Maybe you’ve visited New York and its Strand Bookstore, and maybe you haven’t.
But wherever you live, I’d bet there are at least a few retail establishments in your neighborhood, that have helped make it “home” for you. For many New Yorkers (and many in its diaspora), the Strand and its “18 Miles of Books” are a crucial component of the soul of the city.
So now we have a lengthy, well-argued piece by Michael Kimmelman in the New York Times, with the print-edition title of “How Special Is the Strand?” I think the print-edition title is much more apt. Kimmelman’s summary applies to every American community I can think of – including Chicago:
“… the city clearly needs to recognize neighborhood fixtures and local businesses as examples of what Jorge Otero-Pailos, director of historic preservation at Columbia University, defines as ‘intangible heritage.’ The issue isn’t only economic. It’s also cultural … Unique neighborhood stores like the Strand are community hangouts, de facto debate clubs, places of outsized local pride – magnets for the sort of face-to-face encounters that bind neighborhoods and societies together.”
Kimmelman briefly describes a proposal by Brad Lander, a New York City Councilmember, “to grant tax breaks to commercial landlords who give affordable, long-term, renewable leases to independently-owned small businesses.” A short drive anywhere in Chicago would demonstrate that we need a similar program here. Perhaps you can think of a beloved local landmark that would have benefited from such policy – and whose absence now leaves a gaping hole in the neighborhood?
Maybe this is a subject to be discussed in Chicago’s upcoming mayoral election? Just a thought.