Should Highland Park Help Property Owners Fill Vacancies?
The recent closings of Corner Bakery, Stashs, M Restaurant and soon-to-be-closed Saks Fifth Avenue means city officials are reaching out to property owners to find new tenants. How much should they be doing?
Highland Park's Business and Economic Development Commission (BEDC) "reviews, advises and makes recommendations to the City Council regarding any or all projects being undertaken in the commercial, industrial and residential/office zoning districts," according to the Highland Park website.
Recently, the commission has also been connecting with property owners to help them replace closed businesses.
Businesses that complement the city
An interesting aspect of this city-assistance is that city officials aren't looking to replace these vacancies with just anything. The idea is to replace these holes with businesses that will fit with the rest of the city.
"We are taking proactive measures to find businesses that complement our business community," Highland Park Deputy City Manager Ghida Neukirch told Patch last week about finding a replacement for M Restaurant.
Business and Economic Development Commissioner and City Council candidate Alyssa Knobel said something similar when discussing replacing the former Corner Bakery.
"We are trying really hard to put the right businesses in," Knobel said. "We want to find what would be the right thing for the spot."
Knobel indicated that promoting more cooperation among property owners in Highland Park would help maintain a successful downtown, which would mean less turnover.
"It would be great if our property owners work together," Knobel said in November. "If we have businesses go in and then go out in six months it hurts everybody."
Some say just find a tenant
Some readers, however, think that the city might be better off if property owners were less picky and quicker to replace vacancies.
"Find a tenant. One who will employ people and who will pay taxes. Period," said MS in a comment. "We need to stop doing things against taxpayer interest and start doing things to foster a positive economic community."
Answering a question about what should replace M Restaurant, another reader agreed.
"What should be there? Whatever someone that’s willing to risk the capital wants," said Old H.P.
In a reaction to City Councilman Tony Blumberg's thoughts on replacing Saks Fifth Avenue once it closes Dec. 31, one reader asked the City Council to back off altogether.
"I suggest the City Council spend more time running the city than trying to plan/market businesses," said Stuart Senescu in a comment. "The last time the Council got involved with the running/planning of a business the taxpayers wound up owning the decrepit movie theater."
Blumberg responded to this pointing out his suggestion was just for the city to help the owner of Renaissance Place, not buy the building as it did with the theater.
"The Council is also responsible for setting zoning laws, which mat help or hurt the ability to get customers," Blumberg said in a comment.
Others say the city should work with landlords
Other readers supported the city's efforts to help replace closed businesses.
"Running the city includes being interested in the businesses that locate here," said Richard Heineman in a comment. "This impacts property and sales taxes as well needs and desires of the residents."
Another reader said the city's help in developing its downtown would be beneficial in the long run.
"We need to have a well developed community," said TJ Wheeler in a comment, "so it is in the City's best interests to work with the landlords to get tenants in there properties."
Struggling businesses need help, too
Some wondered what could be done to help the struggling businesses from going under.
"All businesses need customers. It's a tough business being a small business owner; we all need the community support," said Posh owner Pamela Hillman in a comment about M's closing. "If the restaurants in question had that, they may still be open."
"We do have wonderful regulars from Highland Park that try to support us," Holleb said in a comment. "Unfortunately pulling from Highland Park is not enough these days."
What should the city be doing to help replace closed businesses? What about businesses that are currently struggling? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.