Roseland’s Michigan Avenue can become spectacular under the city’s new plan

The latest thing in urban planning circles is the “15-minute city,” the concept of developing communities so that most of the things needed in life are a quarter-hour walk or bike trip from home.

Most Chicagoans lived this way into the 20th century as they shopped, worked, or entertained in neighborhood commercial districts, such as Six Corners on the Northwest Side or 63rd and Halstead Streets on the South Side.

Roseland’s South Michigan Avenue accompanied them before large-scale economic disinvestment and changing shopping patterns put the district on the critical list in the early 1970s.

But the beleaguered shopping district may be in for a rebound, thanks to Invest South/West, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s ongoing marquee initiative aimed at reinvesting in the South and West Side retail corridors.

City planners and community leaders are looking to redevelop three important sites on the mile-long strip between 107th and 115th Streets.

It’s early now, but we liked the idea. A revitalized South Michigan Avenue that is lively, accessible, and bikeable would be a boon to Roseland, the surrounding neighborhood, and the Far South.

Concrete steps to bring back Michigan

According to the city’s Department of Planning and Development, three South Michigan Avenue sites are targeted for redevelopment.

Department seeks redevelopment proposals for former Gately’s department store at 11201 S. Michigan, a site that was ruined and cleared after a June 2019 fire; The brick-and-terra cotta-clad old Roseland Theater building at 11331; and on 115th Street, where a CTA L station will be located as part of the proposed $3.6 billion Red Line expansion.

City officials want to see homes and a mixed-use building on the site of the larger East Gately. The old theater can become a shared kitchen, office or incubator space, According to Block Club Chicago.

These are all solid, if preliminary, steps towards getting back down the road.

But if there is a hitch in the plan, it could be in linking the redevelopment of the 115th Street site to the construction of the Red Line extension.

On one hand, it’s good to see planners and CTAs working together – we hope they are at least – to explore the locations around the proposed stations. But the line is not expected to open until at least 2029, a long wait for a deteriorating corridor.

Still, it’s far better than nothing, which is what places like South Michigan Avenue have gotten for two generations.

It’s good to see Lightfoot and Invest South/West in Roseland — and South and West trying to right that wrong.

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