On May 10 at Chase Park, Chicago Market hosted a public community meeting about our pursuit of the CTA’s renovated Wilson Station, aka the Gerber Building. This was the second in a series – the first was held April 18 with Chicago Market Owners, and the next, another public session, will be held on Saturday afternoon, May 20 at Bezazian branch, Chicago Public Library.
Despite an intense thunderstorm that hit right before we started, attendance was solid and the room was full. For many there, this was their first exposure to the food co-operative model, and to Chicago Market’s vision and plans to open a full-service, community-owned grocery store: focused on bringing local, sustainable food and products and being a hub for community gathering, education and growth.
We continue to be thrilled and inspired by the community’s response to this project, and to our bid for space in this very special location. Owners and supporters who’ve been engaged with Chicago Market since the beginning have joined us for meetings, signed our community petition, helped spread the word, and stepped up to volunteer their efforts. New supporters, especially those connected to the Uptown area, have listened thoughtfully and contributed their own knowledge, ideas, and networking connections to help us move our plan forward in ways that will ensure Chicago Market will be a proactive and productive part of the neighborhood – not just another chain retailer.
We’ve also had some great questions asked – at meetings and via other communications. And while not all of them are easy to answer, we want you to keep ‘em coming! It is both a core value and a key point of difference versus traditional grocery stores, that a food co-op exists to be responsive to our Owners and our community, not just to extract profit for outside investors or management.
We’re working to post all of these questions and ideas on a consolidated page on our blog – we’ll share that link here and on our Facebook page very soon!
In the meantime, here's a rundown of the May 10 session:
Board President Grant Kessler kicked off a presentation that outlines Chicago Market's history, our vision and our growth so far.
Founder, Funding Director (and Board member) Greg Berlowitz talked about the history of the Wilson Station site, and some of the ways in which we see Chicago Market taking advantage of this location. We even brought some first draft layout drawings from our partners at Wrap Architecture - they are super excited about this unique opportunity.
You can check out the presentation here.
Sharon Hoyer, who is General Manager of Chicago’s Dill Pickle food co-op in Logan Square, then talked about how Dill Pickle partners with food justice organizations and is an engine of economic growth within their neighborhood. She shared how working in a values-based, community-engaged organization is both challenging and inspiring to her, every day. Chicago Market will bring 75-80 local jobs to Uptown!
Alderman James Cappleman (Chicago Market Owner #500!) talked about his own history with food co-ops, and the special opportunity the Gerber Building represents for Uptown – he shared data that 50% of Uptown residents’ disposable income and much of their grocery dollars are currently spent outside of the ward. He is enthusiastically supporting our project with the CTA and the Mayor’s office. Our formal application for the space, as well as letters of support from community organizations and our community petition, will be submitted to the CTA on June 9.
Board member Karen Jacobs then opened the room up for questions and facilitated a great, idea-filled discussion among the co-op’s elected Board members and everyone in attendance.
As the meeting broke up, attendees were invited to show their support for Chicago Market and our Wilson Station bid in a number of ways:
* Sharing thoughts on camera, via the cool pop-up studio created by Owners #843 Michael Davis, #870 Benjamin Holland, #14 Malcolm Haar and #817 Sharon Jin – check out this fun video!
* Signing our community petition of support (now almost 1,800 signatures strong, and aiming for 3,000!)
* Taking a Chicago Market yard sign (suitable for yards, flower boxes, windows) to help spread the word among their neighbors. Let us know if you’re an Uptown resident and would like one, too!
* Considering becoming an Owner of Chicago Market. While our store will be open to all, Owners receive special discounts and benefits - including a share of the store's eventual profits. And, you'll play a critical part in helping us make our vision a reality for all!
And on that note, we’re especially grateful to all those noted above who helped make this meeting a success, as well as photographer/Owner #237 Steven Gross, note-taker/Owner #909 Kate Samano, greeter/Owner #872 Dana McKinney, and Board members (Owners all!) Anthony Todd, Emily Crespo, Bill Petty, Dan Miller, Linn Austin, Larry Gast and Jen Vest.