Howard Street business owners and residents hope to see more street lights, flowers and a partnership between Evanston and Chicago with the help of the new grant.
The Rogers Park Business Alliance and the City of Evanston plan to spur economic recovery initiatives using more than $99,000 in economic recovery grants from the Illinois Research Center to jointly study the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Howard Street.
This street is the boundary between Evanston and Rogers Park. The study will inform an action plan to revitalize the area and improve the neighborhoods that line the street.
Shyvonne Leslie, business manager at Good To Go Jamaican Cuisine, said her business still hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic customer levels.
She emphasized that beautification can help attract more customers.
“I definitely want more street lights, because it tends to be a little dark here,” Leslie said. “Of course it needs to be beautiful, so make flowers and trees.”
Business owners and residents said they, too, hope the partnership will bridge the gap between the two communities.
While the street is only a geographic dividing line between Evanston and Rogers Park, Rogers Park resident Michelle Lamotte said it represents other differences as well.
Lamothe, who owns a salon on Howard Street, said she hopes the grant will help unify business standards in Chicago and Evanston on Howard Street.
“There was a little disagreement,” she said. “I just think you’re going to get two different experiences, and we’re across the street.”
Historically, the Evanston and Chicago sides of Howard Street have operated independently, Leslie said. According to the Block Club of Chicago, this is the first economic effort to target both sides of Howard Street rather than just one side.
Business owners have tried unsuccessfully to bring the two sides of the street together in the past, Leslie said. She hoped that the partnership would lead to beneficial cooperation.
“[Rogers Park and Evanston] There can be sisterhood. ’ she said. “You can suggest to your sister, ‘Hey, if you need help with creating a website, you can go to this person. ‘”
Badara Diakhate has been the owner of Badou Senegalese Cuisine in Rogers Park for 35 years.
Diakhate sees how sharing resources can make both sides of the street better. They say their Senegalese-Caribbean fusion food is the result of years of working with the Caribbean restaurant on the Evanston side across the street.
After promoting their fusion food, Diakat said they “started getting people from Evanston to come here and dare to cross the street.”
Business remains hopeful that the grant will contribute to the revitalization and eventual cohesion of Howard Street. Business owners, Diakhate said, are people who are living in reality and working on the cutting edge, and they want to be consulted during the rollout.
Diakhate said they envisioned a Howard Street that embodies the community and is appreciated for its diversity.
“Hopefully we can become a hub for ethnic restaurants,” Diakhate said. “And it’s in the works.”
The Rogers Park Business Alliance declined The Daily’s request for comment.
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