Profiles of Hyde Park

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Community profiles: Hyde Park & neighbors in depth in media-and "myths control"

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Continue with Profiles- Hyde Parkers You Should Know.
Visit also Affordability Information page for basic neighborhood demographics and statistics. For detailed, Tracking Community Trends I and II and Urban Renewal home and Timelines to present.
See what glories we have in Events/Fests, Cultural and Arts Calendar, Cultural Resources, Jazz Fest, Civic and social matters Calendar, Faith and Religious Communities, Community Resources, Community Nonprofits.
See some pictures in the MsHydePark site:

See a video from Medill School of Journalism on the Theater and its renovation, January 2012.


When Roger Fross arrived in Hyde Park to attend law school at the University of Chicago more than 40 years ago, the neighborhood was getting a fresh start.

The worst slums had been cleared away, and new residential and commercial development was breathing life back into Hyde Park.

"When I got out of law school, it seemed like the most interesting and enjoyable place to live in the city," Fross said of Hyde Park. "Why move?"

So Fross made the South Side neighborhood his home. He married there, and with wife Madelon, they bought a house and raised a son in Hyde Park. They still enjoy what the neighborhood has to offer, whether it's riding bikes on the lakefront and running behind the Museum of Science and Industry in historic Jackson Park, or taking advantage of leisure activities ranging from symphonies and lectures to University of Chicago Maroons' basketball.

Hyde Park* at a Glance
Larger area below

[Washington Post: the 2000 census found that 43.5 percent of the 29,000 residents in Hyde Park proper called themselves white, 37.7 percent black, 11.3 percent Asian and 4.1 percent Hispanic. Another 3.4 percent answered "other." In economic terms, there are plenty of six-figure earners, yet one in six residents lives in poverty. The median household income is about $45,000, roughly the national average.]

*Population 2000:

White - 13,020
Black - 11,290
Hispanic - 1,230
Asian - 3,366
Other - 1,014

Median Income:

Median Home Price
(January-March 2003):


Sources: U.S. Census, Record information services

*Red Streak 7/18/03 citing Chic. Assn. of REALTORS gives $394,000 based on Chicago area? median $170,000.

Greater Area incl Kenwood and some areas to the west:

Service Area Population including in this case Kenwood: 50,084

Ethnic Grouping (1990 Census)
African American 53.3%
White 37.8%
Hispanic 2.4%
Asian American 6.1%
Native American 0.2%
Other 0.3%

Age distribution (1990 Census)
0-17 years 19.6%
18-34 years 33.8%
35-64 years 33.1%
65+ 13.5%

Average School Years Completed: 12.8

Schools Served: Elementary: 17
High School: 4

Retail mix:

  • 74% independently owned
  • 6.3% regional
  • 19% national
  • 31% eating or drinking
  • 26% personal services
  • 16% specialty goods and stores

    Biggest voids: home furnishings, apparel

In more recent years, Fross has experienced satisfaction in seeing the same standard of living spread into surrounding areas, adding to the security and stability of Hyde Park.

"You can't be an island," Fross said. "Let's not kid ourselves. This isn't nirvana. We still have neighborhoods around us with big problems."

As Hyde Park continued to improve in the last 40 years, it began to resemble an island of stability and affluence on the South Side, and that was reflected in local housing prices.

The real estate market has grown steadily since the urban renewal push of the late 1950s and early 1960s led to demolition of slum housing and vigorous code enforcement to preserve the remaining stock, according to Winston Kennedy, a real estate broker with and former owner of Century 21 Kennedy, Ryan, Monigal in Hyde Park. Today, Hyde Park's real estate market offers "a wide range of product, from studio apartments to mansions and everything in between."

The most popular sellers are condos for first-time home buyers. One- and two-bedroom starter units sell for about $150,000, Kennedy said, while houses and town homes can start in the $300,000 to $400,000 range [and] rise to more than $2 million.

About a third of home buyers are affiliated with the University of Chicago and the University of Chicago Hospitals, Kennedy said. Another third are moving within the neighborhood, and the rest are people drawn to Hyde Park.

The fastest growing segment of the population in recent years is what the South East Chicago Commission calls "urban up-and-comers," professionals in the 25- to 34-year-old age bracket, SECC Executive Director Bob Mason said. "Hyde Park has really taken off in the past several years," Mason said. "I expected it to peak a few years ago, but it continues to rise."

There's a lot to draw that population, Mason said. Hyde Park is home to several popular restaurants and more than half a dozen museums of art, culture, science and history. They include the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute at 1155 E. 58th St. and the DuSable Museum of African American History at 740 E. 56th Pl. The university also provides venues for theater, music, dance, films and lectures that are open to the public.

With two shopping centers and several neighborhood business districts, Hyde Park is also a popular shopping hub, according to Lauren Alspaugh, [former] executive director of the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce.

"Many of the customers are from outside Hyde Park," Alspaugh said of the local trade group. "There's relatively no commercial from 47th Street to south downtown."

The neighborhood's main business district is along 53rd Street, which received a $2 million streetscape improvement last year and has been designated a tax increment finance district to raise money for a new parking garage. Several new business[es] have come into the area since creation of the TIF, including a Borders Books & Music expected to open in July at 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue. Improving conditions in surrounding neighborhoods -- such as North Kenwood-Oakland and Woodlawn -- are also a boon to Hyde Park.

"The university has been an active agent in improving the community and working with the community," said Homer Ashby, [then] president of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference.

Weekly farmers' market in Harper Court



The third or fourth most diverse neighborhood in Chicago

From Redeye, July 28, 2oo8, by Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz. Followed by another take of the DePaul study in Hyde Park Herald. Both lay the ground of facts but do not abstract how these diversities shape community dynamics and help or hinder in pursuing community goals. a city that historically has been racially segregated...Uptown and other traditionally diverse neighborhoods, including Rogers Park, Hyde Park and Edgewater, are remarkable because they've managed to thrive as diverse communities for decades, becoming neither slums nor totally gentrified as other have....

Community groups that push for affordable housing and good health care, schools and jobs are paramount to maintaining neighborhood diversity, Maly [Michael Maly, Sociology Chair, Roosevelt University] said. The Organization of the North East, founded 34 years ago to "build and sustain a successful multi-ethnic, mixed-economic community"... is an important example,' he said. "....They've gotten people to work on projects together."

Some diversity stems not from tradition, but demographic shifts. Such diversity can be temporary. [Maly adds," I think it's important for our country to have those kinds o spaces where people can rub elbows."

Abstracted from the the measures that went into the ranking: Hyde Park (No. 3)

Measurements of the top 20 "most diverse" communities

41% White, 39% Black, 12% Asian, 5% Hispanic, 6% other (Hispanic question was answered separately.)

46% low income, 38% middle income, 16% high income (of top 20 diverse communities:
average for low income- extremes 61% New City, 26% Ashburn,
rather low for middle income- extremes 59% Ashburn, 32% Near West Side
highest (tied with Near West Side) for high income- majority 5%-7%

13% children (under 18), 67% adult (ages 18-54), 20% senior (over 55)
by far the lowest in children, the highest in adults under 55, third highest in seniors (with Uptown)

Hyde Park ranks high in racial, other diversity says Hyde Park Herald August 6 2008. By Sam Cholke

Hyde Park ranks as one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Chicago according to a study by DePaul University's Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development.

The neighborhood is "recognized as a national model of racial diversity and urban stability," according to the South East Chicago Commission's Web site.

"Much of its diversity stems from the constituencies affiliated with the University of Chicago," Lauren Fischer and Joseph Schwieterman point out in the study. The study ranks Hyde Park the fourth most diverse behind Uptown, New City and Albany Park. Fischer and Schwieterman point out that five of the top eight most diverse neighborhoods are clustered on the North Side of Chicago, "giving this area the distinction of being the most diverse part of the city."

Hyde Park ranks as the most income-diverse neighborhood in the city, followed closely by New Town. "This income is extraordinary considering the relative paucity of income diversity in nearby neighborhoods," Fischer and Schwieterman said in the study. Nearby neighborhoods Washington Park and Grand Boulevard rank in the bottom five for income diversity. The study also points to Woodlawn as lacking in high-income households: 4 percent compared to Hyde Park's 15.6 percent.

Hyde Park's claim to most income diverse will be challenged in coming years as high income households move into Bridgeport and a mix of middle- and high-income households move to West Town.

The study shows Hyde Park falling to the middle of the pack for age diversity ranking 28th [citywide] behind Rogers Park [largely because low in children and high in seniors].

The clearest difference between Hyde Park and its fellow diverse neighborhoods is there are few foreign-born residents. Nineteen percent of Hyde Parkers are foreign born, compared to close to 40 percent in other top-ranked neighborhoods and 58 percent in Albany Park. [Noted also when looking at the 20 most diverse is the very low number of Hispanic, though in fact growing. Number of Asians is low but closer to the median of that pack, percentages varying greatly among the 20.]

The authors admit that due to a lack of data, several factors that more accurately depict the diversity of a neighborhood may have been overlooked. The authors cite a desire to include language religion and country of origin in future studies. [housing types, prices and opportunities are another -but much is available-- see Affordable Information].

Fischer and Schwieterman make a point of noting the relative dearth of diverse neighborhoods in the city as a whole. "Despite rising diversity in the city as a whole, Chicago's reputation as a place lacking integration between white residents and Black residents seems destined to persist," the authors said in the study. "By most commonly accepted measures, Chicago will likely remain the most segregated major city in the country."


From the September 2008 Conference Reporter

Income Diversity and Community Development in Hyde Park:
A Conversation with D. Garth Taylor (Ph.D. ’77)

Joanne E. Howard

Hyde Park has gone through various changes since the 1960s when urban renewal spread like wildfire across cities around the country. In order to get a perspective on how Hyde Park has changed over the years, the Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference interviewed D. Garth Taylor (Ph.D. ’77), President of the Metro Chicago Information Center (MCIC) on his views about Hyde Park, neighborhood institutions as anchors, income diversity, and neighborhood vitality. Dr. Taylor is a national expert on community economic development and his most recent study “Income Diversity and the Context of Community Development” was funded by the MacArthur Foundation.

Q: You came to Hyde Park in 1972 to attend graduate school. Why did you pick The University of Chicago?

I chose the University of Chicago to learn how to be a public opinion pollster. I learned a great deal from working at NORC (National Opinion Research Center) and studying Sociology at the U of C.

Q: Can you relate how Hyde Park has changed over the years?

In the 1960s, Hyde Park implemented an urban renewal plan that resulted in the move-out of low-income renters. This resulted in a major change to the housing stock. Literally, hundreds of rental apartments were demolished to try to stabilize the neighborhood. There was some replacement housing built – most of what you see on 55th street between Lake Park and Woodlawn dates from this era.

When I arrived in Hyde Park there were definite boundaries to the neighborhood. These boundaries have expanded a lot since the 1970s.

Q: You have written extensively on income diversity in Chicago. How does Hyde Park compare with other parts of the city?

During the 1980s, 1990s and up until a couple of years ago the housing market of Chicago seemed to be rising with no top end in sight. But interestingly, the number of low income families in Chicago is about the same as in 1970 and the number of high income families is also about the same. What is mostly happening is that the city is becoming a place where there are fewer and fewer middle income families (say, between $40,000 and $80,000 in today’s dollars) and neighborhoods are rearranging themselves as places where there are: more low income families; more high income families; or both.

Hyde Park is a place where the middle income category is on a rapid decline. There is a big growth in the number of high income families, and recently some small growth in low income families as well – making it a “bimodal” type of community. It’s tough to build a neighborhood around two widely divergent income levels – the tastes for services, retail stores, restaurants, types of food in the groceries vary quite a bit. Some people like the diversity, that becomes an important asset for the community.

Neighborhoods need to be really careful about shifting too much in the high income direction. If the guy who fixes bicycles can’t afford to live in Hyde Park that means that there’s not going to be a bicycle store for several miles and something will be lost to the community.

Q: What do you have to say about the “anchors” in Hyde Park?

The communities that most successfully weathered the challenges of living in Chicago in the 1960s and 1970s are the ones that had major anchor institutions -- major employers that were committed to staying – such as hospitals, and universities. University of Chicago played a huge role in defining and managing the urban renewal era in Hyde Park, and in encouraging new home buyers to move in and improve their property. Now, ironically the role of the anchor institution in gentrifying places is often to assist with more balanced growth – finding ways to support the credit and the housing opportunities for an economically diverse population.

Q: From your broad perspective, what are Hyde Park’s plusses?

Compared to the rest of the city, Hyde Park has a lot of amenities that will always make it a desirable place to be. I would say the most important are:

1. Public education -- Hyde Park has done well in maintaining excellence with its schools
2. Reasonably good linkages to public transportation
3. The lakefront and the parks
4. Good neighbors – a high concentration of interesting people per square mile
5. Diversity – The genome project hasn’t yet located the gene for being stimulated by diversity, but I’ll bet there is one. At some point this will be viewed unambiguously as an asset in Hyde Park.


A Tale of Three Neighborhoods: Hyde Park spurs growth in Kenwood-Oakland, Woodlawn

New Homes Magazine June 2005. By Jeffrey Steele.

Conjure and image of the ideal urban neighborhood, and you might visualize Hyde Park on a recent warm Sunday morning. On sun-dappled 53rd Street west of Lake Park Avenue, throngs have converged on the tree-lined sidewalks, strolling, window shopping, sipping coffee at an outdoor cafe.

Near the University of Chicago, a soccer game consumes the energies of players from across the globe, and on Hyde Park Boulevard, dog walkers amble past the stately, ivy-covered apartment buildings that line the street.

Every neighborhood likes to think it's unique, but in Chicago none fits the bill like Hyde Park, bounded roughly by Hyde Park Boulevard, Cottage Grove, 60th and the lake, and neighboring South Kenwood, which stretches north to 47h and is in many ways an extension of Hyde Park.

The distinction can be sensed immediately on 53rd Street the neighborhood's main commercial strip. for one thing, in a city that's among the most segregated in the U.S., the crowd here is incredibly diverse -- African American, white, Asian and Latino. Well-off and poor. Jewish, Muslim, Christian. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Hyde Park is about 46 percent white, 38 percent African American, 11 percent Asian and 4 percent Latino, making it one of the truly integrated communities in the city.

Physically, the neighborhood is nestled in a stunning pocket of parks -- Jackson Park and a beautiful stretch of lakefront on the east, Washington Park on the west and the grassy Midway Plaisance on the south, connecting the two. The architecture is nearly as varied as the population. There are the vintage apartment buildings, many of them former hotels, that house rambling, gracious apartments and condos, and stately single-families with wide lawns. Some gems, such as Frank Lloyd Wright's breathtaking Robie House, are known the world over.

But perhaps the most distinctive neighborhood trait is also the most intangible. Words like culture, recalcitrance and optimism hint at this quality, but they don't adequately explain it. The neighborhood character has been evolving ever since the two formative events that shaped a young Hyde Park: the birth of the University of Chicago in the early 1890s and the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893.

The The Columbian Exposition spurred massive development, including the creation of an elevated train line extending from the Loop to Jackson Park and the community was elevated to a world stage as Daniel H. Burnham oversaw creation of the "White City." The University of Chicago brought an intellectual and cultural powerhouse to the HP Neighborhood and though its role in Hyde Park has not been without controversy, the school proved to be an important anchor and stabilizing force when white flight scarred so much of the South Side.

This is a neighborhood that has had its share of problems, but it's also and incredibly activist community that generally believes, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, that it can overcome them. Take an outdoor seat at t he Starbucks on 53rd, and your neighbors might be arguing over the controversial rehab of Promontory Point (the historic beach at 55th ant South Shore Drive neighbors are adamant about controlling), the financial trouble of the Hyde Park Cooperative Society (which operates two co-op markets in the neighborhood) or the new memoir by Hyde Park resident Leon Despres (for 20 years the staunchest foe -- and often the lone independent voice -- battling the old Machine of former Mayor Richard J. Daley)...



Thanks to the South East Chicago Commission for the following "clippings."

In 2005 the Chicago Tribune asked Chicagoans to name "The Seven Wonders of Chicago." Three (or 2 and 1/2) of the winners were right here in Hyde Park:

Hyde Park's Medici on 57th was names a "top contender" in the Tribune's 2005competition for Best Burgers in Chicago.

Where described Hyde Park among "Beyond the Mag Mile: 6 Hot Neighborhoods Worth Exploring," in its October 2005 issue. Hyde Park is a "culture corner," with recommended amenities including the Museum of Science and Industry- including the U-505, Jackson Park's Osaka Garden, Smart Museum of Art, Robie House, Seminary Co-op Bookstore/57th St. Books, Calypso Cafe/Dixie Kitchen, and Medici on 57th.

The Tribune in fall 2005 recommended among the most scenic drives in the Chicago Region- Jackson Park.

Chicago Magazine, in its 2005 Chicago bests, named Harold's Chicken Shack a place to go for one's last meal on earth.

New Homes magazine published a neighborhood profile on Hyde Park, saying that no neighborhood in Chicago fits the description "unique" like Hyde Park! One of the hallmarks of this is its diversity, according to the article.


Win Kennedy, with Jeanne Spurlock, tells of Urban Renewal, evolution of real estate in the neighborhood, and what attracts home buyers to Hyde Park

Winston Kennedy on the real estate perspective, from Urban Renewal (which he says improved it) days to the early 21st century. Also Deco Arts Building.

Hyde Park Herald, March 28, 2007. By Brian Wellner

Winston Kennedy has been selling real estate in Hyde Park for a long time, 40 years to be exact. While planning an anniversary celebration, Kennedy sat down with the Hyde Park Herald last week and reflected on how the neighborhood’s real estate market has changed since the 1960s.

He believes it changed for the better, in large past due to Urban Renewal. “It worked very well. It provided a lot of housing and got rid of a lot of eyesores,” Kennedy said. “It put Hyde Park on the map.”

Mistakes were made, too, he admitted. “There was a clearing of Hyde Park, maybe to much.” The federally-funded Urban Renewal project of the 1950s and 60s converted much of the neighborhood’s retail environment to new housing, especially town homes and condominium developments that Kennedy said catered especially to homeowners affiliated with the University of Chicago who wanted to live near work.

Before Urban Renewal, Kennedy said there was very little code enforcement in the area and the housing stock deteriorated. Kennedy was manager of the university’s commercial real estate department from 1956 to 1967, when Urban Renewal was at its peak. During that time the university created the South East Chicago Commission [sic-SECC was in its heyday then, but was created in 1952] to enforce codes and track crime in Hyde Park.

Kennedy credited the creation of the SECC—as well as the university’s decision in 1952 to stay in the neighborhood and not to move to the suburbs—with improving the area’s real estate market.

The change was gradual “The financial community had written off the South Side and Hyde Park,” Kennedy said. He said banks often would not give mortgages to Hyde Park homeowners. “It was partly a racial thing,” he said.

Urban Renewal, he said, allowed the Federal Housing Authority to become involved in multi-family housing developments in the neighborhood, such as Regent’s Park.

One of the streets hit hardest by Urban Renewal’s block-by-block redevelopment was 55thstreet, once a major commercial strip in the area. In 1978, Kennedy bought on of the last of the old commercial buildings on 555th Street, the Deco Arts Building.

Hyde Park Chevrolet used to own the whole building, which was built in 1928, and the showroom faced Lake Park Avenue. Drawings of cars are still etched into the outer walls above the windows.

Kennedy, who said he was hooked on racquetball at the time, moved his real estate business, Kennedy, Ryan and Monigal and Associates, from 57th Street to the old showroom. He wanted to build a racquetball court on the roof, but plans never materialized. By 1980 he opened a Century 21 franchise in the showroom, where he still has an office to this day.

Kennedy started his real estate business in 1967 out of a studio apartment in the Windermere building. A year later he bought Parker Holsman Co., one of Hyde Park’s oldest businesses, which handles the management of real estate properties. Kennedy, Ryan and Monigal worked out of one part of the office. Parker Holsman continued to work out of another part. Having outgrown the Parker Holsman office on 57th Street, Kennedy relocated to the Deco arts building.

Kennedy is the last of the partners who made up Kennedy, (Edward) Ryan and (Vernon) Monigal still selling real estate. Ryan and Monigal have retired. Kennedy said his is one of the last remaining real estate businesses to have survived the 1960s. “They’re gone. We’re left,” he said.

Jeanne Spurlock joined the firm in 1981 and bought the company in 1997. She said home buyers are attracted to Hyde Park’s diversity and schools. And she said the neighborhood is perceived as less congested than Lincoln Park, which is typically the draw for people moving to the city for the first time. “Often times we win out because of the congestion of Lincoln Park,” Spurlock said. “We’re still a good value in comparison.”

According to Spurlock, the typical home buyer moving to Hyde Park has a family, one or two cars, and is affiliated with the University of Chicago.

Kennedy said he doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon. “I’ve stayed on because I don’t know what else to do,” he said.


A look at the unusual and historic along Kimbark's 54o0 block, Honorary Father Thomas J. Fitzgerald.

A feature in the April 12, 2007 Chicago Weekly News by Sam Feldman takes a walk along a "typical" block that harbors some treasures:


Melissa Harris-Lacewell, former head of the U of C program on Race, Culture and Politics, on "Obama's own small-town values"

Chicago Tribune, September 8, 2008

Speakers at the Republican National Convention talked a lot about small-town values. They told America that a man from Chicago could not relate to the homegrown ethics of ordinary people. I know better. Barack Obama was my state senator: Right in the middle of that Senate district is my beloved small town. Hyde Park. There is no small town that knows more about sacrifice, honesty, hard work, community and patriotism.

We know about terrorism in Hyde Park. I was embraced by dozens of neighbors on Sept. 11, 2001. We stood at Lake Michigan and turned our eyes toward our precious Chicago skyline. We kept vigil over our city, wondering if we would be targeted next.

We know how to be neighborly. Hyde Park is where a homeless man caught me when I stumbled while walking home in the snow eight months pregnant. He carried my bags 10 blocks. He wasn't rich, but he was righteous. Hyde Park is where we make room for each other to set up tents and barbecue in the parks on warm summer days. We parade down 53rd Street on Independence Day and together we listen to blues and jazz. We celebrate America with the flair and flavor of the best patriots.

We know about the energy crisis. In Hyde Park we walk to work, take Metra or catch the No. 6 bus downtown. We are city people, but we share our trees with the monk parakeets and feed the pigeons in the park.

We know about the power of faith. In Hyde Park we brave the bitter winds to gather in Rockefeller Chapel on Thanksgiving morning. We are welcomed by African drums; we are blessed by rabbis, priests and preachers; then we are sent home to our holiday feasts by the smell of burning sage offered by Indian tribal leaders.

