Starbucks comes to downtrodden South Side neighborhood

Amid the blight and neglect of Bronzeville, hopes are percolating that the opening of a Starbucks coffee shop today will foster an urban revival in what was once one of the most vibrant African-American communities in America.

Chicago's newest Starbucks is in the Park Boulevard development, an assemblage of mixed-income and market -rate homes on the former site of the Stateway Gardens public housing project.

Mayor Richard M. Daley said the development will help to eliminate borders between public housing and the rest of the community.

"We cannot isolate the poor," Daley said.

Bronzeville represents an unlikely location for Starbucks, known for blanketing upscale areas with stores.

The new store is the result of a partnership between Starbucks and basketball great Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who are working together to develop neighborhoods neglected by retail business.

Daley was joined by federal Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson and Alderman Pat Dowell [D-3rd Ward] for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the store's 35th and State Street location.

Daley said Bronzeville previously was a "the picture of failure."

But opportunities for residents will come along with redevelopment, he said.

Even though the name Starbucks often elicits grumblings of gentrification and globalization, there appeared to be little opposition from the community, nor were alternative plans offered.

Dowell said the opening "sends a powerful message" to other retailers that Bronzeville is again open for business.

When asked if the neighborhood would have been better served by a new healthcare facility, Dowell said the most pressing need for residents of Bronzeville are the choices and options that only new retail investment can provide.

"There are plenty of healthcare options in the area," Dowell said.

In addition to the new coffee house, the first phase of the Park Boulevard project will be home to 100 low-income families.