Fire destroys several small Bronzeville businesses

January 28, 2010 3:18:16 PM PST
Several business owners are already vowing to rebuild after a fire destroyed a large building that was central to redevelopment in Bronzeville.The building at 47th and King Drive was a centerpiece of the South Side community. Firefighters tackled flames and bitter cold temperatures Thursday morning- but several businesses are a total loss.

Around 6 a.m., the fire was extinguished, and smoke poured from the windows. At that point, several dozen firefighters entered the two-story building containing several small businesses to assess damage and check for possible victims. One firefighter suffered a minor leg injury.

The flames started raging around 2 a.m. at the 47th Street Marketplace.The businesses destroyed include restaurants, like the popular Blue 47, an art gallery, health care center, the Jamaican Consulate and the Spoken Word Cafe, owned by former alderman Dorothy Tillman's daughter. In all, at least eight businesses were heavily damaged.

Jimalita Tillman says her cafe and other businesses are well known in the community, visited by the late Bernie Mac and President Barack Obama. She says she will rebuild.

"In ten years, we have been here, first out of college. This is my first business. This is what I have done. It really hurts. It is really sad. The poetry community is very big here. Bernie Mac performed there," said Jimalita Tillman. "We have to continue though. We have to continue in this neighborhood."

"You had a lot of young African Americans invested there, and also the consulate of Jamaica. I'm hoping they rebuild," said Dorothy Tillman.

Lloyd Hyde runs the Jamaican Consulate, which is now gutted.

"Sad, there's a lot of needs for the people who come to see us," he said. "There are people in need here. I just want to continue to serve them."

Fire officials say no one was inside. And despite the damage, they say there is a chance for many businesses to re-emerge.

"It appears it had been burning for a significant period of time before the first fire companies arrived. So it had a good foothold," said Michael Callahan, deputy fire commissioner, Chicago Fire Dept.

Firefighters do not yet know what caused the fire.