When I was a young brotha growing up in Chicago in the 80s, I would take the West Side train to downtown then transfer on the elevated train towards Ravenswood. During the winter we would go down to the subway to take the north/south line and get off at Belmont station to transfer over.
One thing I would look forward to once in the while was a place called “Demon Dogs” that sat underneath the Belmont Station. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I take it Demon Dogs was a reference to the DePaul University Blue Demons. But it was where Demon Dogs was located, right under the train station and you can get some unique Chicago hot dogs to take a bite into, I be smiling with all my teeth showing biting into a Demon Dog because I felt like I was cheating on Mary’s that was off the Pulaski/Congress line on 5th Ave and Pulaski.
After growing up on the West Side of Chicago, I went out in the world and made my way in this world, join the military, went to college, graduated stacking paper, jet setting first-class around the world, driving Mercedes and BMWs, got girlfriends around the world and looking for urban solutions to help the brothas and sistas back in the hood who was just like me being trapped in the hood and just need an opportunity and chance to make something out of themselves.
In Tokyo, one thing I picked up on fast was how I saw in Ueno and Shimbashi was how they used the space underneath their elevated trains to build out a pedestrian commercial center. As you see in the photo above in Ueno, they got a commercial activity going strong underneath their train tracks generating tax revenue and jobs and money changing hands. All we got going on Lake Street and 63rd is a bunch of park/driving cars that is producing no revenue and these are areas that need economic revitalization.
I want to deep dive here to point out something in this picture – you see that green van? Do you realize you can create your own shipping/logistic company that delivers inventory, gas canisters for restaurants, and other supplies? It can ride up and down Lake Street and 63rd to the small businesses all lined up and down – look again at the space at the top photo of the empty elevated train. In Japan, they have people pushing carts with supplies going up and down to restock each store. That’s the level of entrepreneurial enterprise they have just under the tracks while Lake Street and 63rd just got cars parking and driving and stuff.
Let’s just be honest – we don’t need Lake Street on the West Side or 63rd on the South Side to drive on – these streets are totally unnecessary as we got major traffic streets right next to them. We can do exactly what they have done in Tokyo and convert these streets in our hoods to pedestrian/bike-friendly commercial districts that can add tax revenue, jobs, and economic growth for both the community and the city. Chicago can use tax-increment funding, bond funding, and private funding and have the means to make this happen and know there will be a permanent return of investment back into their mass transit system.
Usually, I would go to Tokyo and research patterns and practices we can bring back to our communities and apply as solutions to implement. A lot of fresh innovation out of urban Asia is definitely the only path we can adopt to improve our communities in the hood. But I cannot make moves due to lockdowns and entry bans so I have been relying on people and also on videos on YouTube by vloggers walking through Tokyo. One Japanese vlogger, Shinichi's World, actually is doing the kind of work I should be doing created an excellent video on a new commercial area underneath the elevated train tracks in Tokyo. In this article, we are going to discuss what I saw in this video.
Please watch the whole video at the following URL: https://youtu.be/dH8rGvXVR2A
This video is an awesome example of what we can do under Lake Street and 63rd Street and I want you to discover things I won’t cover. I will cover some parts of this video because there is more futuristic next-generation retailing that can be done. So if Chicago was smart and the hood was smart, they would realize some serious opportunity and a landgrab opportunity right under their nose, right in the hood for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
I want to explain something, the video starts in Shimbashi Square near the Shimbashi train station – if you follow my blog and look at photos on the FB site, you will see me in photos in this square. Wanna know why? This is in the region we plan to set up our Japanese operations and I canvassed this area like the back of my hand. I became familiar with the shopkeepers who recognize me and also the night folks in this area, I will leave it at that. Locals be yelling at me that I’m back or waving bye to me when I walk with my suitcase to/from the Shimbashi station – yeah, you Black in Japan brothas and sistas want to comment about how I handle mines and doing my damn thing in Japan, huh? BTW, I run into proper brothas and sistas in this area all the time.
The vlogger walks around the area looking for the new space that is built underneath the train tracks and when it goes in did you noticed something, especially with the music club? It was two levels and they had elevators to go up – this is how much space they had under the train tracks and Lake Street and 63rd have enough vertical spaces to build two levels. The second thing that is a bonus is you may have heard what sounds like Black soul music – yeah, in this part of Shimbashi/Ginza you are going to find a lot of coffee shops, chill lounges playing smooth jazz and R&B soul and you going to be like damn, I love the soul music vibe around here – Ginza has a lot of awesome jazz spots so remember this when we can travel again.
This is a new area and because of the pandemic and lockdowns, there is a lot of empty new spaces but I want you to notice they are using modular steel structures to fit under the elevated train tracks. These steel modular structures appear to be the building blocks of the pedestrian mall area. A space like this example can be a pop-up or a drop-culture or a French bakery and more. Remember one thing is they get millions of commuters a day getting on and off the train just like downtown Chicago and this is a high traffic area. The same potential can happen on Lake Street and 63rd if we create this same kind of structure as well with urban commuters using mass transit.