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Small Businesses Are Struggling to Stay Afloat in Wicker Park

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Like many Chicago neighborhoods, Wicker Park continues to change and develop as new residents and businesses move in. However, over the last several months, an alarming trend has been occurring in the area that has long been known for its vast collection of vibrant small businesses. Independent businesses are closing up at a seemingly record pace as area landlords continue to raise rents on retail spaces. According to a report from DNAinfo, the stretch of Milwaukee Avenue where the new boozy Taco Bell just opened has 11 vacant storefronts. This should concern anyone who is a Wicker Park property owner or a prospective buyer shopping for a home in the neighborhood. But will blight take over Milwaukee Avenue? It's not likely, but Wicker Parkers can and should expect to see a lot more national chain retailers with deeper pockets taking over the area's growing number of vacant retail spaces.

Large national retailers are nothing new in Wicker Park. They've been taking over retail space along Milwaukee and North avenues for several years now. And not only have different businesses been moving in, but new residents have also been calling Wicker Park home. The area was once known for its edgy, creative vibe, but has become something like a playground for rowdy weekend warriors with disposable income and an endless thirst for booze. It just so happens to be the neighborhood to feature the country's first Taco Bell to serve alcohol. And as Time Out Chicago recently pointed out, beer mega-coporation AB InBev chose the neighborhood for a national taste test campaign.

So, what will become of Wicker Park? It'll continue to be a dense, bustling neighborhood with residents from all walks of life, but it's just not going to be the hip, edgy area that it once was. There's apparently a market for rentals that cost $5,000 per month on Milwaukee Avenue these days. Even Logan Square is losing its edge as a flood of new developments and rising rent and home prices continue following a steep incline. But small, independent businesses are a vital part of any Chicago neighborhood, as they not only provide jobs and tax dollars, but they also bring a unique flavor and character to their neighborhood. Will Wicker Park landlords drive out even more small businesses? We'll have to wait and see what happens.

·Boozy Taco Bell's Block Has 11 Empty Stores as Rising Rents Drive Many Out [DNAinfo]
·Has Wicker Park become the new Wrigleyville? [Time Out Chicago]
·Going From Rainbo to Bro: A Brief History of Division Street [Curbed Chicago]
·Gentrification Watch archives [Curbed Chicago]