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."
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."
of Science and Industry; underground
parking gives a park-like feel.
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.
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.
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.