Greektown Fire a Blow to Chicago Tourism, History

Fire_Greek_Town02.01.2010

By Shia Kapos* — As Chicago bomb and arson investigators probe a Greektown fire that took out Costa’s restaurant, city officials and area merchants say the blaze also leveled a blow to Chicago’s tourist industry and to a historic part of the city.

“It’s like Chinatown. People come from all over to visit. We don’t have many ‘towns’ like that left in Chicago,” said Ald. Walter Burnett Jr., who met with owners of the shuttered businesses and a few other merchants to talk about the future of Greektown—an area whose ethnic identity has already suffered from an exodus of Greeks.

“We’re trying to determine whether the owner (of the buildings) wants to rebuild, and if so, it needs to be done with an ethnic Greek context. We don’t want it to become a parking lot,” Mr. Burnett said. “This is a tight-knit community. These businesses rely on each other to survive.”

Greektown merchants have felt the effects of the recession like everyone else, but they are hopeful that the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center now under construction at 333 S. Halsted St. would be a “destination place” for tourists.

“Now the area is an eyesore,” said Yianni Morikis, owner of the music store. “You’ve got a giant hole in the ground for the museum, and across the street what remains from the fire.”

Still, he remains hopeful that the Greek community will get involved and help return the street to its Greek roots. “Sometimes it takes a tragedy to revitalize,” Mr. Morikis said.

“The history of Greektown since the early ’20s has been one of a phoenix coming back,” said Dean T. Maragos, adviser to the Greektown special service tax commission. “The fire is just a setback in a long history of Greektown.”

*This is a summary from an article written by Shia Kapos for  www.chicagobusiness.com.