who said Forever 21 or AnnTaylor would move here? Have you ever seen a stand alone store? It would be nimby-fied anyway due to its size. Gamestop, why the 700 sqft one in golfmill over its head?

What is the appeal? This town is the most business/residential un-friendly place around.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Is that you, Larry David, of “Seinfeld” fame? Because this may well be the longest comment about nothing in the history of this blog.

Either that, or by giving you this forum we just saved you a couple hundred bucks and a 50-minute hour on a couch.

You’re welcome!



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