Written by By Biko Hunter
Over the past 40 years, housing rehabilitation on the South Side of Chicago has played a key role in revitalizing neighborhoods and revitalizing neighborhoods that were once marked by the decline of white residents.
Before 1970, two-thirds of Chicago’s population lived in or near its South Side. By the 1990s, the city’s population had nearly dropped below 60% of its 1990 level. Along with other New Urbanist initiatives, this change forced the city to completely remake the entire South Side and then some.
Other cities that developed more comprehensive redevelopment strategies, including Washington, D.C., Detroit, Atlanta, Cleveland, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Boston, have been in a similar position. These historic urban centers have undergone similar transformations to revitalize neighborhoods, economically revitalize existing industries, and help neighborhoods redevelop and transform.
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Architecture has played a critical role in redeveloping and transforming cities. The key tools that redevelopment strategies have utilized are the transformation of the street grid, the use of green space, and mixed-use communities.
On our road trip to Chicago, we visited South Side neighborhoods that are currently under construction or undergoing demolition to rebuild the streets. We pulled up to various bus stops and took a look at the plans for a future project.
Emphasis on design
Our first stop was in University Village, an area that has long been known for its 1950s style large apartment complexes.
According to mayor Rahm Emanuel, “Almost immediately after the South Side became rundown and abandoned, the City of Chicago began to generate momentum by designating University Village as an Area Plan Area.” One of the City’s priorities for the redevelopment of University Village is to restore the streetscape and eliminate the blight that had accumulated over the years.
With the exception of one large apartment building that is scheduled to be demolished to make way for redevelopment, almost all of the area’s large apartment complexes will be renovated and modernized.
Tough economic conditions throughout the 1980s had caused more than 60 of these large apartment complexes to deteriorate.
Emanuel has said that with this project, “[University Village is] preparing for the next generation of residents by building brand new housing and jobs, creating a host of commercial opportunities and improving the quality of life in this area.”
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For many decades, Uptown was one of the most desirable areas of Chicago for young professionals, especially those with university ties. But for the past 20 years, the area has experienced a similar amount of development.
Today the area is experiencing a small but positive spurt of growth. Several projects are taking place and have already improved the area’s look and feel. As a result, one friend of ours joked that the building that looks like it’s about to fall down is actually a green space on a steep hill.
It is said that people only make love to what they know. If that is true, then it is hard to deny that some of the suburbs, which lack urban amenities, and therefore simply cannot sustain redevelopment, have reached a saturation point.
We also met with representatives from the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning & Development to learn more about the future development of Woodlawn, an area known for its large African-American population.
The big question of the moment for all Chicagoans: Can Woodlawn, which has been recently developed, become a success that will provide an example for the other African-American neighborhoods on the South Side?