Neighborhoods Swipe Right: New Partnerships form the RogersEdge Improvement District
Authentic, entrepreneurial, melting pot of a neighborhood seeks well-educated dynamic urban activist to share train rides and long walks on the beach.
These are the words that local market research firm, GD Squared, used to position both Edgewater and Rogers Park in recent years. Organized into a Tinder-worthy tagline they make us chuckle but digging deeper into the meaning behind the words might help to put the Loyola-area neighborhoods on the map.
The RogersEdge Business Improvement District began ten months ago when Loyola University approached Edgewater Chamber of Commerce and Rogers Park Business Alliance (RPBA) about the joining forces to address the commercial streets that are boundaries between community areas and wards. In a unique collaboration the RogersEdge partnership is growing a more prosperous business district in the Devon-Sheridan-Broadway area.
The idea came in 2015, after Loyola conducted a demographic and retail analysis study that ignored political boundaries and looked only at census data and retail habits. Kimberly Bares, whose company, PLACE Consulting, conducted the study said, “We were asked to draw boundary lines when we noticed demographic shifts in the population’s age, education level, or income and to ignore the traditional boundaries.” The approach yielded a new map and revealed that the areas immediately north and south of Devon Avenue, near Loyola University, have more in common with each other than they do with the rest of their respective wards or neighborhoods.
“We had been looking at neighborhood economic development in a limiting way,” said Jennifer Clark, Associate Vice President of Campus and Community Planning at Loyola University Chicago and architect of the plan. “Since the report came out, we started promoting the area differently. Advancing a campus-community district helped us to recruit over a dozen new businesses that serve a shared clientele.”
There are two Special Service Areas (SSA) in RogersEdge with previously unrelated missions. But the active business owners see customers rather than neighborhood or political boundaries. “Almost every neighborhood of Chicago has a business organization and an SSA,” said Sandi Price, executive director of RPBA, “and we’ve always respected each other’s boundaries. The RogersEdge collaboration invites us to work together in more intentional and collaborative ways. Success on Granville is vital to success on Devon and the success of Sheridan is connected to the success of Morse.”
“There are new buildings on Devon that have retail spaces to fill, there is a new hotel under construction, and there are proposed mixed-use buildings. We work with owners to recruit tenants and we want to connect businesses with their target consumers,” said Katrina Balog, executive director of the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce, “The fact that a proposal is one block north of Devon doesn’t make Edgewater residents care less about its impact.”
RogersEdge encourages eclectic, vibrant and culturally enriching experiences through business attraction and retention efforts, marketing, beautification and special events. In addition to funds put forth by each of the SSAs, Loyola contributes resources such as additional staff, unique advertising opportunities, micro consulting, retail incubation opportunities, and financial support.
In just the first few months, the RogersEdge collaboration installed cohesive street pole banners, published the RogersEdge Retail Guide, spearheaded new sidewalk café permits and met with City officials about infrastructure needs.
A district assessment conducted by residents and business owners helped prioritize the work. One of the items, the need for poles to be repainted on Broadway, was recently completed thanks to support from Alderman Harry Osterman.
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