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Meet The New Andersonville Chamber Executive Director, Local Resident Kyle Smith

kyle-2The new executive director of the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce and the Andersonville Development Corp. aims to be, among other things, the business community’s “listener in chief,” Kyle Smith told the Edgeville Buzz on Wednesday.

“I’ve been here (at the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce since May 9) and I’ve already had the opportunity to be a part of so many great things happening in the community,” Smith, 34, said. “On Wednesday (May 11), we held the first farmer’s market of the year. On Sunday (May 15), we brought 700 people to our businesses via the Andersonville Wine Walk. And it’s been great to walk around the neighborhood to talk to all of our wonderful local business owners.”

There’s an added perk, the Edgewater resident said — patronizing the neighborhood businesses he already knows and loves.

“My fridge is stocked with asparagus from last Wednesday’s farmer’s market,” Smith said. “I can’t resist a dolce latte from Coffee Studio on my walk to work. And on Friday evening, my wife and I indulged in some wonderful Belgian beer at Hopleaf. I can’t wait to talk with more businesses.”

Organizationally, the Chamber strives to make Andersonville a successful environment for local businesses by bringing people to the neighborhood, driving foot traffic into stores, and giving new and existing businesses the tools and assistance they need to succeed.

“We do it through special events, marketing of the neighborhood as a whole, retail attraction, placemaking and environmental initiatives,” he said. “I’ll administer and grow all of those programs alongside our talented staff.

Smith has prior experience with Chambers of Commerce in various Chicago neighborhoods, he said. He provided technical assistance on transit-oriented development to other Chambers in his previous role. Those include the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, Edgewater Chamber of Commerce, Rogers Park Business Alliance and the North River Commission.

He was the manager of Transit-oriented Development at the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT.) At CNT, he built a program to advise community-based organizations on strategies to encourage walkable and affordable development around transit.

In May 2015, the Urban Land Institute Chicago awarded Smith its Young Visionary Award in recognition of his leadership in urban planning and policy. In March 2016, he released “Stalled Out: How Empty Parking Spaces Diminish Neighborhood Affordability.” The study was covered in the Chicago Tribune and discussed on WBEZ’s Morning Shift.

“In the short term, I’m looking forward to meeting all of our business owners to discuss their vision for Andersonville,” Smith said. “We’ve built a national brand of Andersonville as a local and sustainable district and community. Thanks to that reputation, consumers come from all over the city to shop at our stores and visit our bars and restaurants, and we also draw visitors from around the country. It’s our job at the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce and the Andersonville Development Corp. (which will soon be renamed the Andersonville Sustainable Community Alliance) to create the environment where these businesses can continue to thrive. I’m looking forward to working with our local businesses on a shared vision for the neighborhood.

Smith said he wants to know what his staff of six can do to maintain Andersonville’s successful environment for locally owned businesses.

“It is my goal to meet as many of the business and property owners as I can within the first few months of my tenure to listen to their vision for the neighborhood,” he said.

Smith succeeds Ellen Shepard, who was the chamber’s executive director for 16 years before she announced her planned departure in December 2015.

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