CHICAGO (WLS) -- What was an empty space just four years ago, is now home to several new businesses in the historic Pullman neighborhood.
The community celebrated the opening of the new 111th Street Gateway Retail Center on Monday.
The dreary day did not dampen the spirits of employees and customers of the new Potbelly Sandwich shop. It anchors the 10,000-square-foot retail center and is the latest addition to Pullman's robust retail revival.
"I witnessed, first hand, the flight of business and retail out of the area to the hallowed ground of suburbia. Now I'm witnessing the resurgence of it, back here in our neighborhood. This is very exciting. It's uplifting. It gives our neighborhood hope," said Tom McMahon, a longtime Pullman resident.
The grand opening drew quite a crowd. Pullman is the latest location in the Potbelly's 40-year history in the area.
"We really identify with each of our neighborhoods in Chicago, so we're really proud to be here," said Anne Ewing, Potbelly Sandwich Shops.
Behind the renewal effort in Pullman were city leaders, who in the past four years invested hundreds of millions of dollars and created more than 1,100 jobs.
"I don't go to one community meeting in this neighborhood that I don't hear people say, 'We need a place to eat,'" said David Doig, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Anthony Beale (9th Ward) came out for the grand opening. They spoke in front of residents and community leaders about building up neighborhoods.
"If you haven't seen it in Potbelly, they have a beautiful sense of the history of Pullman. Black and white photos. That's the past. We're building the future today," Emanuel said.
Potbelly joins other establishments nearby, like Walmart and Planet Fitness, which jump-started revitalization in Pullman. The retail center will also house a new cleaner and a bake shop by the end of the year. It is expected to serve 300,000 visitors coming to the area.
"My first memories are from right next door in Roseland. I remember when we would drive to church and we would look out at this area, there was nothing here. So to be a part of this area coming back to life is phenomenal for us," said Rachel Bernier-Green, Laine's Bake Shop.
Beale said another groundbreaking will take place in two weeks. That will be the start of a development of 38 units of artist housing in Pullman.
Pullman revival: New businesses open in historic South Side neighborhood
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