Farmers Market

Vegetables for sale at the Hyde Park Farmers Market, September 2019

The Hyde Park Farmers Market has been cancelled for this year, after a unanimous vote of the Special Service Area No. 61 (Downtown Hyde Park) commissioners.

The weekly market, which typically runs from June through October, would have been displaced from its usual spot because of Harper Court Phase II construction, but the ongoing pandemic rendered it impossible this year.

At an April 28 meeting, the SSA discussed the reallocation of funds, including $24,500 budgeted for special events like the now-cancelled Silver Room Block Party, to business support, though the city must approve the expenditures.

"We've saved, I believe, around $40,000 just because there are things we can't be spending money on right now," said SSA Chairman George Rumsey. "That doesn't even take into consideration summer expenses. This is what's given us some sort of a bucket of funds that we can put back in and try to get the business district back on its feet when this is over with."

The SSA's finance committee will meet in early May to finalize the reallocation of funds, pending approval by the city's Department of Planning and Development.

During the SSA meeting, South East Chicago Commission (SECC) Program Administrator Brandon Evans said he expects to begin the support initiative for small and medium-sized businesses — retail, restaurants and professional services — within the next two weeks, after the SSA commissioners approve it.

Initial numbers from a SECC survey among local business owners indicate that the coronavirus recession has already resulted in severe revenue loss.

"On average, we're looking at around 65%" revenue loss, Evans said.

Wendy Walker Williams, the executive director of community partnerships at the University of Chicago Office of Civic Engagement, suggested it might be useful to consider aid in the fall, given the probability that economic pain will continue through the summer.

"If the board decides that we are going to utilize these resources to help businesses in the fall or whenever down the road, since businesses will be suffering, I think that that would be just as helpful and just as needed," she said.

The economic uncertainty is also affecting the SSA, which began the year with a budgetary shortfall from 2019.

"We look at the expenditures that are to date and then what we plan on doing for the remainder of the year as well as projecting tax collections — and that's a very difficult thing, because we don't know," said SECC Executive Director Diane Burnham. "We can't spend more than what we receive, so we are doing the tedious task of accurately trying to budget something you can't really predict."

While the cancellation of the South Shore Summer Fest has allowed that neighborhood's SSA to dispense $123,000 in business relief, Rumsey noted that Downtown Hyde Park, with covers a smaller area and is in a TIF district, has a much smaller budget.

"If we can do half that amount, we'll be very lucky," he said. Burnham predicted $30,000 would be available for business relief.

(1) comment

George Rumsey

Two notes. That "net assets" includes $270,680 we would expect to get in our phase 2 tax assessment for the 2nd half of 2020. But we don't have it yet, and have been advised not to expect that much. Hence the current harsh rebudgeting maneuvers. Other thing is "and is not in a TIF district"--we are in a TIF district, which is part of the problem, since the TIF takes about 1/3 of our financial resources.

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