We know about caring for our young people. In Hyde Park I watched a young woman turn down corporate job offers so that she could take over as principal of a filing public high school. With the help of parents, the commitment of students, and her own powerful determination, she is making Kenwood Academy one of the best schools in the city.

We know about diversity. Blacks and whites share a chess game in the park. Jews and Muslims work together to feed the hungry. Immigrants and citizens share the lakefront for a jog.

We know how to look beyond the outside of a person. I learned that the old man who sits at the Starbucks worked for the late Mayor Harold Washington; the young students buying compact discs escaped genocide in her home country; the homeless man seeking handouts is a skilled carpenter; and the skinny guy who represented us in the General Assembly had the chops to want to be president.

Hyde Park is not perfect. We struggle over affordable housing and business development. We worry about the relationship between the University of Chicago and the community. We worry that young people have a place to play and seniors have a place to rest. We worry about the snow in winter and the heat in summer. we are not perfect, but we struggle together.

This is what Barack Obama learned when he served Hyde Park. He learned that love of country means tolerating difference. He learned that everyone has something to contribute to the debate. He learned that democracy is messy because we have to find a way to work together across our differences. Hyde Park is a small town. We know each other. We smile at each other's children. We greet each other's pets. We pray for each other.

The people of rural America do not have a monopoly on these principles. And they are not the only Americans who count. Obama spent nearly a decade representing one of the best "small towns" in America.


To the students: What you'll find here

From Hyde Park Herald Orientation section, September 24, 2008

Hyde Park is a village as much as it is a neighborhood. Those of you who will- and some of you will- stay, marry, settle down, raise children and become that wonderful Chicagoan hothouse flower, a Hyde Parker, will come to understand and appreciate the passion we have for our neighborhood. Many of you, though, will not spend quite that much time here, so we want to make sure you enjoy some of the pleasures that are unique to this place you now call home.

If this were a guided tour, we would awaken you before down, drag you to Lake Park Avenue and give you a boost up to an apple tree just south of the Hyde Park Historical Society's headquarters at 5529 S. Lake Park Ave. There you'll find an apple tree bearing fruit with a tartness that captures the spirit of autumn. Before you bite, though, we'll walk further north, stroll down 55th Street to Lake Michigan and settle in at Promontory Point..

Sunrise at the Point is something no U. of C. student ought to miss. The graceful limestone revetment circling the Point warms in tone with the rising of the sun, and the hues and sparkle off Lake Michigan perfect the scene. Imagine a chilly trip in the early hours, apple in hand, and the pleasure of the warmth brought by the awakening sun, the flavor of an autumn fruit and the spectacle of a glorious morning

This is Hyde Park. We treasure our homegrown, idiosyncratic fruit - both the natural and constructed qualities of the neighborhood.... We invite you to enjoy them as well. Here are just a few highlights.

..You might be taking par t in the inaugural Midnight Madness Student Reception, the product of Powell's Bookstore co-owner Brad Jonas' fertile imagination.... your introduction to businesses you'll certainly frequent during your stay here [including] our vibrant row of independent bookstores...

Hyde Park is also home to a thriving cultural scene, and students are invited to become a part of that aspect of the neighborhood. Check out Artisans 21 Gallery, 5225 S. Harper Ave., [a collective]. The Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave., is another place that will get your creative juices flowing. Perhaps the most innovative cultural institution in the neighborhood, however, is Experimental Station, 6100 S. Blackstone Ave. Everything from music to lectures to the newly reopened Blackstone Bicycle Works is housed in this cultural cauldron.

The amazing park system that rings Hyde Park is another resource students should get to know. From Jackson Park, which lines the southeast end of Hyde Park along the lake, to Washington Park along the west end of the neighborhood, there is ample green space to explore and enjoy. Jackson Park is a favorite spot for outdoor sports, including golf. Visitors to Jackson Park should be sue to check out Wooded Island, a haven from the hustle and bustle of academia [and stop on a great bird flyway]. Tucked inside Wooded Island is the Osaka Garden, a Japanese strolling garden that is one of the few remaining pieces of evidence reminding us that Hyde Park was home to the 1893 Columbian Exposition, the World's Fair that shaped Hyde Park's destiny for decades. The Museum of Science and Industry is another artifact from the fair, originally constructed as the Palace of Fine Arts. Other reminders of the historic event include Daniel Chester French's The Republic, a reproduction of a much larger statue built for the fair and house in Jackson Park, and the depressed fields of the Midway Plaisance, which runs along the south end of the neighborhood and links Jackson Park to Washington Park. Originally [the entertainment and "anthropological" section of the fair, then] intended to be a canal, the grounds of the Plaisance are home to many neighborhood activities (including [soccer and] ice skating in the Midway's rink) and a perennial favorite among students.

Washington Park is another popular venue for sports events and is a popular site for South Siders' family reunions and barbecues [or strolling the lagoons]. Always home to a flurry of activity, Washington Park is an experience not to be missed. Perhaps its quirkiest trait is the regular Sunday meeting, weather permitting, of elders in the African American communities of the South Side. If you want to learn about the history of Hyde Park and our neighboring communities, this is a unique source. The elders meet just north of 55th Street on the western edge of Washington Park.

Our smaller parks are just as important a venue as these grand open spaces. Nichols Park, between Kimbark and Kenwood avenues and 53rd and 55th street, has a native grasses and wildflowers display that is a must-see. If you have children or just enjoy people watching, Bixler Park, just north of 57th Street and west of Kenwood Avenue, is a perfect place to visit....

[Music:} Start by tuning in to WHPK, 88.5 FM, run right out of the university's Reynold's Club, 5706 S. University Ave. Dr. Wax, 5226 S. Harper Ave., is a great source both of new and used cds and vinyl and the contemporary music scene. Chat with the knowledgeable staff about what's going on locally. Right next door, check on the university's Department of Visual Art's new space at 5228 S. Harper Ave. While you're on 53rd Street, there's plenty of other interesting, locally owned retail worth checking out, and another music store, Hyde Park Records at 1377 E. 53rdd Street.

There's also great live music to check out in Hyde Park. The Checkerboard Lounge, 52[01] S. Harper Ave., is a must-visit spot. Enjoy CheckerJazz on Sunday nights and be sure to go back for great live blues throughout the rest of the week. [Weekends are also hot for jazz and other music on weekends at Chant and Mellow Yellow in the block to the east of 53rd-- the same block that hosts the famous Valois Cafeteria on 53rd.] Blues and jazz are also on tap at Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap at the corner of 55th Street and Woodlawn Avenue. Every Sunday night, trumpeter and band leaders Curtis Black and his friends regale listeners with great jazz jams, while blues take place earlier in the day. The jazz sessions are as worthwhile for the drop-in musicians they draw as they are to hear the regular quartet.

Hyde Park is second to no other neighborhood in Chicago in architectural quality. From Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House to Rockefeller Chapel tot he Museum of Science and Industry, there are plenty of grand architectural flourishes to enjoy, but perhaps most significant are the historic residences lining the streets of the neighborhood. Hyde Park's housing stock includes some of the oldest homes in Chicago as well as some of the most distinctly modern. Venture a bit north of the neighborhood, and you'll see some of the most extravagant blocks of historic homes in the city in South Kenwood.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. [There's the University year round and] no guide, no calendar listing, no promotional brochure can replace the adventure of exploring the community yourself. Introduce yourself, and get to know some of your neighbors. Hyde Park is home to numerous storytellers, and talking to someone with some history to recount is always time well spent.

Two final suggestions. First, attend a community meeting. To know Hyde Park's meetings is to know Hyde Park. We staunchly defend our neighborhood, and there's nothing like seeing civic participation in action. They're inspirational.

Second, get to know the Hyde Park Herald....


Washington Post article, Uncommon Ground
Yes, Obama Lives There. But Chicago's Hyde Park Is a Place All Its Own

In response to the Ferguson article, below.

Mr. Obama's Neighborhood
The Chicago-area community that counts the presidential candidate as its most famous resident is anything but mainstream.

By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 16, 2008; Page C01


No American president has been elected from a place quite like Hyde Park, the home of Sen. Barack Obama. Among the community's notable features are a university famous for intellectualism, a pair of 1960s Weather Underground radicals famous for being unrepentant and a bloc of voters famous for choosing Sen. John Kerry over President Bush by 19 to 1.

Judging by the swift demonization, Obama might as well live at the corner of Liberal and Kumbaya. Republican strategist Karl Rove placed Hyde Park alongside Cambridge, Mass., and San Francisco in a triad of leftist tomfoolery. The Weekly Standard, recalling Obama's description of former Weatherman Bill Ayers as merely "a guy who lives in my neighborhood," asked who lives in a neighborhood like that.

Hyde Park in real life is not so easily typecast. The political ethic is proudly progressive on matters of race and social justice, yet the community is anchored by the University of Chicago, an incubator for some of the nation's most influential conservatives, from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to Nobel Prize-winning free marketeer Milton Friedman.

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan lives within four blocks of Obama's $1.6 million home, as do former Weather Underground members Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. Yet so does Richard Epstein, a prominent libertarian law professor who is quick to say he is friends with Scalia and Ayers -- and once tried to hire Dohrn.

"I don't consider myself a Chicagoan," Epstein explains. "I consider myself a Hyde Parker."

To be a Hyde Parker, dozens of residents say, is to choose to live in a community that considers variations of race, creed, wealth and politics to be a neighborhood selling point, like bicycle paths or broadband in a far suburb. Finishing breakfast at the Valois Cafeteria, retired utility worker Dwight Lewis points to a woman selling StreetWise, a newspaper written by homeless people.

"You've got people who have nothing to people who have everything," he says. "You've got people living on the street to people who have homes worth several million dollars."

For Hyde Park's most famous resident, who wants to be seen as distinctive but unthreatening, his chosen turf represents the political eclecticism and sense of post-racial possibility at the heart of his personality and campaign. Yet as Obama is learning, the narrative cuts both ways. To no one's surprise, Sen. John McCain and his supporters have pushed the idea, echoed by early surveys, that Obama is a risky choice, that he is somehow just too exotic, too erudite -- and did we mention naive? He bodysurfs in Hawaii, he orders green tea ice cream in Oregon, he writes his own books in deft prose, his name is Barack Obama.

"This is not a man who sees America as you and I do, as the greatest force for good in the world," says Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain's tart-tongued running mate, who grounds her own narrative in the recently paved roads of an Alaskan town 1/500th the size of Chicago.

Palin would no doubt beg to differ, but Obama friend and lifelong resident Valerie Jarrett puts it this way: "Hyde Park is the real world as it should be. If we could take Hyde Park and we could help make more Hyde Parks around our country, I think we would be a much stronger country."

Blueprint of Diversity

Mainstream, as mainstream is commonly defined, is not Hyde Park. The average white metropolitan resident lives in a neighborhood 80 percent white and only 7 percent black, says Northwestern University professor Mary Pattillo, who calls Hyde Park "anomalous for whites." Census tracts in the exurbs and the countryside tend to be even whiter.

By contrast, the 2000 census found that 43.5 percent of the 29,000 residents in Hyde Park proper called themselves white, 37.7 percent black, 11.3 percent Asian and 4.1 percent Hispanic. Another 3.4 percent answered "other." In economic terms, there are plenty of six-figure earners, yet one in six residents lives in poverty. The median household income is about $45,000, roughly the national average.

"Given all this," Pattillo says, "you can better understand the foreignness of a place like Hyde Park."

Hyde Park sprang from open space along Lake Michigan in the mid-1800s as new train service attracted seaside vacationers and well-to-do residents of boomtime Chicago. In 1892, John D. Rockefeller bankrolled an upstart university and, one year later, the area hosted the World's Columbian Exposition, which helped put the Windy City on the map.

By the early 1900s, Hyde Park had a growing Jewish population that expanded with the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe. The area also became a rare island where middle-class black people could aspire to live.

By the 1940s, fear among some whites of the growing numbers of black families produced a bitter fight over race. The University of Chicago, saying it was trying to maintain safe surroundings, backed restrictive covenants as well as white neighborhood groups intent on barring blacks.

When the Supreme Court banned racial covenants in 1948, university leaders feared white flight and an influx of poor blacks from surrounding neighborhoods. They hammered home a 1950s urban renewal plan that displaced thousands. The idea, wrote historian Arnold R. Hirsch, was to generate real estate prices high enough to "regulate both the number and 'quality' of blacks remaining."

This prompted the joke that Hyde Park, for all of its pride about racial integration, was a case of "black and white together, working shoulder to shoulder against the poor." Yet the strategy worked as the university had hoped, says Timuel Black, 89, a longtime political activist. Sufficient numbers of middle-class whites and blacks stayed to preserve the community's multiracial core.

"When whites found out that blacks were just like them," Black recalls with a wry smile, "acceptance was very easy."

As it happens, Obama is trying to lead white voters to that same conclusion.

All About the Mix

Hyde Park was the first place Obama alighted in 1985 when he became a $1,000-a-month community organizer. He chose a cheap apartment in the Chicago neighborhood that best reflected his own urban, multiethnic politics and lifestyle. He listened to jazz, swam in the lake and drove his clunker to the impoverished far South Side.

"That's the kind of place Barack felt most at home," says Chicago Tribune writer Don Terry, who grew up in a mulitracial family in Hyde Park.

In 1993, two years after his return from Harvard Law School, Obama bought a 2,200-square-foot condominium in an integrated Hyde Park complex called East View Park with his wife Michelle, raised in nearby South Shore. They lived there through his first half-dozen campaigns and much of his tenure as a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago. Their two daughters spent their early years there, Michelle soon commuting to work at a series of university outreach jobs.

In 2005, the family moved to a house with six bedrooms and four fireplaces across the street from a synagogue. They live on a street of tall trees and landscaped lawns in the neighborhood of Kenwood, which extends four blocks north of Hyde Park but is commonly considered part of the greater Hyde Park community.

Until his life was subsumed by the presidential campaign, Obama shopped at the local food co-op, browsed the stacks at 57th Street Books and hung out with his girls at the playground. He continues to wear a tattered Chicago White Sox cap and get his hair cut at a busy salon where his longtime barber, known by the single name Zariff, says, "You have to be yourself when you come in here."

A few blocks from Obama's home, the Currency Exchange cashes paychecks only steps from an Aveda shop. A pita restaurant's bulletin board carries notes for Tri Yoga, Ken's Klean Kuts and the Temple of Mercy Association Annual International Marcus Garvey 2008 Parade.

Valois Cafeteria, the anti-Starbucks, is packed at breakfast with transport workers cheek by jowl with businessmen studying their Wall Street Journals. Each Wednesday, a dozen retired black men get together to jaw. One day, hearing that Republicans are branding Obama and his home turf as elitist, they take up the question.

"Most all of us in this room, we pulled ourselves up by the bootstraps," explains Sandy Roach, a chemist. "We got student loans, worked our way through college. We don't have any George Bushes, nobody born with silver spoons in our mouths."

Nodding toward his friends, Charles Doty says, "You can find a rocket scientist and a fellow who can teach you how to shoot dice."

Ask anyone: Hyde Park is all about the mix.

"It shaped us, our careers and our personalities," says Alison P. Ranney, a white businesswoman. "In some ways, you don't realize until you leave how special it is."

Ranney was 9 years old in the 1970s when her family left Hyde Park and moved to a coal-mining town in southern Illinois. At the new school, fourth-graders who had heard she was from Chicago kept asking whether she actually went to school with black children. Of course she did, and what of it? She remembers coming home from her first day of school and asking her mother, "Is there something you haven't been telling me about black people?"

The 700 students at the public William H. Ray Elementary School are "diverse in every way imaginable," says principal Bernadette Butler. The variety of students at the private University of Chicago Laboratory Schools served as models for the inquisitive, multicultural 12-year-old protagonists in Blue Balliett's best-selling novel, "Chasing Vermeer." Balliett taught writing at Lab, where Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens graduated and Langston Hughes was once artist in residence. Malia and Sasha Obama are students there, and Michelle Obama sits on the board.

"It's a place where you can be who you are and bring any kind of diversity to the table and be celebrated for it. Kids really can grow up in Hyde Park and never hear a negative conversation about those differences," Balliett says over lunch at Medici, a local hangout with carved-up wooden tables and a racially diverse clientele. "My son used to say, 'How come we aren't at least Jewish and Christian?' "

When he was a boy, social activist Jamie Kalven lived in an apartment in a home owned by Manhattan Project chemist Harold Urey. At various times, the place was also owned by prizefighter Sonny Liston and jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal. Muhammad Ali once lived nearby and kept a pair of lions in an outdoor cage. Kalven is struck by the presence in Hyde Park of a roughly equal number of blacks and whites "for whom the fact of living together is no big deal."

Which, in a sense, is the big deal.

Political Blocks

Hyde Park is often painted as an island by residents and outsiders. The depiction extends to politics.

Democrats from Hyde Park often describe themselves as independents. In Chicago terms, that means they steer a course apart from the long-dominant, now fading, party machine. Hyde Park produced alderman Leon Despres, a corruption fighter who often found himself on the lonely end of 49-1 city council votes. It was home to Harold Washington, the anti-machine candidate elected as the city's first black mayor, and Sen. Paul H. Douglas, a social reformer and civil rights activist.

Decades ago, when the machine was far stronger, young Abner Mikva, an Obama mentor who served as a congressman, federal judge and White House counsel, tried to volunteer at the 8th Ward Regular Democratic headquarters. "We don't want nobody nobody sent," the party operative told him. When Mikva said he was from the University of Chicago and was willing to work free, the man said, "We don't want nobody from the University of Chicago in this organization."

The university is a central part of the narrative of Hyde Park as a highfalutin, arugula-eating slice of academic elitism. The U of C, as everyone calls it, boasts that 78 alumni or onetime faculty have won the Nobel Prize. That makes Hyde Park surely the only place in America where an academic and his wife, going through a divorce, would include a clause splitting future winnings if he scored the economics prize. He won, and sent her $500,000.

As with Hyde Park itself, there is an essential element of the university that reflects Obama's way of seeing the world. It has to do with the interchange of ideas, a realm in which the cerebral, pragmatic, inherently cautious Illinois senator may be at his most comfortable. University President Robert Zimmer describes an atmosphere of ferment and says, "There's a real push for people not to be overly comfortable with their assumptions."

While Zimmer talks of rigor, Chicago Public Schools Chief Arne Duncan talks of openness, idealism and accomplishment. An Obama friend and Hyde Parker to the core, Duncan says unabashedly that the Obamas "represent the best of what Hyde Park is." He considers it no coincidence that "a disproportionate number of civic leaders come out of Hyde Park."

It is ironic -- or perhaps inevitable -- that a Daumier-like caricature of Hyde Park has fueled critics and mischief-makers on opposing sides. Conservative columnist David Brooks noted the idea in some Republican circles that Obama is "some naive university-town dreamer, the second coming of Adlai Stevenson." When challenged by Obama in a 2000 House race, Rep. Bobby Rush (D), a former Black Panther, jeered that Obama "went to Harvard and became an educated fool." State Sen. Donne Trotter said Obama was seen as "the white man in blackface in our community."

This is Mr. Obama's neighborhood, where conservative law professor Epstein can cite a "slightly loopy side to Hyde Park politics" and still praise a history of "social toleration." It is the home turf of Ayers and Dohrn, whose fiery 1960s ambition to topple U.S. government gave way to roles as university professors and intense Little League coaches.

It is a place where differences are just differences.

"Hyde Park should be held up as an example of what an integrated community could be," says University of Chicago law professor M. Todd Henderson, who grew up in a white Pittsburgh suburb. "It wasn't some sort of social experiment."

Henderson says his adopted community is a place where ideas matter more than pedigree and one cannot infer social status by skin color. He says the visible hardships in nearby neighborhoods and the persistent threat of crime undermine any notion that Hyde Park is, in his words, "a fantasy land."

"To criticize Hyde Park as being aloof, out of touch and elitist is just poppycock," he says. "I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, and there is nothing America should be ashamed about Hyde Park. On the contrary, America should be proud of Hyde Park."

An excellent critique of the critiques, filling in gaps and imbalances, too-"Under the microscope: The national media and the real Hyde Park"

Chicago Weekly, November 6, 2008. By Katy Rossing

Reminding us that Barack Obama once dismissed Bill Ayers as just "a guy who lives in my neighborhood," the Weekly Standard last June asked what kind of person lives in a neighborhood like that. The Washington Post's coverage of Hyde Park celebrates the proximity of an Aveda salon "only steps" from a payday loans franchise. And in a video debate on the New York Times' website, a pooh-poohing Eli Lake wonders how many hacky sack stores the neighborhood supports.

Is that really our Hyde Park they're talking about? Drum circles, organic gardens on every corner, munificent racial tolerance, and, as the Standard put it, "cranky old domestic terrorists wandering through the yard'"?

The unflagging appetite for details of Obama's personal life has prompted a furry of profiles of Hyde Park in the national media in the last few months. Some of the over-the-top characterization of the neighborhood is understandable, given journalists' desire to read something into Obama's neighborhood, aligning it with a particular agenda or lifestyle. The question is, did they get it right?

Petty as the question posed in the Weekly Standard may seem, it is not inconsequential. American voters attach a lot of importance to where their candidates shop for groceries. The otherwise barren political landscape of stump speeches and photo-ops provides its plasticized figureheads about as much character and authenticity as Ken dolls. And true to our partisan politics, the media has produced a bipartisan set of portraits of Hyde Park: one painting our neighborhood as a liberal nexus between unrepentant domestic terrorists and elitist fair-trade coffee-sipping yuppies, and another emphasizing the evident diversity of the area, proclaiming it to be a "bastion of integration," where the progressive dream for urban America came true.

Of course both versions are based on elements of truth about the neighborhood. Looking at the 2000 Census, Hyde Park is one of the most integrated neighborhoods in Chicago. The population of 29,820 is about 44 percent white and 38 percent black, roughly inline with the racial breakdown in the city as a whole. Hyde Park is also home to a significant Asian population, comprising 11 percent of the population.

We're economically diverse, too, with plenty of residents earning six-figure salaries, more than one in ten individuals living below the poverty level, and a middle-of-the-road median household income of $44,000. As the Washington Post pointed out, this combination produces an array of commercial activity catering to both epicureans who peruse imported butter at "America's Most European Supermarket" and lovers of the half regular with hot sauce at Harold's [Chicken Shack].

The New York Times called Hyde Park a "bastion of integration" in a segregated city. But the other articles point out that this integration fails to dip below a certain socioeconomic bracket, resulting in an integration that Mike Nichols characterized wryly as "black and white, working shoulder to shoulder against the poor." This idea comes from urban renewal policies of the 1950s that leveled swaths of low-income housing and neighborhood nightlife as the University attempted to reshape its surroundings.

The socioeconomic and racial diversity of Hyde Park is evident in a walk down 53rd Street, even if actual integration, in the full sense of acceptance, is not. Although its idealization as "a place where differences are just differences" may be a stretch, Hyde Park is definitely, as the Washington Post writes, "all about the mix."

Below the upper socioeconomic stratum the social scene in Hyde Park is more discordant than integrated. In his sociological tract focusing on the landmark Valois Cafeteria, "Slim's Table," Mitchell Dunier spoke of Hyde Park as a community of "social contrasts" --- contrasts such as those "between some of the best academic bookstores in the world ... and branches of the best chicken rib shacks on the near South Side...; between the BMWs of Chicago's 'buppies' (black urban professionals) and the maroon-striped campus buses that transport thousands of white students through the streets considered to be dangerous." For many residents, Hyde Park offers alternative experiences, rather than a cohesive Kumbaya-type one. After all, there's not much chance of th customers from the Aveda salon popping next door for a payday loan after dropping $22.00 on a bottle of tea tree oil shampoo (or vice versa).

Besides the theme of diversity and integration, media profiles of Hyde Park profiles of Hyde Park all emphasize its political liberalism. Its representatives on city council have historically resisted the machine politics of patronage and cronyism. Informal measures of a neighborhood's politics testify to a liberal bent in residents as well. Clunky old cars with "Free Tibet" stickers line the blocks, and a sign in the church at 57th and University announces that it's a nuclear-free zone.

However, even these qualities don't justify the Weekly Standards' suggestion that Hyde Park is something of a "Berkeley with snow." The simple equation of academia and political liberalism is only partially true: while the majority of faculty and students hold liberal political views and values, they are tempered by the more fundamental value placed on pragmatic intellectual rigor. Moreover, the University of Chicago serve as the incubator for the intellectuals conservatives love, like Milton Friedman, Allan Bloom, and Leo Strauss. The Weekly Standard's Andrew Ferguson calls the University of Chicago's reputation for conservatism "wobbly," but the campus atmosphere is a far cry from the atmosphere of activist ferment on a campus like UC-Berkeley. If anything, the UofC is a place where thoughtful opinion from all points on the political spectrum can find a receptive audience. Like Hyde Park as a whole, it is far too complicated and full of life to be summed up in a couple columns of newsprint. Hyde Park may be a place where domestic terrorists rub shoulders with free-market evangelists, but first and foremost it is as neighborhood like any other, with its own shared history, established institutions, and local heroes.


Ferguson in the Weekly Standard.. followed by part of a NY Times article

From Andrew Ferguson's now-famous (or for at least some part deservedly infamous) Weekly Standard piece, June 16 2008,
Mr. Obama's Neighborhood: The Democratic candidate has made his home in Chicago's Hyde Park, a place that's not like any other in America.

[Gary Ossewaarde: William Ayers is now a well-thought-of academic in the University of Illinois at Chicago Education Department and known to some of the present writers' friends. His wife Bernardine Dohrn is an academic at Northwestern University who makes many appearances as a speaker on panelist, and has thoughtful ideas on prisons, juvenile courts and incarceration and on health care. Ayers blogs do rant on about a revolution based on solidarity and love against approaches (racism) and ways of doing things (capitalism, imperialism) but doesn't define what he wants except he opposes terrorism. Neither are leaders in local politics or organizations.
The characterization of the neighborhood as "hemmed in" by hellish slums is a serious exaggeration, at least for most of the blocks immediately north and south--there's a lot of skipped history and maybe visual-assumption judging here, although in a couple enclaves deteriorated and or high crime areas are perilously nearby. The parks certainly are isolating barriers (though created long before a racial changeover was conceivable) , but revitalized parts of surrounding neighborhoods are here ignored. On the other hand, HP is not all "stately mansions." And the analysis of the University's and neighborhood's conservatism (however defined) and their continuance is "wobbly". The remarks about absence of Hispanics is astoundingly false--and Asians are at least 12%. See the Co-Op page for a much more complete and balanced look at the failure of the Co-Op store-- there was tons of blame, some realities, and university expenditure of $6 million to get rid of the store to go around. The urban renewal parts are mostly true, although absolving the university of racism in the '50s (and calling the administrators liberals also) ignores a lot including operation of real estate division and enforcement of racial covenants even after they were outlawed.
And defining 'Hyde Park liberalism' 'for all time' by Mike Nichols' "black and white against the poor" is a calumny, and to ignore what the thousands in the HPKCC fought for an many Hyde Parkers still do-- a diverse community where all are welcome. And to say that Obama, as a community organizer identified with "against the poor" does not make sense, or at least cannot be shown by the line of argument (or rather innuendo.) And many Hyde Parkers don't think they are upper class or that that's all that's here.
And the last sentence, about being the perfect place for a man without and identity to make an identity of ones own choosing--isn't that what at least used to be touted as the glory and calling card of America and of Chicago?]

When Barack Obama was briefly embarrassed earlier his year by his association with the onetime bomb-builder and wannabe bomb-exploder William Ayers, he blamed his neighborhood, sort of. "He is a guy who lives in my neighborhood," Obama said with a shrug, as if to say, "Don't we all have top put up with those cranky old terrorists wandering through the yard?" But of course not every neighborhood has a former Weatherman and his wife, former Weathermoll Bernardine Dohrn, living in it, especially not as twin pillars of the community. Obama's casual dismissal led people all across America, people who live in all kinds of communities without bombers, to look at each other and say: "Wow, what kind of neighborhood does Barack live in?"

It's not a trifling question. ... a neighborhood can be a problem for a candidate. Voters often feel that incidentals like these reveal something essential about a potential president.. Just as important, political consultants often go to great lengths to make voters feel that way. Recall poor Michael Dukakis....

As Republicans felt about Brookline, so Obama supporters feel about Obama's neighborhood: it 's a measure of the man. "What better way to define what you're all about than where you choose to live and bring up your family?" said Obama's friend, neighbor, and campaign advisory John Rogers in USA Today. Obamas' neighborhood, Hyde Park, is on the South Side of Chicago, about seven miles from the Loop. Not counting time spent in college and law school, plus part of a year working for a consulting firm in Manhattan, Hyde Park is the only place Barack Obama has lived as an adult. He first moved there in 1984, when he came to Chicago as a community organizer, and he returned after graduating from Harvard Law School. Here he courted his future wife, who grew up in the nearby neighborhood of South Shore, and here his children were born and now attend (private) school. Here, too, is the mansion he bought in 2005, with the proceeds from his two bestselling books in which he speaks fondly of the life he has built here.

The affection is mutual. The Hyde Park Herald printed a gala issue when Obama announced his candidacy, in February 2007. "Despite national fame, Barack Obama remains a Hyde Parker to the core," read the banner headline. Inside were display ads from local businesses, full of good wishes an exclamation points: "Good luck, neighbor!"' "Wish Hyde Parks' very own Barack Obama and family all the best!"; "Congratulations to Barack, our hometown hero!" There were pages of testimonials from neighbors, shopkeepers, political activists, and his barber, too. All agreed he's "down to earth." One local mother recalled standing next to him at a Halloween parade. "He greeted me with a friendly 'hello,'" she testified. A waitress at his favorite restaurant: "No matter what might be on his mind, he always asks how I'm doing." "He was always one of my quietest customers," said the owner of the local video store. "But when he did have something to say it was always soothing and stimulating at the same time. When he walked away he would leave that thought in your mind. It made you wonder." America has the same reaction, but Hyde Parkers experienced it first.

If you think this sounds improbably quaint and Norman Rockwellish, like Anytown, USA, Hyde Parkers think so too. They often refer to their neighborhood as a "small town." Hyde Park isn't a town, but with a population of 35,000, depending on who's counting and how, it's pretty small: 15 city blocks from north to south, another 15 or so from Washington Park on the west to its eastern boundary at the shore of Lake Michigan. Its sense of urban intimacy is reinforced by its isolation. It's the most racially integrated neighborhood in the nation's most segregated city. On three sides it is closed in by some of the most hellish slums in the country, miles of littered streets, acres of abandoned lots, block after block of shuttered storefronts and empty apartment buildings left over from the 19th century. These terminate abruptly at the edge of Hyde Park and give way to shade trees and lawns and stately brick mansions and huge, tidied-up apartment houses. Surrounded, Hyde Park is different from any neighborhood in Chicago--different from anywhere else in America, for that matter.

Some people call it a college town, since its largest inhabitant, the institution that defines the neighborhood' character, is the University of Chicago, one of the worlds' most prestigious universities. A friend once described Hyde Park as "Berkeley with snow." and it does indeed have the same graduate-student flavor, the same political activism and boho intellectualism, the same alarmingly high number of men wandering about looking like NPR announcers-- the wispy beards and wire rims, the pressed jeans and unscuffed sneakers, the backpacks and bikes. (This is a pretty good description of William Ayers, by the way.) But the similarities can be overdone. "Not 'Berkeley with snow,'" a U. of C. professor said, when I mentioned my friends' comment to him. "It's the snow that keeps us from being Berkeley. The snow and cold keep the street people away. It drives everyone inside. You don't have all the students who dropped out of school or graduated and refused to leave. If they stay, they do something. If not, they get out of town. It's too cold to just hang around."

This contributes to the neighborhood's relatively low crime rate and, in part, to the university's reputation as a home for squares and nerds, a buttoned-down "bastion of conservatism," in the phrase of one magazine writer. And the conservatism, by popular account, infects the neighborhood at large, tempers its politics, and adds to its diversity. But the reputation for right-wingery is based on a simple if imprecise bit of data that shocks the delicate sensitivity of college professors: Of the tens of thousands of faculty who have taught at the University of Chicago over the past half-century, perhaps as any as 65 have, at some point in their lives, voted for a Republican. Many of these insurgents were either disciples of the university's most famous faculty member, the free-market economist Milton Friedman, or were drawn to the school because of him; others came under the influence of Allan Bloom, the Straussian philosopher, who ran the university' Olin Center for Inquiry into the Theory and Practice of Democracy, along with a few classically minded scholars. Bloom is dead. So is Friedman. The Olin Center closed its doors in 2005. Their disciples and colleagues who remain at the university aren't getting any younger. It's unlikely that the school's wobbly reputation for conservatism, and the neighborhood's, will survive them.

The reputation for diversity, though, probably will survive. It's not often noted that the neighborhood's diversity has its limits. "In Hyde Park," a resident told me, "'integration' means white people and black people." The nation's fastest growing ethnic group, Hispanics, is hardly represented at all; same for Asians. the neighborhood is better known as a haven for the black upper class, especially those who don't want to move to an all-white suburb but also don't want the crime risks and miserable schools associated with the neighborhoods to the immediately south, west adn north. Some of these people are famous -- Harold Washington, Chicago's first black mayor, lived in an apartment by the lake, and Muhammad Ali lived down the block from Louis Farrakhan, who live in Elijah Muhammad's old digs, around the corner from the house of Joe Louis's widow. Most are lawyers and business executives from the Loop, doctors and technicians from the university hospital center, administrators and professors from the university -- united to the white upper class through shared politics and aspirations, and delighted in, and congratulating one another on, their unique neighborhood.

Hyde Park has always been relatively affluent, but the neighborhood's character was changed forever beginning in the mid-1950s, when university officials orchestrated an ambitious scheme of urban renewal, paid for by the city and federal governments. The project was the first of its kind in Chicago, and one of the first in the country, and it served for a generation as a model for other cities, for better or worse-- usually worse. But in Hyde Park urban renewal worked like a Swiss watch.

"You have to understand the mindset," a preservationist, Jack Spicer, told me. "In the middle of the 1950s, the university thought they were in the middle of an emergency. Alarms were going off everywhere." All around Hyde Park, white flight was transforming Chicago, goosed by racial panic and the sleazy importunities of "blockbusters"-- real estate speculators who bought houses of fleeing whites at high profit to incoming blacks. "The university figured Hyde Park was next," Spicer said. The school was having trouble attracting students and faculty. Administrators considered moving the campus to Arizona or New Mexico -- anywhere pleasant -- but balked at the expense. At last they decided that if they couldn't move to a nice neighborhood, they would make their neighborhood nice.

The aim of urban renewal in Hyde Park, according to the university's president, was "to buy, control, and rebuild our neighborhood" until it was a "community of similar tastes and interests." The program lasted a decade. By the end of it the neighborhood had been reconfigured physically and redefined socially. Vast stretches of the old Hyde Park had been bulldozed, including the main shopping and entertainment (that is honky-tonk) district along 55th Street. Planner clear-cut an entire subneighborhood of wooded bungalows that housed workers from the nearby slaughterhouses and Indiana steel mills, scattering the residents to parts unknown. From these razed blocks spring parking garages, dormitories, classroom buildings, parks and rows of townhouses suitable for students and faculty.

What survived the wrecking ball was equally desirable: the mansions built during the neighborhood's day as the city's Gold Coast, in the 189s, when it drew Armours, Swifts, and other monied families looking for a lakeside home. Just to the south, turn-of-the century apartment houses were saved, refurbished, and offered as housing for the administrators and faculty at U. of C. Having uprooted most neighborhood businesses, the plan concentrated all commercial activity into three small shopping centers, from which most of the old shop owners were excluded. A single saloon survived. Notably absent from the scene was any public housing for the poor [not entirely true]. After ten years of urban renewal, the neighborhood's population had dropped by 40 percent.

Hyde Park's isolation was by design. At its boundaries, the university bought and leveled city blocks that could serve as a buffer, or moat, from the surrounding South Side as it filled with impoverished blacks. The isolation brings a whiff of unreality to the neighborhood. The place seems uprooted. Its' neither one thing nor the other. Hyde Park lacks the freewheeling energy of a college town, and it lacks the surprises and variety of a healthy city neighborhood. strolling the quiet streets on a morning in May you'll admire the lilacs spilling over the low stone fences, the mansions with the squares of lawn marching to the edge of the boulevards, the funky, vine-covered apartment buildings shaded by overarching oak and poplar. Only after a day or so do you notice what's not here. There are no movie theaters, for example, and not much commerce generally. There's nowhere to buy a pair of pants or shoes. There aren't many restaurants, and only a single overpriced restaurant catering to the culinary affectations of the yuppie trade -- strange for a neighborhood with so many wealthy residents. Only in the last few months did the neighborhood get a reliable, clean, and well-stocked grocery store.

And both of these, the fancy restaurant and the new grocery store, are creatures of the university's paternalism. the university has long been aware that the neighborhood it created lacks the amenities that urban dwellers demand as compensation for the discomforts of city living. So when the neighborhood's only large grocery store failed recently -- it was a customer-owned cooperative, whose empty shelves and accumulated gunk attested to its Soviet-like disdain for market forces -- the university subsidized a new outlet from a "gourmet" grocery chain. Now everybody's happy. The fancy restaurant, too was encouraged by the university as something its cultured faculty would like, and as a place where parents might take their student children on campus visits; the university keeps the restaurant owners afloat by providing business for their catering business. And, having obliterated the neighborhood's entertainment district 50 years ago, it is now trying to draw bars and clubs back to Hyde Park, either through subsidy or outright purchase. U. of C. recently bought and moved the South Side landmark Checkerboard Lounge close to campus, to restore the nightlife that the 1950s urban planners hoped to kill (and did).

Hyde Parkers sometimes seem strangely unaware of how completely their neighborhood's uniqueness is a product of the university's noblesse oblige. An outsider sees it most clearly in the university's police cars that patrol Hyde Park around the clock, and in the emergency call boxes spaced throughout the entire neighborhood, far beyond the campus proper, that anyone can use at any time to summon campus cops. (The university police force is the second largest police force in Illinois.) The paternalism is less obvious because it has never been racial. Urban renewal drove out as many poor whites as poor blacks; for university officials in the 1050s enlightened liberals all, the panic was over a decline in social and economic class. "They wanted a comfortable place for the upper class to live," said Spicer, the preservationist. "They didn't want only black families, or all black families, but black families of the right sort were welcomed." The neighborhood's famous racial harmony is the result. The comedian (and later movie director) Mike Nichols, who got his start in a club on the old 55th Street, defined Hyde Park liberalism for all time: "Black and white, marching arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder against the poor."

Right out of college, Barack Obama placed himself in the middle of this curious legacy. Culturally, he's never been a "South Sider," because no one on the south side thinks of Hyde Park as a South Side neighborhood [plenty do...] It's an anomaly that the writer and cultural critic Andrew Partner, a native Hyde Parker of which there are many], tried to explain to me as we drove around the neighborhood one day.

"There's a certain wariness toward Hyde Park among South Side blacks, most of whom are poor," he said. "If you're from another neighborhood, you might go to Hyde Park on the weekends. But there's a word, sadiddy. It means you think maybe you're better than you are. Pretentious. That's the sort of the view of Hyde Park. It's too weird, too far out side what most of Chicago knows.

This had consequences for Obama's political future. Most successful African-American politicians in Chicago came up through the Democratic big-city political machine -- either the old machine of Richard J. Daley or the gentler version overseen by his son, the current mayor, Richard M. Daley. Even Harold Washington, now canonized as the greatest of Chicago reformers, was machine-made. By contrast, politicians from Hyde Park, white or black, actively opposed the machine and the headlock it had on the city's politics. "Politically," wrote the Chicago political analyst David Fremon, "Hyde Park has never joined the city." Obama is a politician of Hyde Park pedigree, outside the normal bloodlines of Chicago's black politics.

"When Barack announced for president," Patner told me, "it was a total ho-hum in the black community"--beyond Hyde Park, that is. "It just wasn't a big deal." A political rival, State Senator Donne Trotter, put it this way in an interview with the Chicago Reader: Barack is viewed in part to be a white man in blackface in our community. You just have to look at his supporters. Who pushed him to get where he is so fast? It's these individuals in Hyde Park, who don't always have the best interests of the community in mind."

"That's one of the downsides to his background, coming up outside normal channels," Patner went on. "He's always had to prove himself with the black community. He never had that seal of approval. But there are upsides, too."

One upside is that Obama, the Hyde Parker, was automatically more appealing -- and less threatening -- to white liberals, in Hyde Park and beyond. The other upside, said Patner, is that "because he came up through Hyde Park instead of the machine, he stayed clear of all the corruption that's involved with that."

By Chicago standards, Obama's sweetheart real estate deals with the convicted fixer Tony Rezko -- who purchased the to next to the house Obama was buying, effectively giving him a bigger yard for free-- is almost beneath comment: a cost of doing business or a small professional benefit, typical of machne-backed pols and reformers alike. None of the progressive politicos I spoke with in Hyde Park considered it dismaying -- "disappointing," as one oldtimer said, but hardly disqualifiying. Most found in Obama instead a mint-perfect expression of their particular brand of politics.

"Barack is perfect for the neighborhood!" Rabbi Arnold Wolf told me, when I stopped by his Hyde Park house one afternoon for a talk. He's as round and white-bearded as a Santa, with the same twinkle. He came to Hyde Park before urban renewal and saw its effects firsthand. For 25 years he led the congregation at KAM Isaiah Israel, a synagogue across the street from Obamas' mansion. (Recently, the Secret Service contingent has been using its bathrooms.)

"You can't say Barack's a product of Hyde Park. He's not really from here. But everybody saw the potential early on. We had a party for him at our house when he was just starting, back in the Nineties. I said right away, "Here's a guy who could sell our product, and sell it with splendor!"

I asked him what the Hyde Park product was. "People think we're radicals her, wild-eyed!" he said. Bill Ayers -- I know Bill Ayers very well. Bill Ayers is an aging, toothless radical. A pussycat. And his wife, too. I sat on a commission with his wife a few years ago. My god, she was more critical of the left than I was! The two of them, they're thoroughly conventional, just very nice, well-educated people from the neighborhood."

As it happened, I'd spent the evening before reading Ayers' blog, and lingered over a manifesto he posted in early April, after his friendship with Obama became national news. "I've never advocated terrorism," Ayers wrote, "never participated in it, never defended it. The U.S. government, by contrast, does it routinely and defends the use of it in its own cause consistently." Capitalism, he went on, "is exhausted as a force for progress; built on exploitation, theft, conquest, war, and racism, capitalism and imperialism must be defeated adn a world revolution-- a revolution against war and racism and materialism, a revolution based on human solidarity adn love," and so on. Just another guy in the neighborhood.

But back to the product Obama could sell? "The thing is, it's not what you might think," Rabbi Wolf said. "It's not radical, its' not extreme. It's rational, progressive philosophy based on experience. You see it here. this neighborhood is genuinely integrated. We did it here, we really did it! Not just talk about it. Look around. And Barack and his family fit right in. This is their neighborhood."

As he walked me to the door he mused about the urban renewal that created the new Hyde Park. He said he he'd always been ambivalent about it. "Even at the time, you could see the university was saving us, and it was destroying us," he said. "it was keeping us afloat, but it was also taking away old characteristics, the old buildings, the old trees, the old roots. But it made the neighborhood different, unique. you notice there's no class conflict here." He twinkled. "That's because there's only one class-- upper!"

The irony would be funny if it weren't so jarring: Black America, after 400 years of enforced second-class status, offers the country a plausible presidential candidate, and what's the charge made against him? He's an elitist.

Hyde Park may be partly responsible. Obama does show signs of having imbibed its view of America beyond the moat. David Mendell, in his indispensable biography Obama: From Promise to Power, quotes a co-worker of Obama: "[Obama] always talked about the New Rochelle train, the trains that took commuters to and from New York City, and he didn't want to be on one of those trains every day. The image of a life, not a dynamic life, of going through the motions. ...That was scary to him." In his own memoir, Obama depicts his mother fleeing the "smugness and hypocrisy" of her small Midwestern town -- a town that Obama visited for the first time this year, campaigning. Only a lack of familiarity with the benign flow of middle-class American life could inspire cliches like these.

"I never had roots growing up," Obama has often said. It's the theme of his life, as he himself tells the story. He even wrote a book, a small masterpiece, about his tortured attempts to locate himself in the larger world. From Hawaii to Indonesia nd back to Hawaii, then to Los Angeles adn Manhattan and Cambridge, Mass., and finally to Hyde Park: He's never lived in a part of the country that's like 90 percent of the rest of the country. This struck me one afternoon when I drove from Obama's house to Trinity United Church of Christ, the now-controversial church where he worshipped for nearly 20 years. It's a long drive, 30 minutes or moe. Whether you take the freeway or the surface streets, the route jolts you from the manicured quiet of Hyde Park through one bombed-out neighborhood after another. Then you arrive at Trinity, hard against the roaring freeway, at the edge of a district of blond-brick bungalows, some tidy and trim, others obscured by weeds, the shutters off their hinges. After services, Obama would get the family back in the car and go home.

