Does Main Street Have a Future?


Reconsidering Retail in the Era of Chain Stores and E-Commerce

Join us for a public lecture and exhibition exploring retail in the era of chain stores and e-commerce.


Thursday, November 1, 2018


The Revival Theater, 1160 E 55th Street


Neighborhood-based retail used to play an active role in the life of urban neighborhoods. In many cities, a variety of factors, including most recently online shopping, have contributed to the long decline of small, independent retail establishments, rendering, according to some critics, Jane Jacobs’ vision of activated street life via small business ownership a nostalgic illusion. Scholars, however, have long recognized that neighborhood-based services are essential for neighborhood stability. Neighborhoods that have been able to provide local services and facilities – small groceries and other outlets serving daily life needs – have been shown to be more stable, often with a higher sense of community and an ability to promote social networks of interdependence. This event brings together researchers to consider the current status and viability of existing retail that is small, independent, and neighborhood-based. What is the current status and future prospects of what has been known as “main street.” Is neighborhood-based retail still viable?

4:30PM – doors open

5:00PM – Keynote Lecture and Discussion with Alderman Roderick T. Sawyer, 6th Ward

6:00PM – Reception (light hors d’oeuvres and refreshments will be served)


RSVP here – attendance is free of charge, open to the public


Keynote Speaker and Discussion

Alderman Roderick T. Sawyer, 6th Ward Alderman & Chairman, Chicago Aldermanic Black Caucus

Alderman Sawyer was sworn in as Alderman of the 6th Ward in May of 2011. Chicago’s 6th Ward represents the Chatham, Chesterfield, Englewood, Greater Grand Crossing, Park Manor and Auburn-Gresham neighborhoods. Alderman Sawyer also presides as Chairman of the City Council Black Caucus is an active member of the City Council Committees on License and Consumer Protection, Education and Child Development, Pedestrian and Traffic Safety, Cultural Affairs and Recreation (Vice-Chairman), Finance and Budget and Government Operations.

Alderman Sawyer has been active in small scale retail initiatives. Growing up on the south side of Chicago, Alderman Sawyer’s parents ensured he understood the importance of helping others, building solid neighborhoods, and functioning as one community towards a greater public good. Alderman Sawyer previously practiced law at the Law Office of Roderick T. Sawyer where he became an expert at licensing issues. Alderman Sawyer uses his legal expertise to promote economic development in his community. He remains fully committed to strong neighborhoods as he is an active participant in all of the 6th Ward Community Organizations, Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.), Park Manor Neighbors Community Council, Chatham Avalon Park Community Council, Greater Chatham Alliance, Chesterfield Community Council, West Chesterfield Community Council and Roseland Heights Community Council.

Alderman Sawyer has called the 6th Ward home his entire life.  He is the youngest of three children born to Celeste C. Taylor and the late Mayor of Chicago and former 6th Ward Alderman, the Honorable Eugene Sawyer.

Event Organizer

Emily Talen is Professor of Urbanism at the University of Chicago.Her research is devoted to urban design and urbanism, especially the relationship between the built environment and social equity. Prior appointments were at Arizona State University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has a Phd in urban geography from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her books include: New Urbanism and American Planning, Design for Diversity, Urban Design Reclaimed, and City Rules. She also has several edited volumes – the most recent one is Retrofitting Sprawl: Addressing 70 Years of Failed Urban Form. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (2014-15), and is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners. Her next book is called Neighborhood. Learn more about the Urbanism Lab at


Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation, University of Chicago

Program on the Global Environment (PGE), University of Chicago

Center for Spatial Data Science, University of Chicago

Center for the Future of Places (CFP), KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm