With all this talk about the South Side’s development and growth, there doesn’t seem to be much information on how landscaping plays a huge part in it all. Think about it. Landscaping is a subconscious factor that can influence how well certain areas do. While new businesses can encourage the economic growth of a neighborhood, exceptional landscaping can extend the personality and liveliness of that space. With both factors involved, what you get in the end is the face of a well-developed, up-and-coming neighborhood. We could all use a little color and vibrancy in our lives, and landscaping can provide just that.

Taken from: Can data and dollars solve the South and West sides' retail problem? | Crain's Sept. 14

Standing on the corner of 39th Street and King Drive on the site of the soon-to-open Mariano’s in Bronzeville, Lyneir Richardson stares admiringly—not at the grocer’s shiny new sign, but at the vacant lots across the street.

“Look at those ‘For Sale,’ signs,” he says. “They weren’t there a few months ago. (The Mariano’s store) is a catalytic type of investment. The question is, what other retail should be here that will help continue strengthening the neighborhood?”

He says the adjacent properties, near the former site of the Chicago Housing Authority’s Ida B. Wells Homes, should include a sit-down restaurant, perhaps a UPS store and an urgent-care or day care center, as well as a coffee shop with free Wi-Fi.

What Richardson hopes won’t materialize? Dollar stores, beauty supply stores, fast-food joints and check-cashing spots. It’s tricky to prevent those players from overtaking an area, as many are operated by publicly traded corporations that move fast and pay top dollar for space that doesn’t receive much other interest.

But Richardson, CEO of Chicago Trend, or Transforming Retail Economics of Neighborhood Development, says his new for-profit social enterprise company, backed by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation through the Chicago Community Loan Fund and Chicago Community Trust, has three advantages that will help it build top-tier retail developments in Bronzeville, Chatham, Pullman and other neighborhoods on the South and West sides: data, development contacts and dollars.

To get independent businesses and major chains like Chipotle and Target to move into “transitional” neighborhoods, Richardson says, Trend is using sophisticated analysis and newly collected data about neighborhood buying power. It’s also banking on relationships with retailers he and his co-founder, Robert Weissbourd, have formed over a collective 50 years in the real estate and development worlds, plus $7 million in prestigious MacArthur funding that will be used as an incentive for retailers to move into places they might otherwise overlook.

Trend’s steering committee is stacked with prominent developers such as David Baum and John Bucksbaum.

The idea for Trend germinated five years ago, when Weissbourd, a former Shorebank executive who runs economic consultancy RW Ventures, began talking with MacArthur execs about the thorny issues surrounding creating viable retail in underserved neighborhoods.

“How do we figure out which stores would come anyway—we don’t want to finance a Starbucks in Lincoln Park—and which ones are going to fail—we don’t want to finance a Tiffany in a place that doesn’t make sense,” Weissbourd says.

After four years of work and data collection, Weissbourd and Richardson have the results of an 8,500-person survey about where Chicagoans shop and where they’re likely to move. The survey, conducted by economic policy firm EConsult Solutions, allows Trend to more accurately predict retail opportunities and reduce risks.