Hyde Park's the neighborhood he returned to, the place he'd chosen to live, and its roots were torn out 50 years ago. A college town, it has all the churning and transience the phrase implies. Everyone seems from somewhere else. The Armours, the Swifts, and all the other first families of Chicago left long ago [not entirely true]. The working men and their families, who replaced them, were driven out by the university. The poor were secured at a safe distance. Inside, harmony reigned between black and white residents, but the whites drawn by the university were often here only temporarily, and the blacks who moved here have the same sense of displacement, even if they arrived from another neighborhood nearby.

This is the perfect place for a man without an identity to make one of his own choosing.


From The New York Times, "The Long Run" by Jo Becker and Christopher Drew

When Judson H. Miner invited a third-year Harvard Law School student named Barack Obama to lunch at the Thai Star Cafe in Chicago before his 1991 graduation, Mr. Miner thought he was recruiting the 29-year-old to work for his boutique civil rights law firm. Instead, Mr. Obama recruited him. Mr. Obama made it clear that he was less interested in a job than in learning the political lay of the land from a man who had served at the right hand of the city's first black mayor, Harold Washington. Mr. Miner, who has helped with the historic 1983 election of Mr. Washington and served as his corporation counsel, proved a willing tutor.

The confident younger man "cross-examined" Mr. Miner about how Mr. Washington had managed to emerge from an election riven by bigotry to form a governing coalition in which he "got along with all these different types of folks," Mr. Miner recalled.

Mr. Obama, who had spent time in Chicago as a community organizer in the 1980s and already knew he wanted to run for office, openly weighed the pros and cons of working for the law firm. On the one hand it was beloved by many of the city's liberal and black leaders for its work on issues like voting rights and housing equality. On the other hand, the firm had clashed with Chicago's powerful mayor, Richard M. Daley, who presided then and now over the city's sprawling Democratic organization.

"During the course of our talking, it came out that people who knew he was having lunch with me were trying to convince him that this was the worst place for him to go. He shared t his with me - he was amused," Mr. Miner said, laughing. "This isn't where you land if you want to curry favor with the Democratic power structure."

It was, however, exactly where an aspiring politician might land if he happened to want to run for office from Hyde Par, a neighborhood with long history of electing reform-minded politicians independent of the city's legendary Democratic power structure. Mr. Obama chose to put down roots in the neighborhood after graduating law school and marrying Michelle Robinson, a Chicago native and fellow lawyer.

A tight-knit community that runs through the South Side, Hyde Park is a liberal bastion of integration in what is other wise one of the nation's most segregated cities. Mayor Washington had called it home, as did whites who marched with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. land wealthy black entrepreneurs a generation removed from the civil rights battles of the 1960s.

At its heart is the University of Chicago; at its borders are poor, predominately black neighborhoods blighted by rundown buildings and vacant lots. For Mr. Obama, who was born in Hawaii to a white Kansan mother and an African father and who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, it was a perfect fit.

"He felt completely comfortable in Hyde Park," said Martha Minow, his former law professor and a mentor. "It's a place where you don't have to wear a label on your forehead. You can go to a bookstore and there's the homeless person and there's the professor."

Mr. Obama quickly grounded himself in the community. He led a successful drive that registered nearly 150,000 black voters for the 1992 campaign. He became a part-time professor at the University of Chicago Law School. And, in 1993, he finally decided to join the law office of Miner, Barnhill & Galland.

The choice sent a signal that Mr. Obama was "allying himself with the independents, which is what you have to be if you're going to be elected from the Hyde Park area," said Don Rose, a longtime Democratic political consultant.


Power comes to Hyde Park. Crain's Chicago Business, November 17, 2008

By Steven R. Strahler, November 10, 2008.

Hyde Park, a neighborhood that sets itself studiously apart, soon will be shoved into the international spotlight.

With local resident Barack Obama headed for the White House, the South Side home to such disparate institutions as the University of Chicago and Sister Rose Garrett's Kilimanjaro International craft shop confronts the unappetizing prospect of going mainstream. An enclave that nurtures its outsider sensibility, treasures its political independence and prizes its ethnic diversity now will be known globally as the home base of the world's most powerful an.

In other words, Hyde Park is fated to become identified with something many in the neighborhood have long fought: the established order.

"My guess is, it won't sit particularly comfortably," says Obama neighbor David Vitale, a former banker adn Chicago Public Schools executive. "When you own it, it's different than if you're pecking at it."

Hyde Prk will gain cachet as a place to live, but at the cost, some Hyde Parkers fear, of becoming a version of Lincoln Park, with more Starbucks, Gaps and residential teardowns.

"The Obama Water Park? No! People haven't thought enough about (commercialization), and maybe they should," says Ruth Knack, president of the Hyde Park Historical Society [who tells this writer she said nothing of the kind].

Other residents are unsettled by the notion of Mr. Obama's election boosting the city's chances of hosting the 2016 Olympics, which would transform the borders of Hyde Park like nothing else since the U of C campus emerged from the 1893 Columbian Exposition. "I've said I'm going to boycott" the Olympics, says 100-year-old former Alderman and Obama supporter Leon Despres.

Not everyone shares Mr. Despres' worries. "I don't see anything but good news for Hyde Park," says Robert Fogel, a U of C economics professor and Nobel Prize winner who says a for-sale sign lasted only two weeks on a house on his block, not far from Mr. Obama's "It's nice to have as one of your neighbors the president of the United States."

Margie Smigel, a principal with MetroPro Corp. who brokered the sale of Mr. Obama's property nearly 20 years ago, says local property values will benefit from the neighborhood's new status. "It will give 'permission' -- 'Oh, Obama lives there,'" she says of the thinking of potential buyers who previously would not have considered Hyde Park.

Other economic benefits could follow as tourists find their way into the neighborhood. While nobody expects Hyde Park to turn into an urban Crawford, Texas, or Plains, Ga., some local businesses are ready to cash in on its proximity to power.

Kilimanjaro, International, which sells African antiques, fabrics and fine art from a storefront on 53rd Street, capitalized on the Obama phenomenon by hiring workers to produce Obama-related merchandise. "He's already creating jobs," owner [Sister Rose] Garrett says. Her shop, though, is an example of the one-of-a-kind Hyde Park retailer that might be at risk from neighborhood gentrification. Earlier th is year, it moved from a U of C-owned parcel down the street that the university has attempted to redevelop for six years.

Local aldermen are ambivalent about the U of C's performance as landlord and divided about how Hyde Park's heightened visibility will affect it. "The University's actions and non-actions are separate from the election of Barack Obama," says Alderman Toni Preckwinkle (4th), while Alderman Leslie Hairston (5th) says, "I just think it will speed things up." University officials did not return phone calls.

It's not clear how often Mr. Obama and his family will return to Hyde Park. Many neighbors already are up in arms about security measures that have blocked streets and alleys near the Obama house.

Hans Morsbach, who has owned Medici restaurants in Hyde Park since 1962, says that while there could be an Obama effect on his business, "I'm not counting on it."

Then there's the possibility that Hyde Park's close-up will reveal fault lines in it self-image. "Yeah, white folks and black folks live on the same block, but they ain't talking to each other," said the Rev. Jesse Brown of the First Baptist Church of Chicago, three blocks from Mr. Obama's house.

[Comments posted to the article include an objection to accusation by Rev. Brown the whites and blacks don't talk to each other, a nostalgic recollection by a former but frequently returning Hyde Parker that despite all that's gone, he still loves the Hyde Park that remains-- and hopes it doesn't morph into what he says Evanston has homogenized into.] Top


Diversity is.... Open Produce store

From 5th Ward Report, autumn 2008

Beginning in late September, people passing 1635 E. 55th St. during the evening might have gotten quite a surprise--the brightly lit and painted new Open Produce with customers shopping inside. Beyond featuring healthy food, the proprietors envision adding value to their environment.

"We live next door," explains Andrews Cone, who launched Open Produce with Stephen Lucy. Both are recent University of Chicago graduates with roots in Hyde Park. "We felt the area needed a place like this, especially one with these hours." The store is open every day rm 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. [except Wednesdays?]

Cone acknowledges some residents have warned him about security issues. "We're not concerned. We believed having businesses open later at night helps keep the neighborhood safer. It helps create a community presence and energy, so people aren't running inside when it gets dark. They should have the convenience of being able to pop in if they need an onion or some lettuce-- at affordable prices, with friendly service."

The small storefront market caters particularly to vegans, vegetarians and those desiring organic and natural dry goods. It also carries spices and sauces used in Chinese and Indian dishes, as well as fresh bakery goods from the Medici restaurant and New York City Bagel Deli. "What's striking about Hyde Park, as compared to other parts of the city, is that there are lots of different people who actually mingle." notes Cone. "We want our products to appeal to that cross section and for them to feel comfortable here."


Hyde Park's Big Test. Or What's wrong and right with Hyde Park

From Time Out Chicago, March 2010.

Its residents, one of whom runs the free world, are among the smartest in the country. It sits on prime lakeside real estate and boasts gorgeous historic architecture. Hyde Park has all the trappings of a commercial star, so why is it a veritable retail and entertainment wasteland? And is salvation finally around the corner?
By John Slania. Photographs by Michelle Nolan

Read more:

The Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop in Hyde Park prospered for almost 15 years, offering heaping servings of fried catfish, jambalaya and hot cornmeal biscuits called Johnny cakes. Its colorful, low-country decor and Cajun menu even inspired Hyde Park favorite son Barack Obama to rave about the restaurant on a “lost tape” episode of WTTW-TV’s Check, Please!

“Those Johnny cakes, they’ll get you early,” Obama says on the episode, which aired in January 2009, shortly before his inauguration as President.

Six months later, Dixie Kitchen closed, but not for lack of business. It was forced out of its home in the Harper Court Shopping Center because its landlord, the University of Chicago, had plans to redevelop the center and refused to renew the lease.

“That was definitely a shock, especially coming after the Obama review,” says Sheridan Simon, a former general manager at Dixie Kitchen who now works at sister restaurant Calypso (also in Harper Court; its lease runs out in 2012). “We didn’t want to leave.”

Over the past year, a number of other restaurants and small retailers have been forced out of Harper Court, so that today, the shopping center at 53rd Street west of Lake Park Avenue is blighted by vacant storefronts and boarded-up buildings.

Hyde Park was where scientists invented the Bomb. This part of town looks bombed out.

The few survivors at Harper Court, among them Dr. Wax Records, Fairy Nails and Launder Koin Laundromat, will soon join other ousted businesses to make way for a $250 million mixed-use development of stores, a movie theater, restaurants, condominiums, offices and a hotel.

It is here where Hyde Park’s untidy past intersects with its uncertain future. Hyde Park and the adjoining Kenwood neighborhood long have boasted assets such as a top-tier university, world-class museums, historic architecture, numerous arts and cultural offerings, and a breathtaking view of Lake Michigan. But the neighborhood lacks a vibrant shopping-and-entertainment district. The restaurant choices are limited, the nightlife is dominated by dive bars and the neighborhood can’t even attract—gasp!—a Gap (or even shops with more indie cred).

Civic and business leaders hope the new Harper Court, expected to break ground in 2011, will be a game changer. “This project will be a catalyst for economic development, and I think will set a new model for future development in the area,” says Democratic nominee for Cook County Board president Ald. Toni Preckwinkle, whose 4th Ward includes part of Hyde Park and Kenwood. “It’s not just Hyde Park that needs this, but the surrounding neighborhoods on the South Side that rely on Hyde Park for shopping and entertainment.”

While there is still a strong preservationist movement in Hyde Park-Kenwood, even staunch opponents of development seem resigned to the idea that something needs to be done to rejuvenate the area. “The best way to grow is incrementally: plant a garden and slowly grow things, as opposed to something sudden, massive and stunning. But it may be too late to do an incremental development,” says Jack Spicer, a long-time Hyde Park resident and preservation activist.

Whether the Harper Court redevelopment can be called sudden, massive or stunning is unclear, but it certainly can be considered the epicenter of the area’s economic development, if simply by virtue of its location. Its position on 53rd Street is in the middle of Hyde Park-Kenwood, roughly bounded by 47th Street to the north, 63rd Street to the south, Lake Michigan to the east and Cottage Grove Avenue to the west.

But 53rd Street isn’t the only place where shopping and entertainment opportunities are scant: Vacant storefronts or undeveloped properties dot the neighborhood’s other commercial corridors like missing teeth, mainly 47th, 55th and 57th streets and Lake Park Avenue. Long-standing barriers to attracting businesses to Hyde Park hamper development. Merchants and restaurateurs court the bourgeoisie who live in the stately mansions, but the students are decidedly more bohemian. Thus, there aren’t enough people with spending power. Outsiders often are reluctant to travel to Hyde Park, in part because the nearby Loop has so much to offer, and because of the South Side’s rough reputation. And setting up shop in Hyde Park frequently requires navigating a difficult obstacle course represented by the University of Chicago, which is the largest landowner; the two local aldermen, who have near-absolute power on zoning matters; and a strong preservationist movement.

Right now, however, the biggest problem is the recession. It has been troubling for retail and entertainment enterprises, and particularly for the handful of upscale restaurants in Hyde Park, including La Petite Folie (1504 E 55th St, 773-493-1394). “We’ve made a lot of personal sacrifices to keep the business going,” says Mike Mastricola, who owns the French restaurant with his wife, Mary, the executive chef. The couple, both University of Chicago graduates, opened it in 1999 to favorable reviews and mixed economic results. “If we had any sense, we would have just opened a pizza place,” Mike says.

The weak economy also has stalled attempts to fill vacant stores, rehab buildings and develop vacant lots. Consider the state of limbo of MAC Property Management Inc., which owns more than 70 buildings in Hyde Park. The company has plans to redevelop the tired and partially vacant Lake Village Shopping Center at 51st Street and Lake Park Avenue, and refurbish two historic hotels—the Del Prado and the Shoreland—into residential properties with some restaurant and retail space. Additionally, it’s planning to build Solstice on the Park, a “green” condominium development designed by noted local architect Jeanne Gang. But progress on each project has been slowed by the recession.

“This is a difficult time for any developer. Lenders are much more demanding about how many tenants you have lined up before they’ll give you money,” says Peter Cassel, MAC’s director of community development in Hyde Park. “When the economy improves, we do believe there will be demand for these products,” Cassel continues. “From our perspective, Hyde Park needs more residences. It needs more people coming to work here. It needs more shopping and restaurants.”

Remove the economy from the equation and inherent obstacles to attracting new businesses remain. It begins with demographics. Almost 50,000 people live in Hyde Park-Kenwood, and nine months each year, it’s home to 14,000 University of Chicago students. The university and its medical center employ about 12,000 people, of which 60 percent live in the neighborhood. The average household income is $62,500.

On paper, such an educated, well-heeled population would seem to be a big draw for commercial enterprises. But many established Hyde Park business owners say there aren’t enough residents in the neighborhood. In commercial real–estate terminology, this is called lack of density.

“National retail chains have certain [demographic] targets they look at. In Hyde Park, there isn’t enough depth to the market,” says Steve Soble, president of Spare Time Inc., which operates Seven Ten Lanes & Lounge (1055 E 55th St, 773-347-2695), a trendy bowling alley, billiards hall and lounge. Soble also believes there aren’t enough affluent residents to support more upscale restaurants, and that establishments serving low-priced food and drink, like his bowling alley, or dive bars like Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap or Falcon Inn, tend to fare better. At Jimmy’s, for example, college students, professors and construction workers drink in harmony, attracted by the $2.50 draft beers and $2.25 hamburgers. “What college kids want is different from what people want who live in houses where Obama lives,” Soble says.

Finally, Soble thinks Hyde Park is too close to downtown: A 20-minute ride by car or Metra Electric train, or a half hour on a CTA bus transports residents to some of the best restaurants, clubs and stores in the nation. This theory is supported by the habits of many University of Chicago students, including Supriya Sinhababu, 21, a senior geography major and editor of the campus newspaper, The Chicago Maroon. On weekends, Sinhababu is more apt to hang out in Lincoln Park or Wicker Park than in the Pub, the iconic watering hole on campus. “Hyde Park doesn’t feel as happening as downtown or Lincoln Park,” Sinhababu says. “We don’t have a clothing store. There are no 24-hour places to hang out, except for the Dunkin’ Donuts.”

Some longtime residents may not be as interested in the nightlife, but they find other shortcomings in the neighborhood. “You have to go downtown for clothing. Furniture? Forget it. You have to go to the suburbs…. We recently had to replace a major appliance and we had to drive to Abt in Glenview. You have to mount a polar expedition,” says Michael Conzen, 66, a professor of geography at the University of Chicago and a resident for four decades.

The same holds true for visitors to Hyde Park-Kenwood. The No. 1 attraction is the Museum of Science and Industry, with about 1.5 million annual visitors. But local merchants report that few visitors—especially suburbanites in SUVs—stray off the beaten path: from Lake Shore Drive to the museum parking lot, and back home again.

Some are scared off by the crime-ridden history of the South Side. While the University of Chicago boasts on its website that Hyde Park-Kenwood has one of the lower crime rates in the city, the same isn’t true for the surrounding neighborhoods. For example, Washington Park, on the western edge of Hyde Park, was recently ranked as the second most dangerous neighborhood in America, according to a study of FBI crime statistics.

“Hyde Park is kind of an island. But it suffers from being on the South Side. The mantra for outsiders is: ‘I’m not going there, it’s on the South Side,’” says urbanologist Max Grinnell, a University of Chicago graduate and author of “Images of America: Hyde Park, Illinois,” a study of urban renewal in the neighborhood.

Some Hyde Park businesses were hoping President Obama would help draw visitors to his neighborhood, but he doesn’t seem to have any coattails to ride (maybe his sagging approval rating is to blame?). Table 37 at Mellow Yellow restaurant (1508 E 53rd St, 773-667-2000) was a regular morning meeting place for Obama and his election team in 2008. Photos of Obama and his family adorn the walls. But few patrons even talk about it now. “This place caters to locals. I don’t get any tourists asking about Obama,” says owner Tad Garcia.

Despite the neighborhood’s shortcomings as a popular destination, a few restaurant and retail chains have taken a chance on Hyde Park—and met with some success. Bar Louie Tavern & Grill (5500 S Shore Dr, 773-363-5300) opened in 2007, and except for a brief shuttering for a failed city health inspection, has done steady business. Treasure Island Foods (1526 E 55th St, 773-358-6400) opened in 2008, giving the South Side another badly needed grocery option. The neighborhood also has two Starbucks.

Flamboyant restaurateur Jerry Kleiner (33 Club, Carnivale) made a splash in 2008 with the opening of Park 52 (5201 S Harper Ave, 773-241-5200), an American bistro kitty-corner from Harper Court. His arrival was heralded as a sign that big-name restaurants were ready to invest in Hyde Park, but that never materialized. In fact, Kleiner no longer has an interest in Park 52, having sold it to Marc Brooks, a lifelong Hyde Park resident.

“This is no sign that I’ve given up on Hyde Park,” says Kleiner, who in the past has divested interest in his restaurants. “My passion is to create new designs and move on. It’s in capable hands with Marc Brooks.”

Brooks offers the same story line as Kleiner, and maintains that business is steady at Park 52. But he also wishes other upscale restaurants would take the plunge in Hyde Park. “We’re something of a lone fish here. To me, you want a clustering effect: a variety of restaurants that can create some synergy,” Brooks says.

Of course, setting up shop in Hyde Park-Kenwood means a likely encounter with a troika of formidable forces: the University of Chicago, neighborhood activists and the local aldermen—Preckwinkle, whose 4th Ward covers the northern half, and 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston, who oversees the southern portion.

The university is the area’s largest land owner. Beyond its massive campus, the school owns Harper Court, the adjoining boarded-up Hyde Park Theater, the Hyde Park Shopping Center (which houses the Treasure Island), 30 apartment buildings, and a number of abandoned buildings and vacant lots. The University of Chicago became actively involved in local development in the 1950s, during the urban renewal movement. Witnessing rising crime and deteriorating buildings, the university began to purchase and develop properties to improve the quality of the neighborhood.

While some university efforts over the years were successful, its aggressive community involvement also has met its share of criticism. One recent dust-up involved the Doctors Hospital building at 5800 South Stony Island Boulevard, which the university wanted to convert into a hotel in 2008. Local preservationists raised a ruckus because they wanted the historic building preserved. Some residents raised conflict-of-interest charges because the university leased it to hotel developer Bruce White, a University of Chicago Medical Center board member. Others didn’t approve of White’s history of using nonunion labor.

Ald. Hairston tried to mediate. But when discussions between residents, including Jack Spicer, and the university broke down, activists sponsored a referendum to prohibit liquor sales within the precinct where the Doctors Hospital building stands. When the ballot initiative passed by 21 votes in November 2008, it effectively killed the hotel plans.

“There were a lot of objections, and the university did not listen to the objections,” Spicer says. “Instead of the university saying, ‘Gosh, we screwed things up here,’ it insulated itself further from the community.”

These types of confrontations illustrate the often fractious relations between the university and residents. “The University of Chicago’s relationship with the community is an ongoing source of tension,” says Jay Ammerman, president of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, a 60-year-old community organization. “The university tends to hold things closely to its vest. When it’s not open enough, it creates a sense of mistrust.”

While taking its share of lumps, the University of Chicago has tried to take a leadership role in bringing economic development to the neighborhood. “We view our role as a catalyst: What can we do to help the community?” says Steven Kloehn, a university spokesman. “We don’t have to play this role. But this is our neighborhood. We’re another set of residents who would like to see top-quality dining, retail, and all those other things that make Hyde Park a better place to live and work.”

Local politics also makes economic development tricky. In Chicago, all zoning requests must gain the approval of the local alderman, and the Harper Court redevelopment is a prime example of how that works. It began in 2001, when the 53rd Street TIF (tax-increment financing) district was created. In a TIF district, the local property tax base is frozen for basic city services such as schools. As property values rise, the incremental extra taxes are set aside to fund infrastructure improvements and new development.

Ald. Preckwinkle supported the TIF and later announced a partnership between the University of Chicago and the City of Chicago involving the Harper Court redevelopment. The university owns the 128,000-square-foot center and the city owns the adjoining parking lot, all of which will be part of the new mixed-use development, which will benefit from TIF funding.

Critics say TIF districts can become piggy banks for politically connected developers. But Preckwinkle has no qualms about the arrangement. “The university and the city are taking a leadership role to bring about positive change,” she says. “Most of the residents I talk to support bringing high-quality retail and entertainment businesses to the area.”

Even if Preckwinkle’s premise is true, it remains to be seen whether the developer, Vermilion Development Corp. of downstate Danville, can pull it off. Vermilion has built successful mixed-use developments in college towns such as Urbana, Illinois, and Terre Haute, Indiana. The test will be whether a similar project will work in an urban setting.

