Starbucks plans draw opposition, support in Bridgeport
May 3, 2019

Starbucks may be a popular national brand, but the approved plans for building a new 2,300- square-foot Starbucks store and retail complex in a vacant lot at the southwest corner of Halsted and 31st Streets in Bridgeport has drawn both opposition and support.

Opposition is driven primarily by Bridgeport Alliance, a grassroots group of residents working to gather support for their views. Their efforts come in the wake of the City’s agreement to sell the commercially zoned land and its approving final plans for the Starbucks, which counts as phase one of a two-part development.

Bridgeport Alliance opposes Starbucks for several reasons, notably the drive-through that members say will increase vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle congestion. It also objects to the coffee giant’s potential impact on local, homegrown competitors.

The group also raised objections to the second phase, consisting of retail development, saying it may block opportunities for local entrepreneurs.

The alliance counts about 30 members and is appealing to a much wider audience, said Quade Gallagher, the group’s chair. Alliance member Brianna Tong heads the Starbucks opposition effort, whose activities include contacting Bridgeport residents through a phone bank survey and direct canvassing.

The alliance’s phone survey results of 172 respondents as of April 8 indicate the following: 46.8% of residents surveyed oppose the Starbucks, 20.8% are unsure, 26.6% are for it, and 5.8% declined to answer. A total of 55.2% of residents surveyed either strongly oppose or somewhat oppose the drive-through to only 27.9% strongly favoring or somewhat favoring a drive-through. A total of 16.8% either were neutral or declined to answer. 

Of people surveyed, the average response to “When a new real estate development is built in Bridgeport, how satisfied are you with the opportunity for community input?” was 37.07 on a scale of one-to-100, with one indicating completely dissatisfied and 100 indicating completely satisfied. 

“We are trying to put pressure on the City and the development to see if we can get changes made,” Tong said.

The development has no start date yet, said developer Josh Glazier. He said he could not comment further until he had an opportunity to discuss details with executives at Starbucks.

Another alliance member, Kate Lowe, is an assistant professor at the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She noted the community would have preferred more public discussions prior to the development approval. Also, she said restrictions outlined by the City’s Department of Planning and Development for the second phase commercial building space, which will range from 1,900 to 2,200 square feet, raises concerns. The project will permit businesses such as casual restaurants, grocery stores, pet stores, wellness clinics, and professional services. For the first 10 years of use, however, it prohibits fast food restaurants, mattress stores, spas, massage parlors, salons, and tattoo parlors.

“Prohibiting those businesses is problematic because many of those types of businesses are established by local entrepreneurs, people of color,” Lowe said.

Eleventh Ward Alderman Patrick D. Thompson was not available before deadline to answer questions regarding the alliance’s concerns. Kelly Fitzpatrick, his spokesperson, said Thompson held a public meeting to address area development and has advocated bringing in new business to fill empty storefronts.

In an interview with Gazette Chicago earlier this year, Thompson pointed to the Starbucks project as a sign of positive change, noting most developments have both support and opposition.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of objections to this project,” he said at the time. “That corner has been vacant for 12 years” or more.

Thompson said the developer is complying with the City’s stormwater management requirements. “There will be a positive economic impact to that entire area,” he said. “A business like this can increase sales along the street.”

Fitzpatrick noted support from Bridgeport business owners, such as Ed Marszewski of nearby Marz Community Brewing Company.

Local resident Alison Mizera told Gazette Chicago the new Starbucks and associated development will be a plus because it provides diversity of options.

“The fact is that a Starbucks coffee drinker is going to Starbucks,” Mizera said. “For me, I go to a Starbucks in the morning because I like it. But I also like the frozen coffee at Jackalope,” an independent coffee and tea house near 32nd and Halsted Streets. “In the big scheme of things, it’s just coffee.”

Regarding possible congestion, Mizera said, “every Chicago neighborhood experiences that. It’s part of living in a city.”

Even if opposition efforts fail, Bridgeport Alliance members Gallagher, Tong, and Lowe said they hoped the City and Alderman Thompson will be open to holding more public meetings for future projects.

“We want the community to have a voice at public hearings about developments that are being planned in the future,” Tong said. “Maybe this will set the stage for that.”

For more on Bridgeport Alliance, log on to http://bridgeportalliance.blogspot.com/. To contact Thompson’s office, call (773) 254-6677.

—Rick Romano