When it Hits Your Hood


Photo courtesy of griid.org.

Photo courtesy of griid.org.

That word alone just makes me think of older families having to leave the home and neighborhoods they’ve lived in for decades because the area is now “hip.” Gentrification had been on the come-up in Chicago ever since the city got a hold of the housing projects.

Seeing the value in the property where the infamous Cabrini Green and Harold Ickes projects once stood, they had to go.  Not because we all know that the model of the housing projects doesn’t work.  No. That would be thinking compassionately. It’s because of the money to be made from building new condos and high rises where those buildings once stood.

It’s still been slow to move to the southside but it won’t be that way for long. Woodlawn and Bronzeville are next. I had a friend that went to an open house in Bronzeville. She said she was 1 of only 2 black people there but it was primarily Indian people there. Shocking to us because in my 25+ years of living on the southside, I’ve never seen an Indian family south of Roosevelt.

I saw a white family on 63rd & King Drive a few weeks back. I was scared. For them. To be frank, you don’t see much diversity on the south side outside of the Hyde Park and Beverly neighborhoods. Woodlawn’s transformation is mostly due to the University of Chicago snatching up property to house their students. I’ll admit it; its weird as hell seeing Caucasian folks in the hood.

Chicago’s urban renewal is nothing close to what has happened to New York. You can’t even recognize Harlem or Bed-Stuy anymore. I was once in Harlem breakfast spot across the street from the projects and I was only 1 of 2 black folks there. Where did we go? According to the data, folks are moving back to the south in droves. The weather and cost of living has attracted Northerners by the thousands. I’m not going but I can understand the lure of it. I’m just not built for the south. Hell, I’m not built for the suburbs.

I just learned the city of Chicago is expanding one of its el lines to include an area that formerly included the Harold Ickes projects. For over 40 years, thousands of people (ahem, black) lived on that 3 mile stretch between 35th and Roosevelt, with the choice of a single bus and the red line several blocks over.

So what’s changed?

Only everything.

The south loop or the sloop (I know) has been transformed. Folks who wouldn’t have even visited the area 20 years ago are snatching up condos left and right. Meanwhile, where are the original inhabitants of the area? Scattered around the city and suburbs somewhere. Some were able to rebuild while others were forced to move into neighboring gang territory.

There’s nothing wrong with building up neighborhoods with new businesses, restaurants, and grocery stores. However, there is something worn with making the community unaffordable for the people who have called it home for decades.


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