Plans call for retail, offices and a parking deck to be built first, followed by a hotel and condominiums or apartments. Vermilion believes the project will attract new residents—and further development—to the neighborhood. “The key is to create a [retail and entertainment] tenant mix that appeals both to the neighborhood and the university,” says David Cocagne, president of Vermilion Development.

Interestingly, Cocagne places more faith in the buying power of students than do other developers and businesses familiar with Hyde Park. “We know the demographics of the neighborhood are strong. And you’d be surprised at the discretionary income students have. You need to attract apparel stores, dining, entertainment, a movie theater: things that appeal to everyone.”

If anything, Harper Court is creating buzz. Restaurant designer Kleiner, for one, says he’s excited about the Harper Court development and plans to keep an eye on its progress. “I’m still convinced there’s an untapped market in Hyde Park,” he says. “Who knows, I might even come back there someday.”

What’s keeping in-demand businesses from setting up shop in Hyde Park? We get on the horn with some local and national chains to find out.
By Jake Malooley. Photographs by Andrew Nawrocki.

THE PLEA “We need a bigger variety of restaurants. There are a few good spots down here, but a greater selection of nice restaurants would be much appreciated.” —Richard Grayer, 58
THE RESPONSE “We don’t necessarily like being a pioneer in an area,” says Kevin Boehm, who heads the BOKA Restaurant Group along with Rob Katz. BRG is rooted in well-traveled restaurant territory: Lincoln Park (BOKA, Landmark), Old Town (Perennial) and the West Loop (the forthcoming Stephanie Izard restaurant Girl & the Goat). “We’ve never looked at Hyde Park,” he says. “Sometimes when you get out of the range of downtown you lose a lot of income because people aren’t going to travel all that distance. If I’m staying at the James Hotel, Hyde Park probably is not going to be one of my dining options.” But what about the ’hood’s affluent denizens hungry for more-upscale fare? Boehm responds that Hyde Park is ripe for a good neighborhood restaurant. “Nothing against opening up a neighborhood restaurant, but it just limits the potential of how much you can gross,” he explains. “And Rob and I are numbers guys.”

THE PLEA “I’m a grad student at the University of Chicago, so I often end up studying at Starbucks. But Hyde Park needs a coffee shop on 53rd that could be a student hangout. It matters a little bit that I support a local coffee shop.” —Dan Wollrich, 30
THE RESPONSE “Universities are good, but I don’t know if our core customer has historically been students,” says Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea founder Doug Zell. “As much as I love people who come in, buy a cup and work on their laptop for hours, we like a customer who’s more consistent, less transient—someone that would also buy some coffee and brew it at home.” Intelligentsia has three Chicago locations: one in Lakeview, two in the Loop. Over the last two years, Zell opened two cafés in California, with a third on the way. Ironically, Hyde Park, Chicago’s intelligentsia hub, was never on the table. “I just don’t know that much about the neighborhood,” Zell admits. Neighborhoods like Wicker Park and Andersonville, he says, “would match up better with where we’ve found success before.” Another problem is competing with wholesale customers like the two Hyde Park Istria Cafés (both of which are far from campus), which Intelligentsia supplies with beans. Though he has no plans to expand to Hyde Park, Zell breathes a deep sigh, saying what a shame it is for people to be studying at a Starbucks.

THE PLEA “A 24-hour restaurant. We need a greasy-spoon kind of thing where University of Chicago students can go to drink coffee and cram, or eat after going out to a bar.” —Polly Dennison, 20, and Chris Benedik, 28
THE RESPONSE Cathy Guzman owns Golden Nugget Pancake House, the seven-location chain of old-school 24-hour diners that dot the North Side like grease droplets on a paper place mat. When we tell Guzman that the only all-hours food options in Hyde Park are a McDonald’s drive-through and a Dunkin’ Donuts, she gets excited. “Really? Expansion is always something that we want to do,” she says. “The number-one factor is identifying a need. Knowing that there are people out there who don’t want to travel far—it’s almost like saying we’re going to have guaranteed business.” The problem, Guzman says, is recessionomics. “Financially, we can’t do it right now. Hopefully, in the near future we can put a Golden Nugget in the area.”

THE PLEA “I hate the Hawaiian shirts and shit, but Trader Joe’s is kind of awesome. It’d be better than the Treasure Island that we have: It’s junky in there and it’s Whole Foods–expensive.” —Boomer Lowe, 35
THE RESPONSE Trader Joe’s chain founder Joe Coulombe once told Forbes, “I wanted to appeal to the well-educated, like teachers, engineers and public administrators.” If that’s the case, TJ’s, which has locations in North Center, Lincoln Park and River North, could easily be feeding the pointy-heads of the University of Chicago campus and its Medical Center (a population of 21,200, when classes are in session). Yet, Alison Mochizuki, the grocer’s director of national publicity, says expanding to Hyde Park “isn’t in our two-year plan.” Why not, considering the well-heeled neighborhood has an average household income of $62,500—very similar to Lincoln Park and North Center? “You basically want me to give out [our] demographic information, and we don’t disclose details such as that,” explains Mochizuki, who, it’s worth noting, admits she doesn’t know where Hyde Park is. Despite her tight lips, Mochizuki does let slip that a Lakeview store—yep, another North Side outpost—is in the cards for 2011.

THE PLEA “I want somewhere to buy clothes that has cute girl stuff and shoes.” —Ashley Fisher, 23
THE RESPONSE Hip local men’s and women’s clothing boutique chain Akira has been spreading across the city like sartorial kudzu. The miniempire includes ten locations: three in Bucktown, four in Lincoln Park, a downtown shoe store and outposts in Water Tower Place and even Northbrook Court in the ’burbs. Alas, no Hyde Park love. We mention to Akira co-owner Jon Cotay that a Hyde Park location would make it the only major clothier in the ’hood, and that the large student population is an untapped target audience for the store’s trendy threads. “I don’t think the demand is there to support a free-standing business,” says Cotay, who for years has contributed the store’s wares to runway shows organized by the U. of C.’s student fashion org, MODA. “Clothing is not much of a priority for University of Chicago students. Their priorities are more concentrated on schoolwork.” Cotay, who lives in Bucktown, recommends the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce promote the area more because it is “so distanced.” “We don’t get any calls from Hyde Park regarding available spaces. In different parts of the city, we always get e-mail blasts saying, ‘Hey, this building is for lease.’ That’s how we found our new Lincoln Park location.”

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Evanston and Hyde Park sit along Lake Michigan like mirror images on either side of the Loop, and each is home to a world-class university. So why has one boomed while the other struggles? If Hyde Park were to take a page from Evanston’s revitalization playbook, a quick history lesson would be the first order of business.

Kitty-corner to the northern terminus of the Purple Line—the public-transit lifeline of Evanston—sits the gourmet coffee shop Alchemy. For customers’ perusal, the cozy beanery offers yellowed local newspapers from 1947. The novelty lies in looking at the comically outdated ads. For example, a sophisticated lady could pick up a fur coat for $40 at one of downtown Evanston’s many now-defunct department stores—Lytton’s, Marshall Field’s, Lord’s.

By the ’70s and ’80s, America’s suburban mall boom was on. Old Orchard and Lincolnwood Town Center popped up in neighboring Skokie and Lincolnwood, sucking shoppers inland. In 1985, American Hospital Supply Corp., a Fortune 200 firm filling one of Evanston’s largest towers, moved to Deerfield after being bought out. Storefronts sat empty. “People started to ask, would Evanston survive?” remembers Jonathan Perman, executive director of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce. So, the city fought back.

The Evanston Plan Commission, a 13-member city panel of local leaders, spent two years formulating an outline of urban renewal, adopting the 143-page strategy in 1989. “The success was built around substantial public works,” Perman explains. “Those projects sent a message to the private investment community that we were serious.” The infrastructure construction included a rebuilt Davis CTA station, public library, streetscape, and water and sewage systems, all centered around a densely populated, pedestrian-oriented transportation hub. A 1993 zoning ordinance opened the way for high-rises, which led to a unique discovery. “If you position a tall building at just the right angle, you can grant almost every one of your units a lake view,” Perman says. It’s a nifty geographic blessing resulting from Evanston edging out a bit into Lake Michigan.

Evanston’s location and new plan were pure land candy to condo developers. “There are four components to make [a residential building] work,” says Tim Anderson, founder of Focus Development, the firm behind Evanston’s mixed residential and retail towers Sherman Plaza and Church Street Station. “You need entertainment, shopping, dining and parking.”

There are about 2,300 metered on-street spaces and 3,215 parking-deck spots in central Evanston. That’s just one of the many figures, charts, maps and data sets the city offers investors in a new, equally gargantuan reassessment of the downtown plan. Meanwhile, when the question of parking spaces is put to Hyde Park’s two aldermanic offices and its chamber of commerce (which counts one employee, compared to Evanston’s four), we literally get laughs.

Hyde Park lacks the organization of Evanston. It’s understandable, as Hyde Park is just one slice of Chicago’s 50-ward pie, as opposed to a self-reliant city. If a developer wants data on Hyde Park, it’s dealing with two wards and a much larger city government.

Of course, both ’hoods thrive off their academic institutions, but Evanston seems to tap into it more. Evanston’s old Hospital Supply building was refilled with Rotary International’s headquarters and dozens of knowledge-based information-service companies—brainy consulting firms that fish from Northwestern. “They’re here because they can find the talent. Universities are not as susceptible to economic swings,” Perman says. “One day they’re not going to pull up stakes and move to Charlotte, North Carolina

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Go figure
How does Hyde Park stack up against Evanston?
By Brent DiCrescenzo

It’s a bad rap: When North Siders think of Hyde Park, many automatically think higher crime rate. In fact, Hyde Park had the sixth-lowest number of violent crimes out of Chicago’s 25 police districts in 2008—and a lower total than Evanston (albeit in a smaller geographic area). Here are some other numbers that might surprise you.

Percentage of population age 18–34 (2010 projection)
Evanston 34.1
Hyde Park 40.7

Percentage of town/neighborhood owned by the local university
Northwestern/Evanston 5
University of Chicago/Hyde Park 21

Total crimes reported in 2008
Evanston 3,038 (24.4 per capita)
Hyde Park 1,220 (24.3 per capita)

Violent crime incidents in 2008
Evanston 299
Hyde Park 236

Median rent (2010 projection)
Evanston $914
Hyde Park $665

Median family income (2010 projection)
Evanston $105,318
Hyde Park $119,565

Figures from Metro Chicago Information Center,

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We heart Hyde Park
It’s not all gloom and doom in this South Side ’hood. Here are some of the spots that keep the locals in love with Hyde Park.
By Liz Plosser

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Promontory Point
Known as the Point, this peninsula jutting into Lake Michigan offers beautiful views of the downtown skyline, fire pits for barbecuing, room to play Frisbee and a million spots just waiting for you to stretch out a blanket (starting May-ish, of course). It’s a little piece of paradise.

University of Chicago Medical Center
Hyde Park boasts one of the nation’s top-notch hospitals. It not only provides stellar general health care to the neighborhood, it’s also an excellent research institution and home to eight specialties—such as digestive disorders, endocrinology and cancer—that made the top 30 in the nation list in U.S. News & World Report in 2009.

The Robie House
Frank Lloyd Wright called this Hyde Park home “the cornerstone of modern architecture.” One of the last buildings conceived in Wright’s Oak Park studio, it’s considered a prime example of Prairie-school architecture. People come from all over the country to tour the house, but ’hoodies can waltz in any day of the week. 5757 S Woodlawn Ave (708-725-3880,

The lake path
If you’re a runner or a cyclist, then you know how blissfully empty the path is from McCormick Place down to Hyde Park compared with the crowds clogging up the trail on the North Side. And the four-person fountain at 55th Street (with a dog fountain, too) has the best taste, water pressure and temperature in the entire city. Seriously.

Renaissance Society
Free contemporary art. ’Nuff said! Okay, okay, we’ll back it up. Our Art & Design editor, Lauren Weinberg, says it puts on some of the best contemporary art shows in the city, and she loves it for its balance of solo shows for highly respected artists with well-thought-out group shows. 5811 S Ellis Ave (773-702-8670,

Smart Art Museum
Also free! Smart has an impressive permanent collection that spans 5,000 years, as well as temporary shows that often compare with the Art Institute’s and MCA’s small exhibitions. In fact, its H.C. Westermann show was one of Weinberg’s favorites at any museum in 2009. 5550 S Greenwood Ave (773-702-0200,

Hyde Park Art Center
Known for highlighting political and socially conscious art, this free center outfitted with an Istria Cafe engages families and nonprofessional artists with all kinds of workshops and classes. 5020 S Cornell Ave (773-324-5520,

The U. of C.
Gothic architecture, events open to the public, brainiac students and profs: The university ensures HP buzzes intellectually. Did you know our President was a law professor here? Thought so.

Zaleski & Horvath MarketCafé
The grocer-and-sandwich shop stocks its shelves with gourmet groceries (such as the locally produced Nice Cream in flavors like mango-chile). Other don’t-miss items: sandwiches stacked with high-quality ingredients and obscure-yet-delicious cheeses. Take that, Fox & Obel! 1126 E 47th St (773-538-7372,

Oriental Institute
People travel from all over the world to the British Museum to see one of the famous monumental winged-bulls of Khorsabad, but the OI has one from 704 B.C. on display in its huge collection of Middle East objects. And unlike at the Met or British Museum, you get to see some of the greatest things that human hands have created for free, up close—and without elbowing through hordes of tourists. 1155 E 58th St (773-702-9514,

Hyde Park Produce
The new-ish Treasure Island grocery store may have a ton more inventory, but for the best veggies, specialty meats and an everyone-knows-your-name shopping experience, this is the place. 1226 E 53rd St (773-324-7100,

This neighborhood joint does everything right: mellow ambience, affordable menu, a solid brunch, good pizza, out-of-this-world milk shakes, a rooftop patio in the summer—and it’s BYOB (a nice perk for broke students). Bonus: The bakery next door serves up tasty to-go sandwiches, and freshly baked breads and sweets. 1327 E 57th St (773-667-7394,

Freehling Pot & Pan Co
The selection of kitchen odds and ends is right up there with chains like Sur La Table. Extras like bulk tea in the back of the store and great teapots give it some ’hoodie charm. 1365 E 53rd St (773-643-8080).

[James Withrow in Hyde Park Urbanist, says some mighty powerful assets were left out-- DOC Films, Seminary Co-op and the other bookstores, and in bookstores we are among the strongest in the Midwest-- not such a desert after all. And both DOC and Seminary are highly strong and unique.]

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How far from Hyde Park
The distance from the nabe to basic essentials of city life.
By Liz Plosser

6.8 miles HOW FAR HYDE PARKERS HAVE TO TRAVEL FOR… a pair of jeans Looking for some retail therapy? Unless you’re buying gloves at Walgreens, HPers have to head up to Target (1154 S Clark St, 312-212-6300) off Roosevelt Road to purchase jeans/dresses/blouses/[insert random clothing need here].

6.8 miles HOW FAR HYDE PARKERS HAVE TO TRAVEL FOR… a movie Doc Films shows a variety of flicks, but if you want to see new releases when they’re, um, new, go to the ICON Theatre (150 W Roosevelt Rd, 312-564-2104) in the South Loop.

7.1 miles HOW FAR HYDE PARKERS HAVE TO TRAVEL FOR… a good mani True, there are dive options in the ’hood. But if you want a mani that lasts longer than a couple of days, get thee to Daniela’s Day Spa (705 S Dearborn St, 312-583-9100) in Printers Row.

7.3 miles HOW FAR HYDE PARKERS HAVE TO TRAVEL FOR… an above-average dinner La Petite Folie serves up great French food in fancy-ish environs (ignore the strip-mall setting), but if you want a spot that will seat you after 6:30pm, the closest and tastiest option is in Pilsen, at Nightwood (2119 S Halsted St, 312-526-3385).

7.1 miles HOW FAR HYDE PARKERS HAVE TO TRAVEL FOR… an artisanal beer Unless you’re a U. of C. student or faculty member with access to the university pub, you’ll have to trek to Hackney’s (733 S Dearborn St, 312-461-1116) in the South Loop for a solid beer list.

8.9 miles HOW FAR HYDE PARKERS HAVE TO TRAVEL FOR… a wine bar You can order a glass of vino at a few restaurants in the nabe, but oenophiles will need to head north to Swirl Wine Bar (111 W Hubbard St, 312-828-9000) for a full-on tasting experience.

10.4 miles HOW FAR HYDE PARKERS HAVE TO TRAVEL FOR… a pair of running shoes There are bike shops in HP, but for specialty running kicks and gear, you’ll need to drive up to Old Town’s Fleet Feet (1620 N Wells St, 312-587-3338).

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[James Withrow in Hyde Park Urbanist says this litany of distances misses what's brought out in actual measures such as the Walk Score's walkability index. There Hyde Park is 10th among 77! The problem is that of the good places to walk through many are not heavily clustered and there isn't a string of them extending in spokes through adjacent neighborhoods or part of a suite of "strong" neighborhoods on the index, as on the North Side. (The next highest score among neighborhood is Kenwood's 25th, which the present writer finds puzzling what with all the mansions to walk around there.) Withrow says these comparisons also miss the point or HP's great access to public transportation and roads-- 30 minutes or less to the Loop, strong draws to the north of that, and Roosevelt Road isn't bad!)


Chicago Reader, March 4, 2010. The Hyde Park & Kenwood Issue.

"Independent POLITICS Aggressive URBAN RENEWAL. Ambitious ARCHITECTURE. The Birthplace of the BOMB--and CHICAGO THEATER as we know it. More BOOKSTORES than bard. And of course that old 8-00-poubnd gargoyle, the UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

Hyde Park & Kenwood Issue: The 800-Pound Gargoyle
The University of Chicago may not be the only force that shaped Hyde Park and Kenwood, but it's the biggest.
By Deanna Isaacs

Source: Chicago March 4, 2010

Like it or not, you can't think Hyde Park without also thinking University of Chicago. For as long as most of us can remember, this culture-rich south-side lakefront community—extending from 51st Street to Midway Plaisance and Cottage Grove Avenue to the lake—has been more like an elite college town dropped into a big and sometimes alien city than like, say, any of Chicago's ethnic neighborhoods. Both Hyde Park and its neighbor, Kenwood (especially south of 47th Street) have been dominated by the university and—for better or worse—would not be what they are today without it.

Hyde Park's founder was a young lawyer named Paul Cornell. Back in 1853, acting on a tip from Senator Stephen Douglas, he bought 300 acres of swamp, named it after the Hyde Parks he knew in his native New York and in London, and began to develop it as an upscale residential suburb and vacation retreat.

Cornell is the visionary responsible for the great Jackson and Washington parks and the mile-long Midway Plaisance between 59th and 60th streets, which connects them: designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, they became Hyde Park's spectacular east, west, and south borders. He also ensured that his nascent community would have railway service to the city by giving the Illinois Central land for a station. And, perhaps inspired by his brother-in-law John Evans, one of a group that had founded Northwestern University in 1851, he planned for it to have the prestige and stability that would emanate from a resident institution of higher learning. Cornell offered to donate a generous parcel of land if the Presbyterian Church would build its Theological Seminary of the Northwest in Hyde Park.

The Presbyterians refused, and the residential development proceeded without this crowning amenity. But nearly four decades later Cornell's dream came true in a bigger way than even he could have imagined: the University of Chicago opened its doors on Midway Plaisance in 1892, and Hyde Park became the company town of one of the world's truly distinguished universities.

While the University of Chicago is the 800-pound gargoyle, it's not the only major force that shaped Hyde Park's history. First was annexation to Chicago. When Cornell bought his property, Chicago ended at 39th Street. By 1861 his village was part of a township, also named Hyde Park, that extended all the way from the city's southern border to 138th Street. In 1889 the township, which had grown rapidly but lacked adequate public services, voted to become part of Chicago, and the village of Hyde Park, whose residents were better served and mostly opposed annexation, was swept along.

Chosen as the site of the 1893 Columbian Exhibition. Since the arrival in 1869 of a streetcar line that ran along Hyde Park's western border and across 55th Street, the village had grown: smaller homes had sprung up on the west side and a commercial corridor had developed along 55th. But the exhibition was expected to draw an astounding 300,000 visitors daily. Along with those fabulous White City structures (including the Palace of Fine Arts, which survived the fair to become the Museum of Science and Industry), it would spawn a frenzy of hotel, apartment, and commercial building.

At the same time the American Baptist Education Society, which had seen an earlier University of Chicago succumb to financial failure, was starting over in Hyde Park. (The first U. of C., remembered today as Old University of Chicago, was opened by Baptists in 1860 at 34th and Cottage Grove and closed in 1886.) The Gothic towers of the new university—which was spearheaded by the man who would become its first president, William Rainey Harper, and bankrolled by fellow Baptist John D. Rockefeller, neither a part of the earlier school—rose on land donated by Marshall Field along the north side of the Midway. Faculty, staff, and students became resident Hyde Parkers, while Kenwood, a community of handsome mansions on spacious grounds known as the "Lake Forest of the south," was home to business titans like mapmaker William Rand, meatpacker Gustavus Swift, and lumber magnate Martin Ryerson.

Over the next five or six decades the university became a globally recognized hub of intellectual activity, incubating everything from President Robert Maynard Hutchins's Great Books curriculum to the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, pulled off in a bunker under Stagg Field.

But trouble was brewing. After World War II, a robust economy and an acute housing shortage brought greater density and less affluent, more transient residents to outlying neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the restrictive housing covenants that had mostly kept Chicago's growing black population out of areas such as Kenwood and Hyde Park were challenged in court and ruled unconstitutional. As black families began to move beyond the segregated south- and west-side confines they'd been jammed into, whites fled and the physical and economic stability of the affected neighborhoods took a nosedive. Glen Holt and Dominic Pacyga (in 1979's Chicago: A Historical Guide to the Neighborhoods) traced the shift in Kenwood, especially north of 47th Street, which they said residents called Kenwood's "Mason-Dixon line." In 1930 Kenwood's black population was less than 1 percent; by 1950 it was 84.7 percent. As mansions and other single-family homes and apartments were divided into multi-family dwellings, the total population of Kenwood increased from less than 27,000 to nearly 36,000.

