Friday, June 10, 2005

South lakefront neighborhoods

These are some other neighborhoods that interest me. Kenwood is north of Hyde Park and is basically a blighted area. This was where two older men were beaten by a mob of guys. The two men were in a van that ran into a porch killing several women. After this several men got involved in beating them and this killed them. There was a trial several of them went to jail or whatever other sentence that exists for them. In addition the two men who were beaten were about to move. This neighborhood is slowly changing for the better. During that crisis that occured almost two years ago with the beatings the news reports had this area seeing luxury cars in the area and probably their new neighbors. In addition to that this neighborhood has much in common with its southern neighbor Hyde Park especially in terms of housing architecture. Time will only tell how far Kenwood could go, perhaps if they rebuilt the old Kenwood L.

Hyde Park is home of the University of Chicago. This school played host to the experiments which lead to the development of the Atomic Bomb. This neighborhood is seen as cosmopolitan. There are all types of people living there. They live there or they live there so they can go to the University of Chicago. This neighborhood is famous for independent politics, used bookstores, architecture, and perhaps even its restaurants. It is for the most part integrated.

I would like to mention Woodlawn which is between Hyde Park and South Shore. It is a blighted area as well. It is surely but slowly being redeveloped but they do have a long way to go. The University of Chicago may be somewhat of a catalyst for redevelopment provided that they aren't opposed by the neighboring community south of the Midway Plaisance. In it's early days before "white flight" it was somewhat of a Jewish neighborhood and it was doing very well. In fact 63rd and Cottage Grove was a bit of a hub until the 1960s. The L as it can be in Englewood could also be a part of a renaissance how ever part of the old Jackson Park L was demolished in 1996.

Finally a neighborhood that is truly on its way back, South Shore. It was also a victim of "white flight" but today it can be seen as a middle class black neighborhood. There is a decent housing stock there as well with wonderful apartment buildings and homes particularly the Jackson Park Highlands. It's greatest asset is the South Shore Cultural Center right on the lakefront though some would say it's the lakefront. It is also the home of a neighborhood bank which has helped in revitalizing the neighborhood Shore Bank. Before "white flight" this was primarly a German, Irish, Jewish neighborhood with a number of Jewish temples. It also has a rail line a Metra Electric line which goes through the neighborhood. Also in this mostly black neighborhood there is a Starbucks on 71st and Stony Island what this signifies only time can tell.

Finally Hyde Park, Kenwood, and South Shore also share another public park, Jackson Park. It was designed just in time for the 1893 Columbian Exposition in the area in which many of those events were held. Also it is home to the Museum of Science and Industry. This is a public park with a golf course and some nice ponds that could rival those in Lincoln Park on the north side of town.

Hopefully I can live in that part of town. We'll have to see.

1 comment:

The Peter Files Blog of Comedy said...


Thanks for stopping by my blog and making a comment. Even though my site meter shows people coming by, I particularly enjoyed the fact that you took the time to comment because that made your visit real.

I really like this post, the more attention to the value in the property on the South Side I say the better.

I think that Kenwood does have an excellent chance for rebirth and redevellopment, my hope would be that it would happen in such a way that it would be a blending of current stable residents with new ones and not just gentrification and elimination of affordable housing as has been seen in other areas of town.

Alas, the odds of a rebirth of the Kenwood El are close to zero, especially after CTA's experiences with the Jackson Park El and the adjoining church which applied enough political pressure that CTA was forced to tear down its easternmost station on the green line where coincidentally enough the parking lot of said church now stands where the station used to empty out passengers who desired places to park and where that new church was just being constructed.Interestingly, today, gentrified townhouse developments along 63rd street where the el used to be, apparently backed by the same church, have sprung up, while at the same time, CTA was forced to pay back $4 million dollars to the Federal Government used to rebuild that section of track and the station, perhaps more money than much of the new housing cost to build in the first place.

A scandal? An outrage? That any organization could somehow force such and extreme cost on a region just to build a parking lot and some housing on this street instead of that street? You be the judge.

In the mean time, since it has been done, I hope it works and brings new life into that area since for it not to work at that cost would be the saddest thing of all. At least that parking lot is always full on Sundays, would that it could be opened as a park and ride lot for express bus customers on weekdays.

There are still some wonderful homes in Kenwood, and the new co-op shopping mall at 47th and Lake Park has done a good deal to add interest to living there.

There has been tension between Hyde Park and Woodlawn, with Woodlawn fearing the expansion of the University Community AND the University of Chicago Police, the Nation's largest private police force over the boundaries of Hyde Park into Woodlawn, taking up valuable housing stock and turning it into student residences, office buildings, labs and lecture halls.

This kind of thinking is not without some kind of justification. The U of C, one of the largest producer of greatful nobel prize winners and/or others who have gone on to become extremely wealthy has ammassed an enormous endowment that has allowed massive expansion of its hospitals, and other facilities along its boundaries on 55th and Cottage Grove, the southern border however is weakly defined as a block or two or three...? South of the Midway at 59th Street. Just a hop skip and a jump to 63rd Street, hence the concern.

Hyde Park has compensated by expanding upward and by moving its B-School into new digs next to the Tribune along the Chicago River. If you think about what that property must be worth, then you have the beginnings of an inkling of the kind of money we're talking about here.

One part of Hyde Park worth mentioning, as a former resident, are its restaurants, Medici, Mellow Yellow, Cafe Florin, and many others along 57th, 53rd and hopefully still in the plaza behind Mellow Yellow the Dixie Bait Shop and Cafe is still there offering its wonderful deep south menu, and its bookstores along east 53rd.

South Shore is a great place to live now. The Illinois Central provides great service tho the loop. My wife and I had our wedding reception at the fabulously remodeled South Shore Cultural Center. Because of family size we had to get the DuSable Room which you may remember from the concert scene in The Blues Brothers movie, except that the seating is gone and it all looks much nicer now. You have to book reservations on-site and bookings for each date become available on that date one year in advance. Once for members only, the golf course and facilites are now open to the public and include picnic areas, a beach, theater and other programs, a jewel for south Shore.

I should mention, since you mention "white flight" that there is a new book about one interesting facet of South Shore by the daugher of a famous Toy Store owner who was killed in his own shop in 1970, Manny Lazar.

"The Pied Piper of South Shore" by Carol Lazar Amster, his daughter is as much a biography of South Shore in the 30's - the 60's as it is of her father and mother and the Wee Folks toy store they ran on 79th just East of Stony Island just opposite the Avalon theatre.

I ran a post about the book here The Pied Piper of South Shore which led to comments from the author. Among other interesting things, the book talks explicitly about white flight, how it happened, and about how white people who fell for the reacist fear tactics of some of the unscrupulous real estate agents in the area, felt about being hoodwinked later. A book with insights unlike any other I have read.

(Caveat: The book has special appeal to me because I grew up 8 blocks west of the toy store and went in there until we moved, one of the very last white families with children, when I was almost 10 in the fall of 1969, just 6 months before Mr. Lazurus was killed by a gang member who was trying to raise bail money for their leader who had just been arrested.)

MSI is a wonderful place! If only I could live there.

Hope my comments are not taken as too antagonistic, I'm just annoyed at the tactics at the church I haven't named but is listed in your article link under demolished.

Great blog, I have to do more reading.


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