Roseland’s Michigan Avenue could become magnificent under city’s new plan

It’s early yet, but we like the rebound plan for the beleaguered shopping district under the city’s marquee Invest South/West initiative.

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In the wake of a fire last year that destroyed the former Gately’s department store, City Hall is looking at creative ways to improve “The Avenue” in Roseland. In the wake of a fire last year that destroyed the former Gately’s department store, City Hall is looking at creative ways to improve “The Avenue” in Roseland.

New housing and a mixed-use building could rise from the ashes of Roseland’s former Gately’s department store, which was destroyed in a 2019 fire.

Sun-Times file photo

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 in the 20th century as they shopped, worked or were entertained in neighborhood commercial districts, such as Six Corners on the Northwest Side or 63rd and Halsted streets on the South Side.

Roseland’s South Michigan Avenue was right up there with them, before massive economic disinvestment and changing shopping patterns put the district on the critical list beginning in the 1970s.

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

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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 yet, but we like the idea. A reborn South Michigan Avenue that is vibrant, accessible and bikeable would be a boon to Roseland, the surrounding neighborhoods and the Far South Side.

Solid steps to bring back Michigan

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

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

City officials want to see homes and a mixed-use building on the large former Gately’s site. The old theater could be become a shared kitchen, offices or incubator space, according to Block Club Chicago.

These are all solid, if preliminary, steps toward bringing back the street.

But if there’s any hitch in the plan, it might be in tying redevelopment of the 115th Street site to the construction of the Red Line extension.

On one hand, it’s good to see planners and the CTA working together — we hope they are, at least — to figure out the spaces around the proposed stations. But the line isn’t expected to open until at least 2029, which is a long wait for a deteriorating corridor.

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

It’s good to see Lightfoot and Invest South/West seeking to right that wrong in Roseland — and across the South and West sides.

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