Driven by the University of Chicago, Hyde Park and Kenwood responded with urban renewal plans that stripped out older high-density and lower-cost housing and replaced it with modernist, low-density, middle-income row houses and apartments, creating the architectural hodgepodge that characterizes much of the area today. The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, with the stated goal of achieving a "stabilized integrated community of high standards," joined forces with a more economically conservative organization, the university-backed South East Chicago Commission, in a program that took out huge chunks of housing between 57th and 47th streets, pushing out poor people of any color. In the initial phase, according to the university's own account in One in Spirit (a history published by the school for its centennial in 1991), the program razed 47 acres between 52nd and 57th streets—including 22 taverns along 55th—displacing 150 businesses and 1,200 households. The second phase took out 20 percent of the remaining buildings in Hyde Park and south Kenwood and displaced another 4,528 families. One in Spirit quotes something movie director Mike Nichols, a U. of C. alumnus, supposedly said about this process—in Hyde Park "it was blacks and whites united to keep out the poor"—and notes that in terms of its own objectives, it succeeded. In a sea of deteriorating neighborhoods in crisis, Hyde Park became a sort of island: racially mixed, staunchly middle-class, and smarter than any other place on earth. South Kenwood shared the island, while Kenwood north of 47th Street fended for itself and deteriorated. North Kenwood would soon have less in common with south Kenwood, let alone Hyde Park, than with Oakland, the neighborhood just north across 43rd Street—a neighborhood that Pacyga, in his latest book, Chicago: A Biography, says was by 1990 the poorest in the city. Since then, north Kenwood and Oakland have shared in a gentrification movement that according to Pacyga has been largely driven by middle-class African-Americans.

In Cornell's time Chicagoans traveled to Hyde Park for bucolic summer vacations; now it's a five-minute zip down Lake Shore Drive from the Loop to its astounding treasures, from the mammoth Museum of Science and Industry to the mix of Gothic and modern architecture that makes up the still expanding campus, from Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House to the real home of the sitting American president. Today the university, which claims 85 Nobel laureates and 15 MacArthur "geniuses," is Hyde Park's largest landowner and business, with 15,000 students, about the same number of employees (including those at the medical center), and an annual budget of nearly $3 billion. The Court Theatre, Renaissance Society, Smart Museum, and Oriental Institute are all housed on the campus, and nonaffiliated institutions like the DuSable Museum of African American History, the Hyde Park Art Center, and the Little Black Pearl art workshop (on 47th Street) benefit from its proximity, as do the annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival and the venerable 57th Street Art Fair. Hyde Parkers may pause on their way to a Doc Films screening or an Eighth Blackbird concert at Mandel Hall to chafe at the university's immense power (currently on display in another "rehabilitation" project: the razing of the university-owned Harper Court shopping area), but they're nearly all there because of it.

Hyde Park and Kenwood Issue: An Island in the Swamp
For decades now, most of Chicago's political independents have emerged from Hyde Park and Kenwood.
By Ben Joravsky
[Ed. note- Ben's opinions are of course strictly his own. GMO]

Just about everything good to emerge from the miserable swamp of Chicago politics has some connection to the communities lodged roughly in the area between 43rd and 60th streets on the north and south and from the lake to Cottage Grove. It's the birthplace of independent antipatronage politics and one of the few racially integrated neighborhoods in town. The area's divided into two wards, the Fourth and the Fifth, so ambitious activists have twice as many opportunities to rise up the political ranks, and it's home to the University of Chicago, which over the years has launched so many self-serving urban renewal projects and economic development schemes that the locals have gotten really smart about fighting them off. Dozens of savvy politicos and politicians got their chops fighting the University of Chicago, and many of them even went to school there.

This progressive political tradition starts with New Dealers like Fifth Ward aldermen Paul Douglas and Robert Merriam. Douglas made it all the way to the U.S. Senate, and he might have died there if he hadn't supported President Johnson's Vietnam war policy. The lefties in the Democratic Party—Hyde Parkers included—turned against him, voting for Republican Charles Percy in 1966. As a matter of fact, I know some lefties now pushing 90 who still haven't forgiven Douglas.

Next came the independent crusaders of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, led by Leon Despres and Don Rose. Despres was simply the greatest independent alderman in Chicago history; he died last year at 101. He started fighting for open-housing laws and other civil rights causes almost as soon as he became an alderman in 1955, and he kept up his crusade through the tumultuous 1960s, when southwest-siders were hurling rocks at Martin Luther King. In the 20 years he represented the Fifth Ward in the City Council, Despres stood up to old man Daley on issues of patronage (he scoured the budget looking for ghost payrollers), preservation (he unsuccessfully urged the city to fight harder to save historic buildings from demolition), and open space—during a contentious 1970 council debate over the city's proposal to construct a school in Washington Park, Despres argued that public parks shouldn't be turned into construction zones. Daley erupted and called Despres a liar, and the alderman responded by challenging the mayor to a public debate—which Daley ignored, much to the disappointment of Despres.

For his efforts over the years, the Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization named its highest award for public service after him. In fact, it's a shame the IVI-IPO feels obligated to give somebody the award every year, because very few politicians deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Despres. Last year's winners should have been the elected officials—aldermen, county commissioners, state legislators, congressmen, and senators—who, like Despres himself, dared to oppose Mayor Daley's bid to win the 2016 Olympics (which, of course, would have turned several parks into construction zones). Except that there weren't any.

Longtime Hyde Parker Don Rose, meanwhile, served as press secretary for King when the civil rights leader brought the movement to Chicago in 1965 and 1966, and he also advised independent political candidates. In 1979 Rose orchestrated Jane Byrne's stunning triumph over Mayor Michael Bilandic and what was left of the first Daley machine. During the campaign, Rose encouraged Byrne to rail against aldermen Eddie Vrdolyak and Ed Burke, calling them an "evil cabal." Unfortunately, once in office Byrne cut a deal with them, allowing Vrdolyak to remain chairman of the important building and zoning committee and Burke to keep chairing the police committee.

But Rose got his revenge. In 1983 he helped fellow Hyde Parker Harold Washington defeat Byrne. Washington, Chicago's first and only black mayor, had actually grown up in Bronzeville and got his start in the Third Ward, but he eventually moved to Hyde Park. His fund-raisers and rallies were emceed by music impresario Sid Ordower, whose booming voice gave him the air of a ringside boxing announcer, calling out all "the champions of justice" in attendance.

In 1987 a Rose protege, native New Yorker and U. of C. grad David Axelrod, helped Washington win reelection. Alas, after Washington died, Axelrod went over to the other side, becoming one of Richard M. Daley's chief strategists and spokesmen. Later, of course, he had a thing or two to do with that Obama fellow getting elected president.

Despres and Rose were allied with many of the city's greatest civil rights and political leaders, all from Hyde Park or Kenwood, such as Al Raby (an aide to King and Washington), Marshall Patner (one of Despres' earliest campaign managers), John McDermott (founder of the Chicago Reporter and, coincidentally, the person who gave me my first job), and state senator Richard Newhouse. Newhouse should have been elected mayor in 1975, but former alderman Billy Singer, running as an independent, siphoned off the north lakefront vote, thus allowing old man Daley to win again. Singer went on to become a zoning lawyer. If you can't beat 'em.

Hyde Park also produced hordes of election-rule lawyers and political strategists such as Sam Ackerman, David Cantor, Louis Silverman, Alan Dobry, Lois Dobry—the list goes on and on. They helped launch the careers of Carol Moseley Braun, who in 1992 became the first African-American woman to serve in the U.S. Senate, and Fourth Ward alderman Toni Preckwinkle, who just won the Democratic primary for Cook County Board president.

Of course, not everyone from the area has been a progressive. In the 1960s former Fourth Ward alderman Claude Holman was the anti-independent Boss Daley used to call on to mock and try to intimidate Despres whenever the mayor thought he was getting too uppity with his civil rights legislation. Holman was also a key member of what became known as the "Silent Six"—the half-dozen black aldermen who, in deference to Daley, helped thwart Despres' civil rights initiatives in the 1960s.

Fifth Ward Democratic committeeman and former city treasurer Marshall Korshak also lived in the neighborhood. In 1969 Korshak rallied city and county workers on behalf of a couple of candidates for delegate to the Illinois Constitutional Convention, prompting Michael Shakman to file his famous lawsuit against the patronage system. Shakman, then living in Hyde Park and contending for one of the convention delegate spots, claimed it was unconstitutional for party bosses like Korshak to compel government workers to campaign for the party's candidates.

Korshak's brother, Sidney Korshak, made his own name as a lawyer for the mob. When he died in 1996, the New York Times wrote: "It was a tribute to Sidney Korshak's success that he was never indicted despite repeated federal and state investigations."

And then there was Fifth Ward alderman Larry Bloom, who, as Rose puts it, "is our only jailbird." In 1998 Bloom pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns as part of Operation Silver Shovel, an FBI investigation into bribery at City Hall. Hey, no neighborhood's perfect.

And speaking of imperfections, Bernie Epton also hailed from Hyde Park. He's the moderate Republican state rep who ran as the Great White Hope against Washington in the 1983 mayoral election. I interviewed Epton not long before he died in 1987, and he was still bitter about his Hyde Park neighbors, black and white, having deserted him in the election. Epton used to belong to KAM Isaiah Israel, a reform synagogue on Hyde Park Boulevard. But after KAM's rabbi began bashing President Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s, Epton left the congregation in protest.

The rabbi? Why, he was the great Arnie Wolf. He was my go-to source for information about black-Jewish relations. Whenever I called him he'd tell me that what he had to say was too important to say over the phone, so I'd schlep down to his synagogue and meet him in his book-lined office, where he'd proceed to tell me one great story after another about everything from marching with Dr. King to having James Baldwin (he called him Jimmy) stay at his house. The man must have had a million friends. Rabbi Wolf died in December 2008—too soon for me, but he stuck around long enough to see one of his old friends (and neighbors) get elected president.

President Obama moved to Hyde Park when he got out of Harvard Law School in 1991. It's where he first sought office, running unopposed for the state senate after he bumped incumbent Alice Palmer from the ballot over nominating-petition irregularities. You might say the president learned fast how to make his way in Chicago politics—I don't think he learned that stuff in Hawaii.

For better or worse, Obama set the current model for local elected officials: talk a big game about reform but stay out of fights with Mayor Daley. In my humble opinion, we could use a few more outspoken independents like Despres and Newhouse. But the current generation of Hyde Park pols—state senator Kwame Raoul, state rep Will Burns, and Fifth Ward alderman Leslie Hairston—favors the Obama approach. They've—oh, how to put this—made their peace with the mayor.

You can't completely give up on them, though. Harold Washington didn't make his big break from the machine until 1977, when he was 55 years old. Raoul, Burns, and Hairston aren't even in their 50s. Perhaps there's hope for them yet.


Hyde Park & Kenwood Issue: Beyond Robie House
A tour of some of the neighborhoods' lesser-known architectural gems
By Tim Samuelson

People who live in Hyde Park and Kenwood have never been afraid to speak their minds or, when they build, to raise eyebrows. As a result, their neighborhoods are studded with remarkable buildings, and even the landscape has a distinguished pedigree: the guiding spirit of Frederick Law Olmsted hangs over the area's two great parks, Washington and Jackson.

Some of the buildings are iconic—for instance, Frank Lloyd Wright's ground-hugging Robie House (1910), which stands nearly in the shadow of another icon, Bertram Goodhue's soaring Rockefeller Chapel (1928). And there's the Museum of Science and Industry, the former Palace of Fine Arts and the only structure that survives from the 1893 Columbian Exposition, which Olmsted conjured up with Daniel Burnham.

But those are the names and places everyone knows. Here are buildings that tell little-known tales of strong-willed clients and architects to match.

Robert and Harriet Herrick House
5735 S. University (1900)

The Unhappy Professor: Actually Robert Herrick was not one of those clients. By most accounts he was an unhappy man who always regretted his move from MIT to the University of Chicago in 1893. When not in the classroom as a professor of English and rhetoric, he wrote bitter novels that depicted his new city as a place of sham, shame, and greed.

Herrick dreamed of a traditional English Tudor home for his family, but he was thwarted by Chicago's predilection for creative nonconformity. Rather than hire an architect comfortable with the styles of the past, Herrick for some reason engaged Hugh M.G. Garden, an advocate for Chicago's emerging modern design movement. Instead of picturesque gables and pointed arches, Garden presented the Herrick family with a flat, boxy brick design in which the only traditional elements were the wooden shutters that flanked the upper-story windows in front.

Herrick wanted brick from Boston, and that's where it came from, and perhaps the shutters were another concession to the client. But against Garden's hard-edged geometry they were also a modernist touch decades ahead of its time: as the Herricks opened and closed their shutters, the front of their home became an ever-changing composition of random patterns.

Letters survive in which Herrick grumbles about his house, and his feelings are suggested by the unflattering depiction of architects and builders in his 1904 novel, The Common Lot. But today, even missing its signature shutters, the Herrick House seems as contemporary as ever among its street's more traditional dwellings of similar vintage.

St. Thomas the Apostle Church
5472 S. Kimbark (1924)

The Progressive Priest vs. the Passionate Architect: When Hyde Park's St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic church decided it needed larger quarters in the early 1920s, the building that resulted was far from the usual fare of Gothic arches, soaring steeples, and baroque shrines. Under the leadership of the Reverend Thomas Vincent Shannon, the church secured the services of architect Barry Byrne, whose passion for creative architecture was fanned while he was a young draftsman in Frank Lloyd Wright's Oak Park studio. Byrne was a devout Roman Catholic strongly committed to bringing church architecture into the modern age.

His conception for St. Thomas proved to be a milestone in contemporary Catholic church design. On the streetscape it conveyed reverence and respect, with a solid-looking presence that drew the eye upward to the heavens. Yet at the same time it celebrated its identity as a building of brick—with flat walls, ziggurat corners, and an overall sense of unadorned craftsmanship. The plain brick walls merged into fluid borders of terra cotta created in collaboration with Byrne's friend and longtime artistic collaborator, Alfonso Iannelli. Windows were given the soft, crimped edges of a hand-formed pie crust, and the church met the heavens with a row of upwardly extending finials that interlocked with the sky.

But Byrne was unable to fulfill his vision. As the church neared completion in 1923, a dispute with the pastor resulted in his and Iannelli's removal from the project. Many elements of their design were reworked by the succeeding architect, who had little understanding of or sympathy with the original concept. Among the casualties was Byrne and Iannelli's delicate entrance, which was replaced by a heavy-handed oversize triangle of ornamental terra cotta. The interior was also modified, with more traditional fixtures and decorations and more conservative designs for the leaded glass windows. But even with these compromises, St. Thomas the Apostle is a powerful work of architecture worth visiting.

Keck-Gottschalk-Keck Apartments
5551 S. University (1937)

Shaking Up the Neighbors: In the mid-1930s, as the Depression relaxed its grip, a most unusual building began to rise among the older houses of South University Avenue. The flat front, large windows, and first-floor garage doors had perplexed neighbors suspecting that a factory was surreptitiously being erected in their midst. The appearance of what looked like venetian blinds would not have been considered unusual except that they were mounted outside the windows.

It turned out to be, well, not really an apartment building but more like three houses stacked on top of one another, a cooperative venture built to give three families separate homes. Two of the owners were the building's architects: George Fred Keck and his younger brother William, who'd made their reputation as innovative modernists with two highly publicized model homes for Chicago's 1933-'34 Century of Progress. The third unit became the home of Louis Gottschalk, a University of Chicago history professor, and his family.

Keck-Gottschalk-Keck Apartments
In planning the building, the brothers took into account the other houses on the block by choosing a similar reddish brick. But there the resemblance stopped. The virtually flat front, facing the street, was dominated by generous windows covered by metal louvers that could be adjusted from the inside, causing the façade to change its appearance—the same sort of effect created nearly 40 years earlier with the shutters of the Herrick House two blocks away.

Especially disconcerting to the neighbors, there was no front door. Instead, three garage doors extended across the first floor, allowing each tenant to drive into the building from the street. For anyone approaching on foot, there was a common entrance to the living quarters on the building's side.

For years after it was finished the building remained the talk of University Avenue. William Keck's daughter Margaret once told me that as a girl living there she became alarmed on hearing a disgruntled neighbor comment that somebody should "throw a bomb" at it. But you won't hear much of that now: the building is not only a neighborhood landmark but an official Chicago one.

The Ralph and Rachel Helstein House
5806 S. Blackstone (1950)

A Lot With a Little: We're likely to imagine mid-20th-century labor activists living in weathered old houses and apartments, meeting late into the night in smoke-filled living rooms or around rickety kitchen tables. Ralph Helstein is a legendary figure of Chicago's labor movement in that period, but the Hyde Park home that he and his wife, Rachel, built in 1950 would never be chosen to play a labor leader's home on TV.

For their architect, the Helsteins chose Bertrand Goldberg, the future designer of Marina City. He gave the couple a frame of unadorned raw concrete whose ultrathin floor slabs projected out beyond walls dominated by glass. The rooms of the house flowed together and the staircases seemed to float upward from the first floor, which remained an open space aside from the glass-enclosed and deeply recessed entrance vestibule.

For all its striking and modernist presence, the Helstein House was neither expensive nor extravagant. It was a demonstration of what common sense, ingenuity, and technology had to offer. Alterations have diminished some of its power, but it remains a striking presence in its neighborhood.

August and Isabel Gatzert House
4901 S. Greenwood (1912)

Modernism From the Old Country: Many of Hyde Park and Kenwood's early-20th-century residents were well traveled and therefore familiar with European architectural trends. As a result area streets reflect a diversity of architectural movements far beyond the domestic influences typical of other Chicago neighborhoods.

Consider the Kenwood home built by August and Isabel Gatzert in 1912. August Gatzert was a German-born clothing manufacturer who traveled the world with his wife and studied city planning and infrastructure as a volunteer adviser to the Chicago Association of Commerce. Having seen the modernist designs of Germany firsthand, the Gatzerts engaged the Chicago architectural firm of Ottenheimer, Stern & Reichert to design them a home in the same vein. Traditional in form but elegantly minimalist in its details, the Gatzert House blends in comfortably with its neighborhood.

Largely forgotten in Chicago's architectural history, Ottenheimer, Stern & Reichert designed many other interesting German and Austrian-inspired buildings here. Yet founding partner Henry Ottenheimer is probably best remembered for stabbing Frank Lloyd Wright in the back with a drafting knife during an office tussle while both were working under Louis Sullivan. "Today," Wright recalled decades later in his autobiography, "I bear the welts of Ottie's fancy work on my shoulder blades."

The Frank and Frances Lillie House
5801 S. Kenwood (1901)

Sperm and Egg Man: Anyone who studied with Frank Rattray Lillie at the University of Chicago in the early 1900s knew exactly where babies came from. This prominent professor significantly advanced the field of embryology, and in recognition of his achievements his old home on Kenwood Avenue became a National Historic Landmark in 1976. But the house is equally important as a work of architecture. Frank and Frances Lillie chose the firm of Pond & Pond to create a house that at first glance seems to be absolutely simple, perhaps even severe. But on closer examination it turns out to be an exceptionally complex building whose subtle features reflect a high degree of craftsmanship and attention to detail.

At the turn of the last century, when the Lillie House was designed, the brothers Irving K. and Allen B. Pond were counted among Chicago's most creative architects for the straightforward "builded beauty" of their designs. Builded beauty was their phrase, coined to express their belief that a building should forthrightly express the manner of its construction. The Lillie House is one of the finest examples of this philosophy, still forward-looking today though it was builded more than a century ago.

Editor's note: When Irving Pond died in 1939, he left behind a handwritten memoir that was finally published last year. Chicago architect David Swan, who edited Pond's manuscript, lectured on it and on Pond & Pond's architecture March 7; afterward the author of this article helped Swan lead a walking tour of Pond & Pond buildings.

Hyde Park & Kenwood Issue: The Cradle of Chicago-Style Theater
Both Chicago improv and the off-Loop theater movement have their roots in Hyde Park. Sheldon Patinkin was there.
By Tony Adler

Sheldon Patinkin was 17 in 1952 when he fell into what turned out to be theater history. A precocious kid from South Shore, he'd entered the University of Chicago at 15 and was majoring in English lit. But he'd also done opera, plays, even a little radio, and started gravitating toward the student theater club, University Theater. That's where he met Paul Sills, a charismatic fellow student whose mother, Viola Spolin, had developed a set of theater games she'd been using in workshops with young people. Sills gathered a group around him that included such soon-to-be famous names as Mike Nichols, Elaine May, and Barbara Harris. Patinkin joined them in shows and in workshops during which they used Spolin's games as a basis for improvisation.

That work led to an astounding number of places, but perhaps most significantly to the Playwrights Theatre Club, arguably the first spark of the off-Loop theater movement; to the Compass Players, where Chicago-style improvisation was born; and to the Second City, where Chicago-style improvisation became an industry. Intimately associated with the Second City in multiple capacities since its founding, Patinkin took the trip, too. The recently retired chairman of the theater department at Columbia College talked about the first steps in Hyde Park.

Hyde Park in the early 1950s seems to have been the beginning not only of improvisation in Chicago but also of the off-Loop theater movement.

I agree. Well, at the University of Chicago there were no theater classes, there was no theater department, but there was an after-school dramatics group called University Theater. The 1952-'53 school year was when Paul Sills came back to UT. He had hated the guy who was running it up until then—the only salaried person in the theater, a guy named George Blair—so he'd gone off and started his own theater company on campus called Tonight at 8:30. And in the winter of '52-'53, Paul offered to teach anyone who was interested the improv games that his mother, Viola Spolin, had created. And a bunch of us took the games. What Paul was doing—with the collusion of Eugene Troobnick and David Shepherd, although none of the rest of us was aware of it—he was thinking of starting a theater company, and this was a way of forming an ensemble that Paul knew would work, because when you play the games together you form an ensemble. There's no way around it. Even if there are impossible people in it, they become part of what the ensemble is.

The last show we did at UT was [Bertolt Brecht's] The Caucasian Chalk Circle in its Chicago premiere. Paul directed, I was assistant director. And then we opened Playwright's Theater Club with Chalk Circle, June 23, 1953, at 1560 N. LaSalle—a converted Chinese restaurant, which had curtained alcoves. I always wondered what went on in those alcoves when it was a restaurant. When it was Playwrights, that's where some of the people slept.

But you did more than one show at University Theater.

That was the last one we did. UT produced, I think, four main shows a year—two in the fall semester and two in the spring semester. And then we did some staged readings and poets' corner and stuff like that. In the 1950-'51 season, Paul directed The Duchess of Malfi. That's when he broke off from UT. Then he came back in the '52-'53 season when George Blair was replaced by a guy named Otis Imbodin, and the first thing he did was the—I think—American premiere, certainly the Chicago premiere, of Jean Cocteau's The Typewriter, about a poison-pen letter writer. He didn't use the stage, though. He put the audience on the stage and around it and did an in-the-round production. It was the first in-the-round show done at the university. Mike Nichols played twins. I volunteered to run the lights. Because it was a premiere it was reviewed, most particularly in the Daily News by Herman Kogan.

Even though it was a student production?

