Tuesday, May 09, 2006

There Goes The Neighborhood---A Primer

The last time my sister visited, she looked quizzically out my back window.

When I asked her what caught her eye, she replied that she didn’t know that I had white neighbors. I told her that I have a number of white neighbors.

Talk about shock and awe.

Ladies and gentlemen, cats and kittens everything old is new again on the south side. White folks are coming back to Woodlawn.

Some people don’t realize that a vast majority of Chicago’s south side---Woodlawn, South Shore, Roseland and other neighborhoods used to be what historians like to term as working white ethnic neighborhoods.

You see race and housing have been and still are a touchy subject in Chicago.

The advent of housing discrimination laws, an expanding black population from the south, unscrupulous land lords along with block busting realtors; neighborhoods “flipped” in a very short time.

Then of course some people’s irrational fear of integrated living usually gets the better of them.

Nonetheless, our little hamlet experienced those changes and boy did the ‘hood real take a pounding.

Property values plummeted and stores left.

Crappy landlords split up beautiful graystones and majestic homes into rooming houses. They crammed everyone in the same small space together and then chose not to maintain the property.

Charging scandalous rents to those who could least afford them for such shitty living conditions.

Frankly Woodlawn was a mess.

While the neighborhood isn’t out of the woods yet, the eastern part of Woodlawn that borders Jackson Park has pulled itself out of the tailspin and has showed all of the signs of making a comeback.

First off, you literally don’t have to fear for your life like you did back in the day.

Baby Skid Row and it’s accompaniment of seedy lounges and prostitutes is gone. Some of the green line that ran over Baby Skid Row was demolished

Gentlemen who are alumni of the school across the street tell me stories of how they were accosted to and from school by people throwing debris out of the windows.

Those same gentlemen also tell me of how a large gang literally ruled the neighborhood.

Most of these stories or actions either predated my birth and/or my moving to the south side. While I wasn’t witness to these events, research and listening to many similar stories leaves me to believe that everything I’ve heard is pretty accurate.

But enough of the history lesson…

It was only a matter of time before north side real estate sticker shock reintroduced white people to the south side.

I’m not saying that my neighborhood is about the “flip” again but the influx of new neighbors that happen to be white isn’t about to stop anytime soon.

While I don’t have any hard numbers I can say that out of eight condo conversions or new buildings, it seems like 60-70% of those units were purchased by my new white neighbors.

I should have known something was up when Jettas started outnumbering hoopties.

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