When you talk economic and community development in blighted areas in Chicago, there's no way the names Anne and Lewis Kostiner shouldn't be in the conversation. In fact, there would be no West Loop Chicago without the patience, fortitude, dedication, brilliance, vision and sheer grit of Anne and Lewis Kostiner.
I met Anne and Lewis Kostiner in 1999. I was fresh out of college and in need of employment. I worked for the Kostiner's as a Front Counter Clerk, Payroll Assistant, and later Program Manager at one of their businesses i.e. Johnny's IceHouse, which was an amateur/professional (sports) hockey arena.
At the time the area in which Johnny's IceHouse sat (1350 W. Madison Street) the West Loop, was then Skid Row. The only buildings on Madison Street, East of Ashland were the Palace Grill, the 311 Center, and a Currency Exchange. Yet, Anne and Lewis Kostiner owned 15 buildings in what became the West Loop.
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The first building they bought was Union Park Lofts located 1327 W. Washington Blvd. They bought the property in 1987, yes...1987! This was the first fruits sown in what would become a bustling community known as the West Loop.
I know it's extremely difficult to imagine the West Loop as Skid Row or some ghost town, but trust me...it was. I honestly have no clue what drove Anne and Lewis Kostiner to invest in Skid Row, but sometimes in life when vision and hard work meets fortitude and patience + a little luck, something magical happens.
It would be duplicitous of me if I didn't add how tough Lewis Kostiner was. Lewis is for sure a bad ass, in a good way. He caused me to dig deep each time I went to work, he was hard, but he was fair. I'm sure it was toughness that drove Anne and Lewis to unbelievable success.
Lewis Kostiner went to Brown University and IIT Graduate School. Lewis grew up in Montreal, Canada. Anne Kostiner went to UIC and Columbia College undergrad, then UIC and University of Chicago Graduate School. Anne grew up on Taylor/Morgan, practically on UIC campus. The point is both Anne and Lewis are extremely intelligent and educated.
Johnny's IceHouse Construction, 1996
Not only did Anne and Lewis own residential property, but they also leased property to some of the first businesses in what became the West Loop. Without Anne and Lewis leasing to the below businesses, they wouldn't of thrived which also means the West Loop wouldn't of thrived.
When other developers saw what Anne and Lewis Kostiner were doing in Skid Row relative to turning the entire trajectory around and in effect creating the West Loop, they i.e. developers followed suit.
Below are some of the businesses that rented
space from Anne and Lewis Kostiner ⇩
* Wishbone Restaurant
* Ken Ventura Golf Academy
* Harpo Studios
* Rhona Hoffman Gallery
* Alpha Graphics
* Walsh Construction
* Mario Uomo (Bruce Gage)
* Aria Model Agency
* Helly Hanson Sailing
* Hoops the Gym
* Johnny's IceHouse
* Brian McConkey Photography
* Mauge Design
* Matt Kosterman Photography
* Printed Concepts
* Aveda Salon Products
* Loevy & Loevy Law Firm
* Richard Wright Auction House, and others too many to name, including artists and musicians.
"Anne and Lewis Kostiner also owned and operated Gallery 312 and The PEACH Club (nonprofit) after school programming for at-risk youth".
Because of the sacrifice of Anne and Lewis Kostiner the West Loop is what it is today. There should be a plaque in their honor in the West Loop, the problem is Anne and Lewis Kostiner are to humble to even acknowledge themselves as the founders of the West Loop; however, they are indeed the founders of the West Loop, and an intricate part of Chicago's history as it relates to social, economical and business development.
Anne and Lewis Kostiner remain business owners in Chicago. They own and operate Kibbitznest Book Bar, located 2212 N. Clybourn Avenue in Chicago. Be sure to follow Kibbitznest on Instagram @kibbitznest
Lewis Kostiner has a great book called CHOOSING FATHERHOOD: America's Second Chance. I read the book years ago, it's truly phenomenal. For more on Lewis Kostiner go to www.lewiskostiner.com there you'll find all sorts of wonderful pictures and inspiration from Lewis Kostiner himself.
Corner of May & Fulton, 1990
1132 W. Fulton & 312 N. May
Photo By: Bob Thall
If Chicago is looking to rebuild neighborhoods from the bedrock up, I highly suggest Mayor Lori Lightfoot and those in charge please contact Anne and Lewis Kostiner. They have the expertise needed to make all Chicago's soon to be 78 neighborhoods not only look amazing, but also thrive socially and economically.
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Written By: Jim Allen, CEO of
ONE BUSINESS CHICAGO