He wanted to see the play. He wrote a rave review, which was part of helping Paul and David and Eugene open Playwrights. Then Paul and Eugene played the leads, and I played the comic lead in George Buchner's Leonce and Lena. And then we did Chalk Circle. But while we were doing Leonce and Lena, even before it, and up until Chalk Circle, we were doing the games on Saturdays.

Why was this going on in Hyde Park at that moment and with those people?

There is no answer to the question why those people were all at the University of Chicago at the same time, without a theater department or a theater class. There's no answer to that question. Serendipity. We were all smart, we all wanted that kind of education.

That kind of education?

Stiff, straight liberal arts for the first four yearlong courses. And we learned a lot. And that's what people wanted who were there—we wanted to learn a lot. It was tough. It was really hard. But that all of us who were there ended up in theater—and really wanted to be in theater all along, I guess—there's no explanation. Some of them were drawn to Paul as a guru, as a teacher.

What did he do to deserve that?

[Long pause] He was filled with theater, and his need to get others to feel the way he did was a constant communication. He was mesmerizing in a lot of ways. He was smart. He was semi-inarticulate, which made it that much more interesting, in a way, to understand what he was saying. You did, because he used body language plus whatever words would come out, and occasionally he would just scream at you until you got it. There were people who would never work with him again, and there were people who would work with him no matter what.

Does that include you?

Yeah, I loved him. I have deep respect for him. But I would never have wanted to work with him again after a while. After Playwrights on the south side, 1967. You don't know what I'm talking about.

No, I don't know what you're talking about.

We're all better off that way, Tony.

There was an off-shoot of Playwrights on the south side?

At the Harper.

The Harper off 53rd?

We—[Second City cofounder] Bernie Sahlins, Paul, and I—opened a theater called Playwrights at the Harper, or something like that, in 1967. The first show we did was Norman Mailer's The Deer Park, which Mailer himself adapted into a play. Paul wouldn't be with us unless he played the lead in that play. He clearly identified with it, but he couldn't act. I directed him. He wouldn't take direction. It was a disaster, just awful. I quit. The next show Paul directed was one that we had worked on for a year in the mid-60s at the by-then closed Game Theater—it was near Second City—playing Viola's games on the text of The Cherry Orchard. The Cherry Orchard wasn't any better than The Deer Park. A little bit better. [The theater] closed after those two shows.

What did you learn from working with Sills in Hyde Park?

That acting was listening and reacting. You can only be as good as how much you are a part of what everybody else is doing. That what's between produces what's inside rather than what's inside producing what's between.

By "between" you mean between two characters.

Relationship, yes. We learned the games. I see or talk to Mike Nichols maybe once every four or five years, maximum, and he always considered me to be the kid. Actually, I was: I'm a month younger than Barbara Harris, four years younger than Mike and Elaine. At any rate, without any communication over a long period of time he called me yesterday because he had a question about something. And it was like we had been talking the day before. That's how it is with all of us. And that's about what we learned as people in learning how to play the games.

And that's true of anybody who learns the games, not just the people who were in Hyde Park?

Straight down the line till now. But it started in Hyde Park. And came back to Hyde Park with the Compass.

But you weren't involved with that.

No, I was being a good Jewish boy and getting my master's and my doctorate in English literature. Since I didn't want to be a doctor, a lawyer, or an accountant, I could at least be a teacher.

You weren't a member of the Compass Players but you saw them—


Talk about the scene.

You know that the form started differently from what it became. The first act started with some kind of a blackout. [Then the] living newspaper and a six- or seven-scene scenario that had been improvised during the week. Then they took suggestions and did some improvs. The scenarios were strongly socially satirical. Strongly.

[The ensemble members] were incredibly funny. Smart, funny, on each other. Severn [Darden], as he continued to be able to do at Second City, would ask for any college topic, do a 15-minute lecture on it followed by a Q & A. You could ask for any author in the world at any point of time and they would improvise a scene in the style of that author. Well. Always well. They played the hurt game.

I don't know the hurt game.

That means, say things to try and hurt other people, and if they flinch you win. They played it onstage, only slightly fictionalized. It got brutal every once in a while.

Who was your audience?

Mostly it was students and faculty and staff [at UT], and so was the Compass audience. So was the Playwrights audience. So was the original Second City audience. The original Second City audience was college students and professionals, usually with advanced college degrees. There were a lot of psychiatrists at the original Second City. We knew a lot of our audiences at Playwrights, at Compass. But it built itself its own reputation. Also, the standard of suggestions that the Compass got when they took suggestions was highly literate, well-informed—and you had to be, too, to improvise in front of that audience.

So the performers couldn't have been anything less than University of Chicago students.

And other smart people.

Hyde Park & Kenwood Issue: Dance for Your Rights
Hyde Park was a bastion of the Stonewall-era gay-rights movement in Chicago.
By Sam Worley

A few months after Stonewall—the 1969 riots in New York incited by a police raid on a gay bar—an ad for a gay roommate appeared in the University of Chicago Maroon. The man who'd placed it was former student Henry Weimhoff—and the responses he received would end up inspiring him to place another, seeking activists to help him form a local chapter of the Gay Liberation Front, an organization that had started in New York in response to Stonewall.

The Chicago GLF was much more militant than any of the city's previous gay activist groups. The first one, the Chicago Society for Human Rights, founded in 1924 and thought to be the earliest documented "homosexual emancipation organization" in the United States, was almost apologetic in its quest for fair treatment of gays. Its official mission was "to promote and to protect the interests of people who by reasons of mental and physical abnormalities are abused and hindered in the legal pursuit of happiness." It was fairly short-lived: after publishing two issues of its newsletter, Friendship and Freedom, the society was shut down by police and its founder, Henry Gerber, arrested.

The 1950s and '60s saw local chapters of two national organizations, the lesbian Daughters of Bilitis and the gay Mattachine Society. Rather than social agitation they focused on support, opting for secrecy in an era when the opposite could have serious consequences. Police raids on gay bars were frequent, and arrestees would often find their names printed the following day in local newspapers, jeopardizing jobs and livelihoods.

By the late 60s, more radical groups, like Mattachine Midwest, had formed locally and were responding more aggressively to police harassment. The high-profile closing of Chicago gay bar the Trip in 1968 led to a legal challenge that went all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court (which ruled in favor of the bar).

Stonewall, though, was the real flash point—in New York and nationwide—and the Gay Liberation Front chapters formed in its aftermath were far more abrasive and demanding than previous groups. The manifesto of the national organization called for the abolition of "existing institutions" of oppression, among them heterosexuality. And its statement that "We reject society's attempt to impose sexual roles and definitions of our nature" was a far cry from the "mental and physical abnormalities" to which the fledgling Society for Human Rights had confessed.

It was an article in the Village Voice that clued Weimhoff in to the existence of the Gay Liberation Front; acquaintance Murray Edelman, who was a U. of C. grad student at the time and would become the cofounder of the local GLF chapter, encouraged him to place the Chicago Maroon ad to find members.

Once formed, the Chicago GLF's earliest actions appeared to be a direct retort to the police raids common in that era: the group hosted a series of dances for same-sex couples.

The first, a small mixer held in January 1970 on the U. of C. campus, was timidly promoted and sparsely attended. Emboldened by the lack of police harassment, though, Weimhoff organized a subsequent on-campus event that attracted around 600 people. Mark Sherkow, who'd been a graduate student at U. of C. in the late 60s, remembers the scene at the university's Pierce Tower: "It was packed," Sherkow says. "I wasn't ready to dance with anybody—I just sat in a chair and watched." Other students, he says, were "kind of gawking into the room, and laughing." Still the police didn't come.

The next dance, also at the U. of C., drew about 1,000 people—and inspired the organizers to venture off campus. In April 1970 they hosted an event in the annex at the Chicago Coliseum. Murray Edelman says the group's lawyer, Renee Hanover, warned them shortly beforehand that the Chicago police planned to shut them down. After a nervous vote, with the memory of the police riots at the Democratic National Convention in 1968 "still very vivid in our minds," says Edelman, the group decided to go ahead with it.

About 2,000 dancers from all over Chicago came, but the police didn't. "When the dance started," Edelman says, "Renee told us that they had decided to back off." A week later gay activists mobilized by the dances picketed the Normandy Inn, a gay bar that enforced rules against same-sex couples dancing. Gay historian John D'Emilio recites the activists' demands: "Gay people can dance both fast and slow . . . no arbitrary dress regulations . . . no discrimination against women." After a weekend of lackluster business due to the protests, the bar changed its rules.

The GLF had outgrown Hyde Park—in other words, says Edelman, the group was too big to fit its meetings into Weimhoff's apartment—and was "reconstituted" as a citywide organization called Chicago Gay Liberation. By the middle of the decade, GLF chapters across the country had died out; in Chicago, part of Chicago Gay Liberation had split off in late 1970 to form the Chicago Gay Alliance. Much of the action moved to the north side—where in June 1970 the first gay pride parade had been held. Edelman says the energy surrounding the GLF had "just kind of peaked." He moved to San Francisco in 1973. Weimhoff moved to New York, where he died of AIDS in the 1990s.

But a new wing of the movement was stirring in Hyde Park: 1974 saw the first annual Lesbian Writers' Conference, organized by activist Marie J. Kuda and pulp novelist Valerie Taylor, who'd also cofounded Mattachine Midwest. The conference came at a transitional moment within the larger gay-rights movement—books that would become genre classics, like Rita Mae Brown's Rubyfruit Jungle (1973), were beginning to supplant lesbian pulp fiction, which had been sold under coded titles as a sort of open secret in the 1950s and '60s. Some pulps were reissued in the 1970s by women's presses—this time as cultural artifacts of another, less open, era.

The conference, held annually through 1978, drew participants nationally and covered the literary process from creative inception to publication. The conference also produced the first annotated bibliography of lesbian literature, Women Loving Women, edited by Kuda and published in 1975. When Kuda decided that the 1978 conference would be the last, says John D'Emilio, she envisioned a time when it would come back to Chicago in a weeklong festival celebrating lesbian literature, art, and music.

"Wouldn't it be great at McCormick Place?" Kuda asked. "Right after Illinois passes the ERA?"

Nowadays, while Hyde Park might lack the bar and club scene that constitutes much of gay life elsewhere in the city, it does boast organizations like Affinity Community Services and the Youth Pride Center, which provide resources for south-side queer people (see page 27 for listings). And as in the 70s, much of the action is at the University of Chicago, which now runs an GLBTQ programming office and has hosted a yearly campus pride festival since 2008.

Hyde Park & Kenwood Issue: Expelled From the Garden
The U. of C. wants to park bulldozers on a Woodlawn community garden, and it won't take "let's talk about this" for an answer.
By Martha Bayne

The community garden at 61st and Blackstone isn't physically a part of Hyde Park. Sitting just south of Midway Plaisance, the dividing line, it's in Woodlawn, the predominantly African-American neighborhood that stretches south to 67th Street and west to MLK Drive. But most of the gardeners live in Hyde Park, and both the garden and the oddly shaped building across Blackstone—the community and cultural center now called the Experimental Station—bear the imprint of their gray Gothic neighbor to the north. "We're both of Woodlawn and Hyde Park," says Connie Spreen, executive director of the Experimental Station. "We like to play with that boundary."

Woodlawn has been contested space for decades—ever since the U. of C. first marked the narrow strip between the Midway and 61st Street for eventual development in the 1950s, as part of its long-unspooling South Campus Plan. The bitter struggles over urban renewal and community identity continue to this day, and over the past year they've taken the form of an emotional dialogue over the fate of the ten-year-old 61st Street Community Garden. The gardeners are trying to reason with the University of Chicago as the university might have taught them—did teach some of them—to reason, but the university has remained unmoved.

In March 2009, Jack Spicer, a landscape architect and the garden's coordinator, got a letter from Sonya Malunda, associate vice president for the university's office of civic engagement. The letter was gracious, regretful even, but the news it delivered was a bomb: construction plans for a new Chicago Theological Seminary building at 60th and Dorchester required the use of the garden lot, which the university owns, as a staging area. Following the 2009 growing season, the garden's 140 plots would have to be cleared.

Since that letter arrived, Spicer, Spreen, and many of the 61st Street gardeners have been fighting a pitched battle to get the university to reconsider its plans. They don't dispute the institution's claim to the land— they've always known their tomatoes were rooted in borrowed ground—and if the university had reclaimed the lot for some higher purpose, such as a building, the gardeners say, they would be sad but could move on. But there's no compelling need to park a construction trailer on that particular lot, says Spreen—and she finds the university's stance on the matter "aggressive" and "disingenuous."Z

A dozen years ago the Board of Education used eminent domain to force the sale of a land parcel just west of Andrew Carnegie Elementary, at 1414 E. 61st Place. The land, occupied by the neighborhood's first community garden—perhaps 25 plots—was owned in part by Spreen and her husband, artist Dan Peterman, who also owned the adjacent multiuse building at 6100 S. Blackstone, which housed Peterman's studios, a bike co-op, an auto mechanic, a woodworking shop, and the offices of the Baffler magazine.

Spreen and Peterman talked to the university and worked out a handshake agreement to take over the 61st Street site, an empty lot, until the U. of C. needed it. The gardeners moved, and many more soon joined them.

In April 2001, a fire gutted 6100 S. Blackstone. Only the exterior walls were left standing. Five years of zoning negotiations followed, but the new facility, built with recycled materials and now called the Experimental Station, opened in the fall of 2006. It now houses, among other things, Backstory Cafe, the co-op Blackstone Bicycle Works, Peterman's studio, and an events space. In the winter it hosts the 61st Street Farmers Market, and about once a month Spreen fires up the wood-burning brick oven in the spacious kitchen for a day of community bread-baking.

During the long years of planning and reconstruction—years in which some of the tenants worked out of construction trailers on the lot—the garden held the community together. By last summer it was one of the largest in the city, comprising 140 ten-by-ten-foot plots, for which each gardener (or family of gardeners) paid a flat $40 per year. When the new Helmut Jahn-designed South Campus Chiller Plant was under construction a few years back the university asked the garden to move eight plots, and that was accomplished with little fuss. Other than that, says Spicer, the garden has flourished over the intervening years, fostering relationships and providing a safe urban space. Perhaps 80 percent of the gardeners are Hyde Parkers, while 20 percent live in Woodlawn, and 80 percent are white, while 20 percent are African-American. "We have a number of white Woodlawn gardeners and a number of African-American Hyde Parkers," notes Spicer. The garden is a "neighborhood" in and of itself, he says, whose demographics run counter to "a variety of stereotypes." And it's a neighborhood that, in his opinion, the University of Chicago doesn't know how to value.

Sonya Malunda's letter to Spicer expressed the school's appreciation for the garden's place in the community, along with the university's hope that a community garden could continue to be "a symbol of partnership for many years to come." To foster that continued partnership, the university offered to relocate the garden's topsoil, which Spicer estimates the gardeners have spent $50,000 to enrich over the years, to a new, yet-to-be-determined location.

Garden topsoil has been moved in bulk in the past, but it's not ideal. Kirsten Akre, who gardened with her family at 61st Street and runs the organic greenhouse at Kilbourn Park on the northwest side, explains that the pathways are marked by wood chips that would get scooped up too. "Mixing the wood chips with the soil will lead to a nitrogen depletion for several years while the wood chips are decomposed." There are also rocks and other debris to be accounted for, not to mention the possibly toxic urban soil below the topsoil, some of which inevitably would wind up in the same scoops.

But beyond such nuts and bolts lie the intangibles of place and community. "My kids chased snakes, rabbits, saw hawks and birds, enjoyed all the edible plants, climbing trees," says Akre. "It was a magical place for my family." While a good faith gesture, says writer Jamie Kalven, whose family had a plot at 61st Street, the relocation offer "is based on a misunderstanding of what is essential and valuable about a garden." The garden is a "fragile, particular set of relationships" built over time, he says. "It gives us way too much credit to think we can pick up and do it all over again."

Kalven runs an activist-journalism project called the Invisible Institute out of the Experimental Station—and he exemplifies what's uniquely Hyde Park about this particular land-use controversy. The garden community is full of people like Kalven: people trained—many at the U. of C.—to value critical inquiry, question received ideas, and honor differences of opinion.

"With other institutions [like the police department] you expect a wall and you expect to engage with them on a certain level," says Kalven. "But with the university you expect to have shared values—a respect for facts and open dialogue."

Over the past year, he says, garden advocates have taken great pains to foster that dialogue. They've consulted experts and come up with alternate staging locations. They've pointed out that routing construction traffic down 61st Street could have a disastrous effect on the businesses operating out of the Experimental Station. They've appealed to the university's own stated goals of community engagement and sustainability, arguing that the garden is a model of the sort of biological and human diversity the institution should be encouraging.

And they've framed the issue in terms of the ancient tensions between the university and its neighbors. Last November Spicer wrote a letter to the gardeners telling them that "the dual patterns of arrogant land clearance and institutional insularity by the University, on the one hand, and of suspicion and obstructionism by the community, on the other, date back to Urban Renewal days" and that a "rare chance to collaboratively change those patterns . . . is being squandered."

The drama surrounding the garden has been widely reported, with features everywhere from the Maroon to the Tribune. The gardeners themselves have done much of the reporting; at, Kalven and videographer Aaron Cahan have amassed a remarkable online archive of material that they hope to turn into a half-hour documentary.

University officials have remained polite but firm. "Some gardeners have suggested that we use the campus property at 61st and Woodlawn to accommodate the construction, machinery and equipment associated with the seminary so that the 61st Street garden could continue," states an FAQ on garden relocation provided by university spokesman Steven Kloehn. "This is not possible. We have made a commitment to our neighbors in Woodlawn who live near 61st Street that we would not use that site for future construction staging."

Construction is scheduled to start this spring, weather permitting, and Kloehn says it's "highly unlikely" that current plans for the site will change. The university is working with the Washington Park Consortium and 20th Ward alderman Willie Cochran's office to identify vacant city-owned land in Woodlawn that could be developed as gardens. The largest of those sites, at 62nd and Dorchester, could contain about 80 plots—a little more than half of the 140 at 61st Street.

Kalven, Spreen, and Spicer say the school has failed to respond seriously to the gardeners' concerns, and Kalven adds that it bodes ill for university relations with Woodlawn. To reassure residents that it did not intend to expand into the neighborhood, the U. of C. stated in a 2004 letter that it "does not own any land south of 61st Street, and it has no plans" to acquire any. But the university is growing, many of its students and faculty live south of 61st Street, and it has ongoing interests in Woodlawn, including a university-sponsored charter school. If it's perceived as unresponsive to community concerns now, argues Kalven, that "could engender a much more polarized, obstructionist, hostile community dynamic down the road."

As the land lies dormant, a thick blanket of snow precluding both planting and construction, gardeners like Kirsten Akre aren't giving up just yet. "We are holding on to hope that we will get some spring asparagus, rhubarb, and some of our currants and not have to give up our 61st Street Garden," she says. "It's silly, but I just can't understand how someone could destroy such a fabulous spot."

"We are neighbors," says Connie Spreen. "And neighbors do talk to each other about how their land gets used. As far as the university is concerned the conversation is over, but for us it's never over."


What another community, South Chicago, is doing to revitalize itself

The speaker on "Trails as Essential Links for Livable Communities" at the Trails Conference at Chicago State in February 2011 was Graciela Robledo of Claretian Associates (which also serves as a lead community organization in South Chicago. Websites given were said too fast for this writer--- something like http://www.calumetsten??? maybe "sustainable"? and or ??? or claretian something looking like it ends in ates.

Here are the highlights on how South Chicago is revitalizing itself in addition to connecting midsouth and far south-south suburban walking and bike trails.

A key catalyst is their circulating trolley, called Steel Milly. It is paid for by the SSA taxing district and stores via riders who show their store receipts.
They have a streetcleaner group (of or like Cleanslate), also paid from the SSA.

The community watch includes a safe passage-safe routes to school.

Financial literacy program.

Taking advantage of the Green in Schools Initiative

Community showcasing tours by high school students

Green and Affordable Homes program that includes assisted living (didn't get details about similarity to Village vs a facility). Includes education summits on the same.

Improved transportation including alternative and walkable community-- including new bike routes adn what they call streetcare

Community gardens tied to farms, a stewardship program

Healthful living program


From the Grey City (Chicago Maroon) November 29, 2011. University Development
Positively 53rd Street. [or, South Side redevelopment U of C style]

By Jordan Larson

The new Harper Court opened to a modes crowd with a ground-breaking ceremony on November 16. A large podium and banners stood in front of a vast lot of dirt indicating that construction had just begun. Most of those in attendance were involved with the project in some way. U of C) President Robert Zimmer, alderman Will Burns, and others spoke to commemorate the groundbreaking and the future of Hyde Park Retail. The the Kenwood Academy band began to play and everyone rushed into Park 52 for free hors d'oeuvres and heat. The official opening was officially over.

Though Harper Court is the main attraction, it's only a part of a multi-million dollar redevelopment project extending down 53rd street all the way to Lake Park. The project is a collaboration between the University and the city of Chicago, with funding coming from both. While much attention has been paid to community feedback, some Hyde Parkers see the redevelopment as a worrying departure from the old Hyde Park. According to University spokesman Steve Kloehn, the decision to redevelop Harper Court was largely about attracting and retaining top faculty and staff members. "Drawing people in and keeping them is a top, top priority," he said.

However, community and student input also played a part in shaping the development plans. The years 2007 and 2008 were largely spent gathering survey information form students, residents, and faculty regarding what to bring to Hyde Park. There were market studies, email surveys, focus groups to begin assessing the situation, and groups of students were brought to 53rd street with administrators to figure out "what it was about this street that they didn't like," according to the University's associate vice president of civic engagement, Susan Campbell.

Workshops were presented by the Alderman's office, the University, an the South East Chicago Commission-- a [University and] private committee founded in 1952 to combat crime [and housing and commercial deterioration] in the neighborhood, but which now focuses on development [--as well as as numerous community organizations, some of which go back before SECC.]

"We've been hearing increasingly and consistently from faculty, students, and staff about the lack of available retail choices in Hyde Park, and how they had to leave the neighborhood to just satisfy basic shopping needs other than grocery and food," Campbell said. The businesses slated to move into the 1.1 million square foot Harper Court and the surrounding area include a movie theater, LA Fitness, a Hyatt Place hotel (the community's number one request), and Whole Foods.

Many of the so-called necessities listed in the proposal are geared towards adults with families, with the benefits trickling down to students. A promotional pamphlet for the new Harper Court lists "a good manicure," "an artisanal beer," and "a wine bar" as "basic city life essentials," and goes on to say that all these things can only be found at least six miles away.

