East Garfield seeks greener, healthier future
East Garfield Park is a mostly low-income, African-American community that sits outside the immediate radius of high-energy gentrification -- at least for now. Located two to three miles west of the Loop on the “El” Green Line, the community’s business sector was devastated and significant amounts of its population fled after the 1968 riots, and the neighborhood has never fully recovered.
But the hit Dale Chihuly show at Garfield Park Conservatory a couple years ago and major renovations to Garfield Park itself have fanned flickers of interest from developers, which the community largely welcomes. The improvements to Garfield Park itself and “Green Town” business development concept advocated by Mayor Daley and Park District General Superintendent David Doig are seen as major catalysts for potential growth.
The population of East Garfield Park fell 13.1 percent during the 1990s to 20,881 and further to 19,943 in 2005, according to Census estimates, which is down more than 46,000 since 1960. The community was 97.4 percent African American in 2005, virtually the same since 1970. More than a third (34 percent) of households had incomes below $15,000 in 2005, while slight more (39 percent) had incomes above $35,000.
Twenty-nine percent of housing units were owner occupied in 2005, nearly double the historic level and up 6.8 percent since 1990. Typical rents are below $750 per month in most cases and below $1,000 in nearly all cases, according to statistics compiled by MetroEdge.
The East Garfield quality of life plan published in May 2005, titled "East Garfield Park: Growing a Healthy Community," envisioned a diverse, attractive, vibrant, sustainable and family-friendly community. The healthy community task force members would like to bring about would provide not only for physical needs but also spiritual enrichment through cultural heritage and beauty.
As developers begin to take an interest in the neighborhood, the task force wrote, "While we welcome community development, diversity and change, we also believe in respecting and protecting the rights of long-standing residents and businesses. They have weathered difficult times and should be full participants in the community's economic and social revitalization."
Please click to see John McCarron's in-depth neighborhood profile from Re:New newsletter, posted in March 2004.
To download the East Garfield quality of life plan, click here, or for an executive summary, click here .