South Chicago finds new life after steel
South Chicago had been a proud working-class community for a century when the steel industry began a precipitous decline in the 1980s and early 1990s. The USX South Works mill, on the eastern edge of the community, employed 20,000 people at its peak but closed its gates in 1992. Other nearby mills including Wisconsin Steel also closed, leaving a shattered community of brownfields, empty stores and worn out housing.
South Chicago’s population has declined by more than 11,000 people since 1960. The population in 2000 was 38,596, with a mix of 68 percent African Americans and 27 percent Latinos. More than 40 percent of the modest wood-frame and brick houses were owner-occupied in 2000, but nearly 1,700 units were vacant.
While steel-related jobs once supported virtually the entire community, today’s residents work in many industries and some commute downtown on a rebuilt South Shore Drive or the Metra Electric commuter line via a new station at 93rd St. The Commercial Avenue retail strip has seen steady reinvestment by local businesses. To find out more about what's been happening in local schools, click here .
After many years of planning, redevelopment is moving forward on the USX site. The city plans to turn 100 acres along the lake into a park, and the remaining land is slated for a mix of uses including industrial, commercial and residential redevelopment. Related public investments include the planned relocation of U.S. Route 41 to provide better access to the large lakefront parcel, and Chicago Park District acquisition of 100 acres along the shore for a future park. Farther south, about 1,000 new jobs have been created at the Ford Motor Co. supplier park at 130th Street.