ROGERS PARK — The city’s Corridor Ambassador program is coming to Howard Street, one of a number of initiatives to help the shopping district bounce back from the pandemic.
Howard Street is one of five neighborhood business districts recently added to the program, which brings guides to walk retail strips and help shoppers and commuters.
Four corridor ambassadors and one supervisor are being hired to staff Howard Street, said Sandi Price, executive director of the Rogers Park Business Alliance. The guides will greet people by the Howard Street Red Line station, answer questions and offer recommendations on restaurants, shopping and parking.
The guides will call in issues like graffiti, garbage and possible criminal activity, according to the Department of Planning and Development, which administers the program. They will also be trained in helping people experiencing homelessness connect with city resources.
The corridor ambassadors will walk Howard Street from Sheridan Road to Ridge Avenue from around noon to 10 p.m. during the week and on weekend afternoons, Price said.
“The goal is to bring more people to Howard Street and to make them feel more comfortable when visiting Howard Street,” she said.
The Corridor Ambassador program was created last year to boost business corridors left reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. Eleven neighborhood business districts were part of the initial program, including in Back of the Yards, Bronzeville, Chatham, the Magnificent Mile and Uptown.
Ambassadors logged 21,000 engagements with pedestrians and 2,800 interactions with people experiencing homelessness through the program last year, according to the city.
“I and several of my colleagues on City Council saw the success of early iterations of this program and worked hard to bring them home to our wards,” Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) said in a statement.
The Rogers Park Business Alliance applied to be part of the first round but was selected for the second wave of the program, which was announced by the city last week, Price said.
The business group wanted to look for any source of funding that can help Howard Street, which has historically dealt with violence and drug activity and was battered by the pandemic, Price said.
One such effort secured city funding to open the Howard Street Makers Studio, a pop-up retail shop and community center that opened for the holidays and was extended through the winter.
The makers studio was “hugely successful” in bringing people to Howard Street and giving local groups and vendors a space for programs, Price said.
The business alliance is also joining with the city of Evanston on a joint study of the Howard Street corridor, which forms the border of the two cities. The study is being funded in part by a state grant and will produce a master plan for the area.
With the corridor ambassadors, the business alliance is looking to build on other efforts to revitalize Howard Street, Price said.
“The more eyes out there, the better off we’ll be,” Price said. “The hope is more feet on the streets and less vacancies.”
The Rogers Park Business Alliance is partnering with social justice and food insecurity nonprofit A Just Harvest to administer the Corridor Ambassador program.
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