For our first action project in our humanities class, Policy, we were challenged to identify a problem within our community and reach out to our community to fix it. I chose  to focus on the vast amount of empty storefronts in my town and challenged my neighborhood to either use them for community events or to help small businesses open and maintain themselves. I took a walk around both of these areas of my neighborhood and saw the difference in environment that empty storefronts causes and this made me even more passionate about this cause. I believe that it is important to have a strong, sustainable local economy and this is an excellent opportunity to infuse even more vibrance and self-sufficiency into ours. Below is a copy of my letter.

To Whom It May Concern;

Winnetka currently has quite a few empty storefronts in it’s two main shopping areas, Chestnut Square and Hubbard Woods. Over an extended period of time, store after store has closed down and very few of these spaces have been claimed for new business, or even temporary community use. All of these empty storefronts make for a depressed looking shopping area that does not encourage people to enter the stores or for businesses to occupy the spaces.

Nothing had been done with these spaces so far, they’ve let them stay empty, except for a few small businesses coming and going from time to time. There is a lot of foot and car traffic in these areas so the space should be utilized to unite the community. Renting out the spaces for events or temporary use, like exhibits of student art or fundraisers would let them fill a purpose useful to the community. An example of this could be engaging people in discussion around important topics like suicide and depression through the local charity Erika’s Lighthouse with meetings and activities to spread awareness and build stronger support networks for at-risk teens. Alternatively, if we could devise plans to help and encourage small business owners to open and, more importantly, maintain their stores, we could foster a more vibrant, thriving shopping quadrant. One could be used to sell local art or other homemade things.

These spaces are full of potential to give so much back to the community and deserve the chance to be revitalized to surge energy back into these areas. I strongly suggest that, as a community, we look for ways to better use these spaces to build community and encourage local economy.