Forest Park, IL Chicago’s Village of Cemeteries

Forest Park was officially incorporated in 1907 when the community hosted around 6K residents. The bulk of Forest Park’s development occurred btwn 1910 and 1930 as it grew from 6.5K-14.5K souls. Forest Park topped out at 15K residents in 1970s and has more or less remained at that level in the ensuing decades. For much of its history, Forest Park was known as a “Village of cemeteries”, with more dead “residents” than living ones; some figures estimate the ratio at 30:1, dead to alive. Forest Park also hosted the Forest Park Amusement Park, a small but popular amusement park located just north of Waldheim Cemetery where the current Forest Park T station now resides.

In general more affluent and more urban development are located north of I-290 containing Forest Park’s best urban business district along Madison. This area also contains much better streetscaping and urban form than south of 1-290. Forest park also excels with great diversity across all metrics, lots of diverse housing options, good cultural and retail amenities, excellent access to public transit, and high levels of safety. For Forest Park to have a similar level of urbanity as its Oak Park neighborhood it needs more density, especially along the rather auto centric corridors of Roosevelt and Harlem, much better bike infrastructure, and more walkable school options.

Click here to view my Forest Park, IL Album on Flickr


* Excellent public transit access.
* Great diversity indicators, especially racial and economic.
* Great variety of for sale options! Lots of-bed condos selling btwn 65K-250K, Lots of 2-bed condos selling btwn 115K-350K, 2-bed SF homes sell btwn 240K-400K, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 175K-750K with condos being on the cheap end.
* Decent # of rentals. 1-beds lease btwn 1K-2.5K, 2-beds lease btwn 1.5K-2K, 3 beds in the high 1Ks or 2Ks.
* Decent Park space including the expansive Historic Forest Homes Cemetery and the multi-faceted City Forest Park with a swimming pool & aquatic Center and Recreation Center.
* Good cultural amenities including lots of food & bev bizs along Madison Ave. a public local museums and easy access to Dwtn Oak Park just a couple blocks east of Forest Park.
* Overall a very safe community.
* Good retail amenities including several supermarket & drugstores, a Walmart and the Forest Park Plaza, a Bed Bath & Beyond, a Hardware store, several brand name clothing stores, lots of boutiques and unique stores along Madison, a couple bookstores, several dessert joints & gyms, a couple post offices, a public library, plenty of medical offices, and several churches.
* Good streetscaping along all the Commercial districts.


* ADA curb cuts are actually less common south of I-290 but quite good north of I-290.
* A couple decently rated elementary and middle schools but the High school is pretty far away and not walkable.
* Much of the commercial amenities are auto oriented.
* Good urban massing along Madison but poor along Roosevelt and Harlem.
* So  density, somewhere between a City and a typical Suburb.
* Bike infrastructure is very limited.

Oak Park, IL- A Wonderful Urban Suburb in Chicagoland and Home to the Highest Concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings

Oak Park was first settled in 1835 but took much later to incorporate (1902). It wasn’t until the 1870s with the construction of  its own railroad depot that Oak Park started to grow ballooning from 500 residents in 1870 to nearly 2,000 in 1890. The late 19th saw the construction of streetcar lines and Oak Park’s population really started to expand. This was also at the same time that Frank Lloyd Wright settled in the area and became his first laboratory for cutting edge architecture design and now holds the best concentration of his designs in the world. By 1910 the population exploded to 20K and by 1930 it nearly hit its peak at 60K tripling in 3 decades. In a progressive move Oak Park, passed the Open Housing Ordinance in 1968, which helped devise strategies to integrate the village rather than resegregate. The City currently boasts nearly a 20% African American population and only 60% are White. Oak Park maintained relative stability in the Post WWII years only shedding about 15K of its peak population.

 That last decade have actually seen a population reversal with 3,000 new residents as the City made efforts to densify its downtown area centered on Lake and Marion. Other quality urban business districts exist along Oak Park, Harrison, and Chicago Ave. The other biz districts (Harlem, Roosevelt, Madison & North Ave) still struggle from auto centric buildings and orientation. They certainly have the potential to become thriving mixed-use district with the right investment and infill development. Oak Park could also benefit from a dedicated bike station system and better economic diversity but overall this is a great urban area and one of Chicago’s best urban suburbs.

Click here to view my Oak Park, IL album on Flickr


* High connected street grid (with the exception of some defensible streets).
* Solid public transit and pretty convenient access to Dwtn.
* Solid ADA infrastructure but plenty of spots without modern ADA curb cuts.
* Excellent array of walkable schools that are well rated. All public schools however.
* Lots of apts available and good variety. Studios lease btwn $800-2K , 1-beds anywhere in the 1Ks, 2-beds the low 1Ks-3K, and 3-beds btwn 2K-4K.
* Great for-sale diversity as well. Lots of condos with 1-beds selling btwn 85K-250K, 2-beds sell btwn 115K-450K with lots of afford condos, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 180K- low 1Ms. Good number of 3-bed condos too. Some more expensive mansions as well.
* Good number of dedicated affordable housing in Oak Park.
* No huge parks but lots of small-medium sized parks well distributed throughout Oak Park. Also a major ice skating center and outdoor pool.
* Excellent tree canopy.
* Lots of families with kids live here but also a fair amount of young professionals.
* Solid cultural amenities including plenty of food & bev businesses, lots of art galleries, a historic theater, several local performing arts centers, lots of historic sites and local museums and a plethora of Frank Lloyd Wright homes as this was a long time home for him.
* Great retail options including several full service supermarket, a couple gourmet options as well, a plethora of drug stores, an urban target, a 10 thousand villages, tons of boutiques, gift shops, home goods, and clothing stores, lots of banks, several book stores, lots of dessert joints & gifts, several churches, a major hospital and two large medical centers, and a local post office and public library.
* Generally a very safe place to reside.
* Some stunning historic architecture thanks to all the late 19th century mansions including many Frank Lloyd Wright homes, but also plenty of more normal architecture.
* The best urban biz districts are along Oak Park, Lake Aven/Marion (Dwtn), Harrison, and Chicago Ave is generally pretty good.


