Così-ing up to Clark St.

By The Weekly Student-Journalist Tess Wayland ’22

After the loss of Così’s toasty bread and warm soup, members of the community have been waiting for a permanent replacement. Located at 2200 N Clark Street, on the corner of Clark and Webster, the former Così property is currently owned by Newcastle, a company with various properties around the city, and managed by the ARC real estate group.

The Parker foot traffic and environment of affluence was not enough to save Così from closure as the business took a major hit around 2012. The property has been vacant for quite some time now -- around seven years. “I think they as a company were not doing too well. It’s similar to the reason a lot of Einstein Bagels closed down their locations, ” Leasing Representative and member of the ARC group Courtney Darin said. Così’s has four remaining locations in the Chicago area, which are clustered in River North. “It just speaks to the density they have downtown, which is the reason they were able to stay open there,” Darin said regarding sales downtown. “They have a lot of density and sales and they were able to justify keeping that.”

Freshmen and former Così’s patron Eli Moog misses the location and looks forward to new development. “I do miss Così a lot,” Moog said. “In SK I remember my Mom got me a Così’s gift card and I would always get the warm bread. Very crispy, toasty, and delicious. When I was in second or third grade and it closed, people were questioning why. There was a pop-up shop there two years ago and last year, but I’m hoping that something turns into it. Something that would be amazing is a Blaze Pizza.”

While Moog is waiting for a replacement, Darin and her partner have moved forward with a client. “We are at lease right now,” Darin said. “We have a finalized deal but as far as the lease process goes we’re just negotiating some of the more legal terms that go into it.” The deal is likely to move forward, but is still at a state where both parties are able to back out before the deal gets completely finalized. “I can’t disclose who the user is yet. I don’t want to say too much because saying what it is will kind of give up who it is but it will be something that is complementary to the school.” Previous clients have mostly been restaurants attracted to the property knowing that the last client to lease the space was a restaurant as well.

Darin and her partner worked on the property for about a year before moving forward with this client. Darin said, “We’ve been working on that for about a year but the space itself has been vacant for quite some time.” Sometimes, she notes, striking out like this is just a matter of timing.

“You can have someone working on this and trying to lease it for three years, and you can have someone new come on and have it done in three months,” Darin said. “It really depends on timing and what kind of tenant’s pop-up in the area.”

“We were brought on as third-party brokers,” Darin said. “Our client is the shopping center owner and they bring us in to help fill the vacancies.” Darin, along with another representative Matt Cavanagh, currently manages the leasing of this space. The two are advertising the property online at the ARC website as a “rare end cap opportunity with outdoor seating.” The brochure boasts of “131 feet of frontage” and “dramatic 13 foot ceilings.” In total, there are 3,840 square feet up for lease.

The amount of space available has not been an asset to Darin and her partner. Besides timing, the biggest obstacle has been finding a client who is willing to utilize the entire space. “3,800 feet could be too small for some of the tenants that are going to be a bit larger but kind of the biggest hurdle that you see is often times it’s just too large,” Darin said. “We’ve had one other offer that we were looking at but that space is a larger space. We’ve had people that have come forward and have wanted half of it.” Darin is moving forward with their most recent client specifically because they’re taking the whole space.

Darin noted that Parker was “mostly an asset” to potential tenants. “A lot of tenants we spoke with really liked being across the street from Parker,”
Darin said. “Obviously, with all the students and the drop-off and pick-up from parents, most people we talked with really liked it. I think the only concern was parking, especially during prime school hours.” The ARC website points out a few other retails meant to attract potential tenants to the space -- names like Urban Outfitters, European Wax Center, The Dailey Method, Riccardo Enoteca and Sushi Para.

According to materials published by the ARC group on their website, the median household income in Lincoln Park is around $86,763 with an average of $141,567. There’s an average of 32,000 pedestrians who pass the property weekly. The website identifies this as a “premier location in Chicago, an atmosphere of high density retail” that Parker is a part of in what the website calls a “very upscale, highest income demographic area of the city.”

Since Così’s closure, The Chicago Fair Trade organization had hosted their annual holiday pop at shop at 2200 N Clark Street for two years in a row. Two years ago, executive Director Katherine Bissell Cordova was, as she puts it, “pounding pavement,” to find vacant spaces that would allow them to hold the pop-up shop. Most places say no, but they got lucky with the realtors at 2200. “It turned out to be a great location,” Bissell Cordova said. “The neighborhood was really, really open and supportive and it was wonderful when we went back the second year. People were thanking us for being back... Our sales were up 50%.”

Bissell Cordova thinks Parker helped create community excitement around the pop-up shop. “There were some Parker teachers that were there a lot,” Bissell Cordova said. “There were a couple that were there everyday. They helped spread the word too, so we had students come and it was awesome. We’d love to come in to Francis Parker and talk to classes and student groups. We’d love to help you become a fair trade school.”

This year, the pop-up shop has relocated to 5207 N Clark in Andersonville and will run November 23 to December 29. Bissell Cordova didn’t move the location due to any dislike of the location but just because the realtors told her the space was no longer available. “At first they said yes, but then it turned out it didn’t work out,” Bissell Cordova said. “I’m not exactly sure why -- I don’t know who’s going in there.” The realtors, she said, did set them up with other space in Andersonville, which is managed by the same group. “We get a good deal on rent, but the rent’s not the biggest cost,” Bissell Cordova said. “A lot of the cost is staffing it. It’s a big venture, so you need to have people who are there consistently. They’re not making money on this, but it’s been empty for so long, and they were very happy, we were like, ‘Hey, we can breathe some life into this.’”

Overall, Darin says real estate in Lincoln Park, both around Parker and generally, is thriving. “This specific part of Lincoln Park is kind of more off the beaten path,” Darin said. “Obviously you have Parker here but a lot of the retailers and tenants want to be closer to Clark and Fullerton. This is a little far away from that so that has been one of the issues. But for the most part, Lincoln Park is pretty lively. There’s a lot going on. There’s a lot of new deals happening. It’s pretty vibrant. There are lots of new developments in general. You have Lincoln Common, which is just under construction. There’s about six acres of mixed use, so there’s going to be residential as well as retail. That’s going to be really invigorating to the neighborhood. There’s a lot of new retail in the Armitage corridor. One of the more struggling areas is definitely Halsted. That’s probably where you’ll see your most vacant storefronts.”

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