www.redeyechicago.com/news/local/lakeview/redeye-southport-corridor-new-businesses-20120426,0,980608.story

redeyechicago.com

Business to boom on Southport Corridor

By Melanie Zanona

for RedEye

2:28 PM CDT, April 26, 2012

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Shopping bags are about to clog even more workplace refrigerators and packed CTA cars around the Southport Brown Line this summer. A slew of new businesses, including high-end yoga store Lululemon, is slated to open a new location on the corner of Addison and Southport this June.

"The street and surrounding community have a great demographic for business," said Frank Campise, principal at JAB Real Estate, who leases the Lululemon building and four others along the Southport Corridor. "It has the El right there, wide sidewalks which are great for dining, single people with disposable income and families with upper income."

The Southport Corridor--Chicago slang for the two-block strip of shops and restaurants between Addison and Roscoe--has struggled to keep store fronts occupied over the past couple years, but is surging back this summer with a string of new businesses. Campise said to expect everything from bars to boutiques.

"These retailers were supposed to come in 2008 and then the [real estate] market crashed," Campise said. "They're coming back now."

Campise said vacancy rates climbed to 25 percent last year, but the number shrank to less than five percent this year as both national and local retailers continue to set up shop on Southport.

It's no coincidence that many of the new businesses are related to fitness, arriving just on the heels of beach-body season. Lakeview residents will be able to pop into Lululemon and then head down the block to test out their new gear at the Chicago Athletic Club, which recently signed on to a space at 3436 Southport Ave.

On the other end of the corridor, Southport Fitness already opened its second-floor doors next to the Brown Line last month, while Gap Inc.'s Athleta opened in April directly beneath the gym. The fitness building is a perfect one-stop shop for anyone who wants to freshen up both their workout wardrobe and routine.

"The location is great. We're a neighborhood-style gym and this area seems to be very young and health-conscious," said Justin Vaughan, manager at Southport Fitness. "It also helps that there's the train next door and the Athleta downstairs."

A few steps down, residents can buy summer threads at the Free People clothing store, which opened last fall. Campise said there will also be a Bluemercury cosmetic store opening in place of the Perchance boutique, which is moving to a building just south of its current location.

Of course, there will also be an ample selection of new eateries for exhausted exercisers and shoppers alike.

Southport Corridor patrons can carbo-load at Noodles & Co., a cult chain-food classic, which opened next door to Athleta two weeks ago.  Those with a more ambitious appetite can check out the array of Cubs-themed burgers and wild game menu (including bison, elk and ostrich burgers) at Wheel House Wrigley, a newly remodeled space on the first floor of neighborhood bar Messners.

But perhaps the most exciting dining prospect is a restaurant popping up in place of the old Leo's Coney Island. The same owners of Smoke Daddy and D.O.C. Wine Bar are spending $700,000 to revamp the large space on Cornelia and Southport. Campise said the restaurant--which is aiming to open in three months--will likely have spacious outdoor patio seating, making the new mix of restaurants and athletic stops on Southport a perfect destination to dine and grind this summer.

"I like to think of the Southport Corridor as a mini-mall, an outdoor walking mall, like Old Orchard," Campise said. "Because really, what's the difference?"

Melanie Zanona is a RedEye special contributor