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Douglas, Grand Boulevard, North Kenwood-Oakland

Historic community undergoing rapid change

The Mid-South Side is the historic location of Chicago’s “Black Metropolis,” an economically integrated neighborhood that was the epicenter of African-American social and cultural life.

Known as Bronzeville since 1930, this neighborhood was home to many black-owned businesses, property owners and community leaders, as well as more than 500 churches. But starting in 1941 with the construction of the Ida B. Wells public housing low-rises, Bronzeville became the site of large-scale public housing development. In addition to four separate complexes on the east side of the community, the Robert Taylor Homes and Stateway Gardens along State Street housed 20,000 residents.

The once-overcrowded neighborhood has been losing population for the past four decades as the public housing complexes became severely deteriorated and middle-class residents moved to other areas. Between 1960 and 2000, more than 119,000 residents left the four community areas, bringing the population to 79,000. In 2000, 38 percent of households were below the poverty level, while 37 percent had an income above $35,000. About one-fourth of housing is owner-occupied.

Today the entire Mid South Side is undergoing rapid redevelopment as the Chicago Housing Authority implements its “Transformation” plan to replace obsolete housing with mixed-income developments. A $140 million development called Lake Park Crescent is under construction near the lake and redevelopment of Ida B. Wells, Madden Park and Washington Park Homes are beginning in 2004.

The neighborhood retains a thriving and committed black middle-class, has many small-scale entrepreneurs and developers, and is attracting new housing and commercial development. Homeowners are rehabbing historic greystones and rowhouses throughout the area.

Two key institutional neighbors are the University of Chicago, which has recently expanded its security patrols into the Mid-South area, and the Illinois Institute of Technology. Both have used their Employer Assisted Housing programs to encourage staff and faculty to live nearby.

At a series of visioning meetings convened by QCDC in 2003, residents called for improved schools, a more lively retail environment, expanded employment opportunities and creation of healthy, stable mixed-income communities.

Please click to see John McCarron's in-depth neighborhood profile from Re:New newsletter, posted in May 2006. Click here for video tour.

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