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The condo on Greenwood is splendid--2,000 square feet, four good-sized bedrooms, three baths, dining room, living room, sun room; new kitchen, new heat and central air, new paint, floors just sanded, comes with one spot in the garage. They want $240,000. Chase maintains a poker face, but emits a slight choking sound. The ground-floor unit, paint still wet, just sold. The others will go quickly. "Call me Monday," Dyrud whispers to real-estate agent Winston Kennedy as she prepares to leave. "I've got three more."

image: Vegetables

With no more showings scheduled until 2:30, Dyrud takes Chase to tour the neighborhoods. They go north on Greenwood, then up Woodlawn, past the imposing palaces of Kenwood. Many of these mansions were unloaded hastily during the white flight of the 1950s and allowed to decay, but have since been immaculately restored by faculty from lucrative fields such as economics, law, or medicine, and by an influx of African-American professionals, such as Renee Ferguson, a reporter for Chicago's NBC affiliate, who likes the neighborhood feeling and the proximity to downtown. "For me there's no other place," says Ferguson. "I love this area. It's very hard to find a community like this in a big city, but this neighborhood has something that's really wonderful, like a little village in the middle of the metropolis."

Dyrud points out half a dozen Kenwood houses that recently sold for more than a million dollars--a new phenomenon for the South Side--and several that went for less than $300,000 a few years back but are now valued in the seven figures. Then she does something unimaginable five years ago. She crosses 47th Street and continues north, up to 43rd. For decades, new students were counseled never, ever, to cross 47th; now staff are encouraged to buy homes there, with reduced-rate loans from the University, a perk once restricted to properties between 47th and 59th. "Hyde Park may once have been a fortress," proclaims Hank Webber, an outspoken hyper-activist for the entire South Side and the University's vice president for community affairs, "but the moats are getting filled in."

image: Museum of Science and Industry
Museum of Science and Industry; underground parking gives a park-like feel.

One such moat was North Kenwood, a profoundly impoverished area between Cottage Grove and the lake from 47th north to 35th. In 1999, however, the New York Times described it as an "urban Lazarus, a long-moribund neighborhood coming back to life, a striking example of how economic prosperity is changing the face of America." There are now no boarded-up windows in sight, only three-story single-family houses and vacant lots. The homes have an oddly split personality; about half were built before 1949, the rest after 1994.

This resurrection got a boost from the City of Chicago, which--at the urging of South Side alderman Toni R. Preckwinkle, AB'69, MAT'77, and Shirley Newsome, chairperson of the North Kenwood/Oakland Community Conservation Council--has come to see the South Side in a new light: as underutilized lakefront property with room for growth. Mayor Richard M. Daley is now aggressively renovating the southern lakeshore and its parks, removing derelict buildings such as the former Lakeshore development--four empty, dilapidated high-rise housing projects that cast their shadow over 17 acres of the shoreline--and recruiting adventurous developers to fill the newly created gaps. The Chicago Housing Authority is now working with private developers to build 480 homes on the former Lakeshore sites. One-fourth of those, 120 units, have been set aside as public housing for lower-income tenants and another 120 as "affordable housing," for middle-income buyers, but the remaining 240 homes will be sold at market rates.

North Kenwood also got a recent boost from the Hyde Park Co-op, which opened a 55,000-square-foot store in 1999 on the north side of 47th. The area's first major new grocery store in more than 50 years, the Co-op anchors a $9.1-million shopping center that includes a Walgreens, a dry cleaner, primary-care and eye clinics, and a Coldwell Banker office. "Hyde Park residents now cross 47th to shop," notes Webber. And faculty and students cross 47th Street to teach: in 1998, the University's Center for School Improvement joined with community leaders to create the North Kenwood/Oakland Charter School, designed as a demonstration site for improved teaching methods and a model for other Chicago public schools. This fall, the elementary school--the nation's first charter school founded by a major research university--moves into newly renovated quarters at 46th and Woodlawn.

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  JUNE 2000
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