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Friday, May 30, 2008

Driving thru Bronzeville on Memorial Day

I was leaving the loop when I just decided to take a ride along Michigan Avenue to check out this "emerging" neighborhood. The history fascinates me of course if you've been reading this blog for any length of time you'd know this was at one time a very historic black neighborhood with a heyday that ended when blacks were able to move into other parts of the city they were restricted from. In any case I often like to look at how things look now as well as the architecture.

I saw a book at a bookstore that was about Chicago mansions. Bronzeville is home to many of them. In fact there's the Swift mansion that's next door to the HQ of the Chicago Urban League. You can see a video about an election party for an aldermanic candidate that took place there last year. And a pic is provided as well from Flickr.

I wish I knew the demographics there as far as income or race/ethnicity. This is a historic black neighborhood though to be honest I would disappointed if blacks didn't make up a significant percentage of the population there.

As for housing prices, I had to rely on EveryBlock Chicago real estate listings for Bronzeville and see that prices are between $85,000 to $1.6 million. Not the most reliable guide to real estate prices but it was the best I can do. This allows me to comment on something.

As I rode down I was with my mother and we both saw a white lady about to walk her dogs talking with her black neighbors. She has almost maybe 2 or 3 dogs with her. I thought she was taking a risk, but then my mother theorized that the price was right and she went on in and purchased the property. Can't risk waiting for an area to turn around because by that point the price won't be right, especially if you want them to be low.

I suppose that makes sense. Aside from real estate I can see some other business opportunities in that area assuming that the prices were right to buy some property and build a business. I can certainly see a need for some good restaurants or perhaps even a good grocery store and it need not be a big-box national chain. Perhaps someone might be able to provide a ma & pop gourmet grocery or something. I'm sure there are better ideas than that. In fact it would certainly be nice if there could be a steakhouse in that part of town.

Anyway, let me go back to the talk about mansions for a second. I would love to flip those mansions or perhaps to move into one. If I recall during Bronzeville's heyday when blacks were forced to stay on a narrow strip of real estate in the city most of these mansions were divided into apartments. These days if they're not being turned into mansions again they're certainly being converted into condominiums.

I should also add that we also drove thru Motor Row between Cermak and the Stevenson Expressway on Michigan. I suppose they won't be selling cars on this stretch of real estate anytime soon there. There's movement on the former home of the Chicago Defender, as a matter of fact Rich Miller blogged about that recently. Though Bronzeville is close to downtown Motor Row is even closer.

Of course the next step is to figure out what to do about those projects that are still up between Cermak and the Stevenson on State Street. Some have in fact been boarded up already. Rest assured that some changes are certainly coming!

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