Hyde Park- One of Chicago’s most diverse neighborhoods and home to the University of Chicago

In this evaluation I also include East Hyde Park, which is often considered a subdistrict of Hyde Park.

Hyde Park traces its white settlement originals to 1853 when Paul Cornell, a real estate speculator, purchased 300 acres between 51st and 55th sts along the shore of Lake Michigan. When a railroad stop opened a couple years later, Hyde Park quickly became a suburban retreat for affluent Chicagoans. In 1861, Hyde Park was incorporated as an independent township and remained independent until its annexation into the City in 1889. Soon afterwards the University of Chicago was founded and the neighborhood hosted the World’s Columbian Exposition. The World’s Columbian Exposition brought fame to the neighborhood, which triggered a flood of new residents and transformed the neighborhood into an urban area. The only major structure from the fair still standing today is Charles Atwood’s Palace of Fine Arts, now the Museum of Science and Industry. In the early decades of the twentieth century, many upscale hotels and apartments were constructed, further densifying the neighborhood. The neighborhood reached its peak at 55K residents in 1950. At that time African Americans also began to move here, helping set up a very racially diverse neighborhood. But Hyde Park experienced its own disinvestment in the 1950s and 1960s. Fortunately, this decline did not hit as hard as other nearby Southside Chicago neighborhoods thanks to the University of Chicago’s presence and active involvement in a somewhat controversial urban renewal effort. While the effort demolished many blocks of dilapidated housing for bland yet urban 1960s townhouses, and led to a large amount of Black displacement, it significantly diversified incomes in Hyde Park and stabilized the neighborhood.

Currently Hyde Park’s racial make up is around 45% White, 25% Black, 12% Asian, and 9% Hispanic.  Residents south of 55th Street are mostly White & Asian, and north of 55th are mostly Black and Hispanic. Hyde Park is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Chicago due to its great economic & racial diversity, but also because of its excellent urban form & walkability, park and cultural amenities, great tree canopy, and diverse housing options and prices. For Hyde Park to become an even better neighborhood it needs better schools, a local public library, and some quality urban in-fill in spots.

Click here to view my Hyde Park Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Excellent ADA and sidewalk infrastructure.
* High density at just over 20K per sq mile.
* Solid public transit and access to Dwtn but many jobs existing in Hyde Park with the University of Chicago and Medical Center within its bounds which includes about 15K students and 15K employees.
* Good overall connectivity but also a decent number of smaller dead-end streets.
* Good bike lanes with one cutting through the heart of Hyde Park and two along the edges in the parks. Excellent bike rental coverage.
* Decent generational diversity esp. considering the large college population.
* Near perfect racial and economic diversity.
* Spectacular parks and recreational amenities. Not only do you have the expansive Washington Park, Jackson Park (site of 1893 Exhibition), Midway Plaisance,  lakefront parks with its long beaches, but also many small-medium sized parks spread throughout the neighborhood. It doesn’t get much better than this!
*Great tree canopy. So impressed how this level of density can still support so many trees.
* Great # and diversity of rental options . Studios lease btwn $600-2K, 1-beds 1K-mid 2Ks, 2-beds mid 1Ks-3K, 3-beds btwn mid 1Ks to 4K, & 4-beds btwn 2K-4K. Good # of affordable.
* Similar situation with for sale hsg. Some studios that sell around 100K. 1-beds sell btwn 100K-300K, 2-beds btwn 150K-700 but most product sells around 250K, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 175K-1 M, some larger homes sell for more.
* Excellent cultural amenities including many food & bev biz, several live music venues, a indie theater, an omnimax theater, the Hyde Park Arts Center, a performing arts center, excellent local & regional museums, historic homes, and University of Chicago cultural amenities.
* Great retail amenities also include several supermarkets, hardware store, grocerias & drug stores, a target, home depot, Marshalls, many boutiques & clothing/shoe stores, tons of banks, salons, gyms, & dessert joints, tons of creative stores, several bookstores, post offices, and hospitals.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Good # of walkable schools but the vast majority are rated poor to mediocre.
* Local library located a couple blocks north of Hyde Park. Churches are a bit limited here.
* Some crime here but overall pretty safe. Probably less safe than the North Chicago neighborhoods.
* Generally a solid urban massing but some auto centric spots and poorly laid out 60s & 70s developments that break up connectivity.

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