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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

South Shore Summer Fest Canceled, Freeing Up Funds To Help Businesses Survive Coronavirus Shutdown

Of the 150 businesses in the district, 91 are "non-essential" and must remain closed for now. "I sincerely believe that businesses are suffering," one commissioner said.

The crowd at the 2019 South Shore Summer Festival.
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SOUTH SHORE — This year’s South Shore Summer Festival has been canceled, and its primary sponsor will instead use the fest’s budget to help local businesses survive the coronavirus shutdown.

Commissioners of Special Service Area #42 voted unanimously to cancel the festival during a special meeting Monday evening, which was held on Zoom. The $80,000 budget will now be earmarked for a yet-to-be-determined economic stimulus plan for the neighborhood.

Specifics of the stimulus plan will be worked out at SSA #42’s next meeting at 11 a.m. April 8.

In the interim, the South Shore Chamber of Commerce — contracted by the SSA to carry out its services — will send out a survey to local businesses to identify what help they need. The survey will help guide the stimulus plan.

At the Monday night meeting, most SSA commissioners called for immediate action to help businesses within the SSA’s coverage area.

SSA #42 serves 71st Street from Kimbark Avenue to South Shore Drive; Stony Island Avenue from 67th Street to 73rd Street on the east side; and Stony Island from 67th Street to 79th Street on the west side.

Of the 150 businesses in the district, 91 are “non-essential” and must remain closed under Gov. JB Pritzker’s orders, according to the SSA.

“I sincerely believe that businesses are suffering,” commissioner Judy Minor-Jackson said. “If we don’t do anything now, they are going to go under and the corridors will be a lot darker; they will not be vibrant at all.”

Commissioner Amena Karim said she took a more “conservative” approach than other commissioners.

“We don’t have a plan and I am not signing off on ‘urgency,'” Karim said. “I don’t mind giving help, but it has to be smart and we don’t have millions, so let’s do it right.”

Beyond the survey of local businesses, commissioners and Chamber staff will also reach out to other SSAs to see what they’re doing to respond to the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

“We don’t have a massive budget to do a bunch of stuff,” chair Jared Lewis said. “We’ve got to pick something really narrow and really precise, and do it well.”

The 2019 South Shore Summer Fest cost about $40,000 more to organize than the prior two years, despite headliner Robin Thicke’s fee being significantly lower than Jeffrey Osborne’s in 2018 and Cameo and LeVert’s in 2017.

Special Service Areas, or SSAs, are tax districts funded by local property taxes and overseen by the city’s Department of Planning and Development. They provide services like litter cleanup, security, snow removal and marketing to businesses within the district.

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