The [overall] development's first project seen to completion was Five Guys, which opened over Labor dAy [2011]. The burger joint has already garnered a cult following with its flashy soda machine, spotless interior, and attainable fast food. Despite the instant popularity of Five Guys, many have decried its unoriginality and unfair advantage over smaller, locally-based businesses. Small-business owner and lifelong Hyde Park resident Daniel Friedman remarked on the decision to bring in a chain restaurant "Five Guys are everywhere," he said. "We don't need that."

But Campbell and others affiliated with the University remain optimistic. She believes that there is room for shiny new chain stores and older locally-owned businesses. "I know that the community and student have expressed a need and a desire to have more local entrepreneur, home-grown, organic businesses there. But I think for the street to be successful you need to have a mix," Campbell said. "You need the nationals for instant credibility and name recognition, but hopefully that will not dominate the retail scene and that can be peppered or even mixed successfully with local businesses.

While the jointly-owned Calypso Cafe and Dixie Kitchen, former Hyde Park staples, chose to close rather than occupy spaces in the redeveloped Harper Court, several small businesses have opened up on 53rd street during the past year, such as Z-Berry, Cafe 53, and Big Girl Makeup Bar & Spa. And the businesses have thrived despite construction complications, which range from construction workers taking up parking spots to reduced traffic to the area.

Campbell believes existing businesses in the area have benefited, as well. "I think it's hard to measure and quantify exactly what that benefit has been, whether it's been an increase in sales or an increase in awareness," she said. "It's an increase in awareness. And so they don't see that translate directly into their cashiers' box, but I do think over time it will."

The influx of big business isn't the only thing worrying neighborhood residents, though. Hyde Park has always been a very diverse neighborhood, but some fear that will change with this new development project. The involvement of the South East Chicago Commission is troublesome for Jesse Sinaiko, a business owner and son of the late University Professor Herman Sinaiko. He remembers the SECC as a committee targeted not toward safety but towards "social engineering and raising the income level" during the '50s when African-Americans began moving into the neighborhood. Some are afraid to see stores like Whole Foods as another step in this process.

There is a lot to be said for the dazzling glass structure that is to be Harper Court. With Phase I of the project expected to open fully in summer 2013, development still has a long way to go. However there have been a few small victories for students, like a 24-hour diner and a commercial movies theater takes minute--not an hour--to get to.

It's still hard to say if Hyde Park will ever have a truly college neighborhood, one that, like other campuses seems to blend the needs of students and community members into one organic space. What's even more difficult to determine is who, outside of University student and faculty, will eventually shop and live in Hyde Park? Are the new retail options with 53rd street development signaling a new Hyde Parker?

"We are seeing a slow change in momentum," Campbell said. "I think what our office has been really successful in is really helping the community understand what the challenges are, what kind of thing that they can do to combat those challenges, and it's going to take time. It's going to take a long time.


On the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the University and the City 2011. Grey City Dec. 11 2011 by Adam Janofsky

[Box] "What can the Memorandum of Understanding do for Chicago's South Side?"

PROS [depending on whose perspective]

1. Streamlined permit process means that buildings will open in a shorter amount of time.

2. New jobs of South Siders, with a focus on opportunities for women and minorities

3. Revamped Metra stations will provide a better way to get to and from Hyde Park.

CONS [depending on whose perspective]

1. Increased university presence throughout much of the South Side, not just Hyde Park.

2. Increased concern of University's demolition of historic buildings [or changes to character and dominance/creep/other distortions]

3. University intervention into South Side culture [and control]

[So what makes up the $1.7 billion?
Infrastructure and initiatives: $500K- employment opps at UC, $750K employer assisted housing; $750K neighborhood improvement grants, $2.5M 59/60th Metra station, a list of infrastructure projects, some done some in the interest of both parties.
Major university buildings $81M Mansuetto, $114M Logan, $215 Eckhardt, West Childcare, New Hospital Pavilion, and a host of smaller.]

On a Saturday morning in late May, Rahm Emanuel strode into City Hall to begin his first weekend as Chicago's 55th mayor. The first item on his agenda was a 45-minute meeting with University of Chicago president Robert Zimmer, executive vice president David Greene, associate vice president for facilities Steven Wiesenthal, and Sonia Malunda, who was representing the University's office of civic engagement.

Emanuel and Zimmer had discussed the matter at hand before, if only informally. The University of Chicago, as Zimmer is quick, to tout, had established an entire 23,000-square-foot academic center in Beijing in less than three years. An ad hoc committee submitted a proposal fo the center's creation in October 2008 and it was opened in Summer 201. The same rapid development could be happening on the University's home turf, if only it weren't for bureaucratic red tape and permits.

As mayor-elect, Emanuel heard this and asked his economic development team to figure out a partnership between the U of C and the city, which had never* formally happened in the University's 120-year history. [*Ties were pretty tight under President Harper, who practically ran the schools and more, and the ties were very tight in the Urban Renewal era, including policing and housing, dominated by Julian Levy.]

A few months later on one of Emanuel's first days in office, top officials from both institutions were hammering out details for what would become the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU): a 9-page document that addresses, among other things, streamlined permits, collaboration between the U of C and the city on public infrastructures, and $1.7 billion in capital projects.

"We had a few goals going into the meeting," said Malunda, the point person for the the MOU. "We wanted to convey the University's $1.7 billion investment over the next five years in campus and capital construction... Second--creating more efficient ways to streamline government, foster economic growth, create jobs--those were all major priorities for [Emanuel] as a new mayor. That tied in nicely with the University's desire to efficiently work with the city to streamline the city's approval processes to create jobs and rebuild the campus.

"The third one was really around the community and economic development... the mayor's office was viewing the University as an anchor institution, and part of the discussion was, "How could we as a city leverage our resources with the University's resources to help rebuild the community and provide economic development around this anchor.'" Upon its August unveiling, mayor Emanuel called the MOU a "historic cooperation agreement with the University of Chicago," and both parties heralded it as representing a new partnership that would help foster a brighter economic future for the South Side.

Although the MOU is highly important for Hyde Parks' future and massive in scale, it remains a completely foreign concept to Hyde Park residents and U of C students, many of whom give blank stares when asked to describe what the "Memorandum of Understanding" is. And for those who do know of the collaboration, many are skeptical of its contribution to the South Side. Recently this divide has sparked community concerns that may threaten several University plans and curb the MOU's power.

A marriage of monoliths
The University of Chicago is the second largest private employer in the city, next to DePaul University. With an endowment that grew to $6.31 billion this year, a campus that covers 214 acres, and over 17,000 employees, the University is a machine of expansion: in addition to the Center in Beijing, recent protects include a similar center in Delhi, the William Eckhardt Research Center, teh Reva an David Logan Center for the Arts, the Mansuetto Library, and the South Campus Residence hall. Add these major developments to the thousands of smaller projects--from the renovation of the Regenstein library's lobby to replacing the roof of Ida Noyes Hall--and you have one of the biggest spenders in Chicago. When University administrators reviewed future development plans, they came up with a total projected cost of $1.7 billion over the next five years and $3.5 over teh next ten. To put this in perspective, the U of C spends the equivalent of DePaul University's entire endowment every eight months, only on construction and development projects.

Perhaps the main difference between the University of Chicago and other private institutions, besides size, is its status. as an academic corporation the University can and must continue to invest money despite the health of the economy. Although there was a period after the 2008 recession when the University went through heavy budget cuts, they mainly fell on administrative functions. The surge in recent development projects has been supported not by increased tuition revenue, but often times from monstrous donations--the Booth School of Business, for instance, received a $300 million gift in 2008 from David Booth (M.B.A. '71), the largest donation ever given to a business school. The University's dedication to development during a time of economic flux puts it in a unique position. As University spokesperson Steve Kloehn says, "We're certainly the only institution on the south Side making the kind of investment that we're making."

And the city has noticed. Budget issues have hit almost every local government across the nation since the financial downturn, and Chicago has been far from spared: Pension funds have gone underpaid for years, and the city's credit rating was downgraded from AA+ to AA in 2010, largely because of Mayor Richard Daley's habit of using the city's reserve funds as operating cash. It's not unusual to hear that Chicago's predicted budget shortfall is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Although top officials in Emanuel's administration rejected the idea that the MOU was motivated by economic factors, University administrators suggest that it was a logical step that the city proposed to create a stronger economic and commercial culture on the South Side. Never before has the city partnered so tightly with the University--an unusual fact concerning the University's closeness with former administrations (former Mayor Daley, who now holds a faculty position at the U of C's harris School of Public Policy, called the University "the greatest institution in Chicago" while he was in office.)

But motivations aside, what's not debatable is that MOU was constructed with cooperation on economic development in mind. "The University's growth presents an opportunity to partner with the City to catalyze the revitalization of communities surrounding the Hyde Park campus by creating jobs and improving key services for Chicago's residents", it reads.

"The idea generally was that it was taking forever for the university to get permits, and there was an opportunity to streamline things," said Tom Alexander (A.B. '00), a spokesperson for Emanuel who oversees city housing and economic development [and a Hyde Parker]. "If we did it together it would be faster."

Effectively a statement of support for the University's development plans, the MOU outlines several ways that the city will boost the University's investments on the South Side: in addition to a streamlined permit process, the city will create an annual development plan for neighborhoods around Hyde Park that compliment the University's projects, establish an interagency task force to oversee coordinations with the University, appoint a liaison to the University, and support specific University projects like the redevelopment of Harper Court.

The U of C, in addition to holding its commitment to spend $1.7 billion over the next five years, will increase employment opportunities for the community during construction projects, reach out to minorities and women for job openings at the University, and take on several new neighborhood improvement projects, like opening a new 60th Street Metra station and providing grants to local businesses.

The key mediators between the city and the University over the next five years will be the aldermen that oversee the wards surrounding the University. "It was important from the mayor's perspective that the aldermen be at the table," Malunda said. "There were a series of meetings with the city and the aldermen, the University and the aldermen, and we came together two or three times before we all felt comfortable about the MOU."

The aldermen are mentioned twelve times throughout the MOU, and are involved with almost every aspect of what will come out of the agreements -- the University must meet with them at least quarterly, provide computer workstations for their offices to assist people in finding jobs, and they review the progress of the of the memorandum annually. Additionally, the MOU doesn't change the way permits and zoning are handled, so every major development still must meet the appropriate alderman's approval. "The MOU doesn't have an effect on the public process of whether something does or doesn't need a permit," Kloehn says. "The alderman has a say and is an important part of that process."

[A question is whether the MOU means that even more than ever the city will side with and be permissive with the University, and if the alderman in public process sides against or with other, the alderman stands alone. In the PD 43 filing, public and aldermanic say are greatly reduced.]

But from the start, the aldermen have been hesitant to jump on board. In the Chicago Tribune's first article on the preliminary stages of the MOU, they reported "there is likely some horse trading ahead, as the affected aldermen, who were briefed on the master plan Friday, come forward with requests." Those requests have since shaped the MOU, like its position on job opportunities for minorities and women.

However, some of the concerns from the aldermen have not faded. Fifth Ward alderman Leslie Hairston, whose jurisdiction covers the majority of the University of Chicago's campus, made a daring move last month to speak out against a routine University development procedure, effectively stalling a relatively minor project. [See PD 43 and Woodlawn Corridor about this evolving conflict with ongoing "bold moves" by the various parties.]

Gridlock at midnight
"The MOU does not eliminate City Council approval. The University still has to come through me. I will hold their feet to the fire about this, especially transparency and communication," said Hairston in an October 26 press release [in full in the above-cited pages] that condemned the MOU [?] in the face of a small and unrelated [?] development project.

That conflict began when the University was amending its Institutional Planned Development document (PD43), a zoning classification that covers the contiguous campuses of many large Universities, including the that of the U of C. Last year, the University purchased several buildings on Woodlawn Avenue from the Meadville Lombard Theological School [and Chicago Theological Seminary]. As a matter of course, [actually many matters around much of the perimeter including especially need to advance high-density projects in the Science and Medical subareas-- borrowing density from the to-be-expanded subareas that will include Woodlawn Ave., combined with the need to accommodate move of Seminary Co-op Bookstore and other new needs there not allowed in current general zoning--in turn so conversion of former Chicago Theological Seminary could go forward were among reasons that the Woodlawn landmine was detonated] they drafted a proposal to include these buildings in PD43.

Although the changes to PD43 aren't explicitly part of the MOU, the events surrounding it paint an unsettling picture for the roadblocks that might appear in the future. Several Woodlawn Avenue residents spoke out against the PD43 amendment, fearing that the University was pushing its boundaries too quickly and was preparing to tear down building. Some called for the creation of a historical district around the area, which would block [limit] University development. Alderman Hairston vocally backed these concerns [but not a district] in an October 26 press release that caught University and city officials off guard. [Not that the concerns and ideas had not been communicated to them.]

"The university has bought several well preserved, architecturally and historically significant residential properties in thriving areas... People are terrified the university will demolish or alter these buildings, maybe replace them with highrises and institutional structures," Hairston said. The alderman scheduled a public meeting two weeks later that largely addressed the concerns surrounding the Planned Development: the University compromised by including a section in the PD43 amendment acknowledging the area's historic character, [providing easements to half the properties, and promising a series of small meetings that produced partial progress but, negotiators said, other things promised were reneged upon] while Hairston struck down the creation of a historical district, saying it would place unfair costs on residents. But perhaps the most constructive aspect of the meeting--one that needs to be addressed again if the University wants to avoid gridlock with the community--was when the MOU was brought up several times during the discussion.

"The recent Memo of Understanding between the city and the University of Chicago has fueled questions and concerns about the potential impact of the university's development plans on the social, cultural and historic "character" of Hyde Park and neighboring communities, Hairston's release reads.

Of course, matters become conflicting when one considers that the MOU was a document drafted by the Mayor's Office on the University's behalf, and includes the aldermen as key figures throughout development cooperations." "They were consulted before the meeting with Mayor Emanuel, they consulted at every step of the way," Malunda said. [But the aldermen said the statement was issued before negotiations were complete and excluding things that were agreed upon.]

However, city officials are still confident that Hairston and others will continue to support the collaboration with the University, and University administrators saw Hairston's meeting as a point of growth. "The MOU is a partnership between the city and the university that's really good for both parties," Alexander said. "I think the aldermen know that, and that's why they supported it throughout."

Ivory tower, grey city
It's an interesting piece of irony that the MOU, which was constructed with intentions to better the community through economic development and beautification, is receiving its first round of attack from the community itself. But that's not surprising.

Although the MOU is an example of politics at its best--a broad alliance thought up by a handful of administrators and officials to tackle inefficient government--it doesn't take into account the nature of a topic s broad as University development. With an institution as large as the U of C, every development project concerns a network of people that is larger than the officials who represent "the City" and "the University." Just as neighborhood residents needed to be consulted in regards to PD43, local businesses will inevitably have questions when the University and city-sponsored Harper Court development nears completion.

The only projects that are proven to be immune to this are public services, like the creation of the new 60th street Metra station or the expansion of the UCPD patrol area to cover charter schools, which was passed and went into action last month [and projects deep inside the UC core]. University-centered projects need to take into account the considerations of all parties notwithstanding the streamlined power the MOU provides, or other roadblocks are bound to emerge--and they won't be the result of government red tape.

There are many ways to solve this, and perhaps Hairston's unexpected PD43 meeting is one example. "In the past several weeks we've made a great step forward in working with the community and Alderman Hairston," Malunda said. "I'm optimistic about it." [But this site says hold on to your hats.]

Hyde Park Rides Again, But residents wary of revitalization plans by U. of C.

Chicago Tribune February 12, 2012. By Alejandra Cancino and Corilyn Shropshire. [Note, there are simplifications and compressions in the article; in many cases land assemblages and projects morphed or merged into something very different from where they started)- for more detail and background, see Development pages such as 53rd Street, Harper Court, Harper Theater, and City Hyde Park. ]

See companion article on Antheus Capital in Antheus page.

After more than a decade of planning, change is finally tangible along Hyde Park's East 53rd street corridor. Buildings have been renovated, a few restaurants have opened, and a site has been cleared for a hotel and 12-story office tower to be built on land owned by the University of Chicago. The wave of rejuvenation is being led by the U. of C., which, as Hyde Park's largest landowner, has a vested interest in improving its amenities--not only for students and faculty, but also to draw newcomers to teh area between 55th and 49th streets.

Because of its South Side location, however, Hyde Park had not attracted the kind of commercial development common in neighborhoods like Lakeview or Lincoln Park-- until now. "This area has always been hurt by the proximity to really poor neighborhoods," said Joe Schwieterman, a professor of public service at DePaul University. "Retail adn hospitality investment was scarce because of a felling that Hyde Park was an island." Over time, Schwieterman said, the poor neighborhoods have been pushed further out, as the university has snapped up land around its campus, Schwieterman said. In turn, Hyde Park has become more attractive to developers, he said.

The main project is a Hyatt hotel and office tower at 53rd street and Lake Park Avenue, partly funded with $29 million from the city [TIF]. The university, which owns the land, and LA Fitness are the anchor tenants of the office building. The developer hopes to bring 10 to 15 shops to the street-level space.

The university also has purchased a number of buildings around the hotel project, including the former Borders building where clothing chain Akira will open a flagship store in the fall. The U. of C. also owns the building where the New 400 Theaters will open in November, and the building adjacent to it, where a Five Guys Burgers and Fries set up shop in September. Across the street the university renovated a building where a Clarke's restaurant is opening Monday. "The university has a stake in making Hyde Park an attractive community, not only as a good neighbor, but it is also central to our mission to attract the best scholars," said Steven Kloehn, a university spokesman.

Key to the revamp is a city incentive program. The city designated an 84-acre area around 53rd Street a tax increment financing (TIF) district in 2001, allowing developers to tap into the incentives. The program was set up because the business corridor was in decline. Nearly a third of the buildings in the district showed a significant level of deterioration, according to a study prepared for the city, and residents were concerned about the lack of quality businesses and parking.

"The commercial strip seemed to be lagging behind the general economic rebirth in the neighborhood," said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who pushed for the TIF designation when she was 4th Ward alderman. "Neighborhoods that have strong commercial activity are more exciting places to live and to visit." Preckwinkle said her goal was to attract more retailer hesitant to move to the South Side. "There were a lot of national chains that didn't think that there was any money in black communities, or racially diverse communities, and that made it harder for us," Preckwinkle said. "It's a misconception in the boardrooms of large white corporations." (The area between East 55th and East 47th streets is about 49 percent black and 33 percent white, and more than half of the residents are renters, according to 2010 Census Bureau figures.)

To bolster the project's chances of success, Preckwinkle said she recruited the University of Chicago. After years of meetings, both private and with the community, the $106 million [sic] Harper Court project emerged. As part of the renewal project, the university bought a handful of buildings and demolished them. It also bought a parking lot from the city for $1. finally, in a bidding process, they chose developer Harper Court Partners, a partnership between Vermilion Development and JFJ Development co.

Residents say they plan to keep a watchful eye on any impact on the neighborhood's economic diversity. "It is going to be very interesting to see the kind of businesses they recruit and whether they succeed or not," said resident George Rumsey, a former president of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference. Rumsey said he'd like to see a mix of local and national stores and high-end restaurants. He is concerned because the area lost a number of local business when the university razed the handful of buildings on harper Avenue. Some, including Dr. Tom Wake's Hyde park Animal Hospital and clinic relocated nearby [the main hospital being well south on Stony Island]. But others, such as Dixie Kitchen, simply shut, never to return. Some of those businesses cited higher rents; said they didn't want to go through the hassles of opening a new location.

Now that construction has begun on the hotel site, nearby mon-and-pop businesses are being hurt by reduced foot traffic and lack of parking spaces. donald Hannah, who manages Bonne Sante Health Foods, said store sales have declined by 25 percent. "We keep hearing the same story: It's gonna be great when its's done in 2013," Hannah said. "But we have to go at least a year and a half of people not parking and our business suffers. We're struggling to stay here so that we can reap the benefits."

Being located close to the project is expected to attract shoppers. However, some businesses are worried that any success at one end o the strip may diminish shopping further down the street. Business owners also fear that if the project is successful, it may cause building owners along he street to substantially raise rents. "There is not a set formula, but wouldn't shock me if rents went up in the immediate area next to the project up to 20 percent," said David Metrick [sp.?], a senior managing director at Studley, a commercial real estate firm. Metric [sp.?] said rental in the new project could be in the upper $20s to mid-30's per square foot depending on the size of the space and the financing of the project. If rents go up significantly, some local shops may be forced to leave. That worries people like Meghan Martin, 28, who works for a small business on the strip. While she is happy trendy boutiques are moving in, she also worries bout her own job security and how the incoming businesses will change the feel of the neighborhood. "It's going to feel like up north no," she said.

The latest renewal comes a half-century after the university unveiled a plan to try to prevent Hyde Park's decline after poor black families began moving in, according to the book "American Pharaoh" about the late Mayor Richard J. Daley. Under the plan, about 20 percent of the area's building between East 47th and 59th street were demolished and replaced with housing or open space. The gentrification displaced many businesses along East 55th and 51st streets. As a result, East 53rd a two-lane street with no alleys and not enough parking, became the neighborhood's default shopping strip. "That was a shortsightedness or lack of city planning on the side of urban renewal planners," said Stephanie Franklin, a long time resident involve in several attempts to rebuild the business corridor.

Unlike past projects, however, the latest seems to have gotten traction largely because of the partnership between the city and the university, but also because suburban sprawl has stalled. Christopher Dillion, a partner with harper Court Partners, the project's developer, said he is talking with a number of local as well as national retailers who seem open to moving to the community. He declined to provide names. "When the economy was better, most retailers were focused in greenfield sites in the suburbs and now that the housing market is nonexistent -- retailers are looking for built-in population," Dillion said, adding that Hyde Park offers just that.

Hyde Park 53rd Street TIF Projects [ignoring City Hyde Park and those that haven't gotten beyond issuance of RFQ]

Harper Court, Akira (Borders Bldg.), The New 400 Theaters (Harper Theater building), Five Guys Burger and fries, Clarke's
Harper Court features: 1.1 milion square feet of mixed use space, 12-story office tower with retail shops and parking, Hyatt Place Hotel, Up to 425 residential units.

Household expenditures within 1 mile of 53rd and Lake Park: food/beverage $181 million, entertainment $66.2, Apparel $57.7.

Other news

In mid July 2012 Wal-Mart announced it has signed to build a store in the large cleared and planned shopping mall and residential development (site 4 acres) at the southeast corner of 47th and Cottage Grove. Largely responsible are Quad Communities Development Corporation (led by Bonita Johnson-Gabriel) of LISC and Alderman Will Burns (and his predecessor Toni Preckwinkle). It is in a TIF and the residential will be 1/3 / 1/3 / 1/3.


Continue with Profiles- Hyde Parkers You Should Know.