* A couple dedicated bike lanes but no apparent bike sharing system in Oak Park.
* Not great economic diversity.
* Some autocentric stretches along Harlem, Roosevelt, Madison, and North Avenue.
* Northern third of Oak Park is newer large lot singly family homes with lower density and less walkable access to retail and cultural amenities.

Berwyn, IL- A quality Chicago urban inner-ring suburb and Illinois’ most dense municipality

Berwyn has it roots in the mid 1800s starting with Plank road cutting across it linking up Chicago-Ottawa IL. For several decades it remained mostly undeveloped until the late 1800s. In 1908 it was chartered as a municipality  and quickly became one of Chicago’s fast growing suburbs. The bulk of Berwyn’s growth came in the 1920s as the middle portion of the suburb was filled in. This explains why there are so many cute bungalow brick homes here. By 1930 Berwyn had 47K and it maxed out in 1960 at 54K souls. Population slowly receded in the remaining decades of the 20th century only to quickly rebound in the 90s likely with a large influx of Hispanic Immigrants. Berwyn is back to full strength and now has 57K residents.

Berwyn also has the highest population density of any municipality in Illinois sitting at 14,500 residents per square mile. While Berwyn is known as the “City of Homes,” it also contains four primary business corridors: Ogden Ave, the Depot District, Cermak Road, and Roosevelt Road. Ogden Ave, a segment of historic Route 66. These business districts are lengthy and were originally streetcar lines. They is a mix of quality urban stretches and auto centric areas, the worst being Ogden and Harlem Avenues. The Depot District, centered on Berwyn’s regional train station, contains the best urban form and has seen some good mixed-use infill.

Berwyn also excels at quality walkable schools, solid public transit access, good park amenities, attractive 1920 Bungalows, good retail & cultural amenities, relatively affordable for-sale options and many rental options, and a high level of safety. There are however no dedicated bike lanes nor bike sharing stations, often outdated ADA curbs, and poor urban massing in spots. Berwyn simply needs more quality urban in-fill to become a great urban districts. It certainly has great urban bones and already good walkability.

Click here to view my Berwyn, IL Album on Flickr


 * Solid density and good public transit access.
* Excellent connectivity and grid system.
* Great diversity all around, especially economic.
* Lots of walkable public schools here rated well except the public High School.
* No major parks but lots of small-medium sized park well distributed throughout Berwyn.
* Decent architecture with a mix of quality urban infill near the train stations but some crummy auto centric infill along some of the commercial corridors. Lots of cute brick bungalows throughout and some good historic commercial.
* Good cultural amenities including lots of food & beverage bizs, many breweries & night clubs, several live music venues, a couple local theaters, and a cineplex just across the border in North Riverside.
* Good retail amenities as well including several off-brand supermarkets and smaller groceries, several pharmacies, the North Riverside Mall sits on the western edge and contains main amenities (Dept stores, Best Buy, Office Depot, Aldi’s Ross’ etc.), several hardware stores, many boutiques/thrift stores & gift shops, some antiques, many banks, a couple book & toy stores, plenty of dessert joints, bakeries, & gyms, local post office & library, many churches, and a major hospital.
* Overall a very safe community.
* Good variety of for-sale small to medium sized options generationally moderately priced. Decent # of 1 & 2 bed condos sell btwn 80K-200K; tons of 3 & 4 beds that sell btwn 200K-600K
* Good # of rentals. 1-beds lease in the low-mid 1Ks, 2-beds in the 1Ks, and 3-beds btwn the high 1Ks to mid 2Ks.


* Bike Infrastructure is non-existent in Berwyn.
* Generally good ADA and sidewalk infrastructure, but modern ADA curbs are hit or miss on residential streets.
* Decent but not great tree canopy throughout.
* Urban massing is a mixed bag. Many commercial districts with long stretches many auto centric development inevitable in spots. Best urban massing is the commercial district near the commuter line.

Armour Square- Stable Multi-Cultural District south of Chinatown and north of the White Sox Stadium

Armour Square is a very funky narrow rectangle of left over space btwn the Dan Ryan Freeway to the east, railroads to the western, W33rd and the Chicago White Sox Stadium to the south and I-55 to the north. Historically Armour Square included Chinatown and the White Sox Stadium, but I see no reason to include them in this evaluation.

This area was first settled during the Civil War years thanks to the opening of the Union Stock Yards in 1865. The first immigrants to the neighborhood included German and Irish immigrants. By the 1870s many Swedish immigrants arrived and by the late 19th century many Italians and Croatians settled in the central part of the district. By the early 20th century Asians arrived in numbers especially in the northern end of Armour Square. African Americans also migrated to the area around the same time esp. the southern end. These immigrant trends lead to the creation of the Chinatown subdistrict north of 55 and the Wentworth Garden projects in the 1940s. The Dan Ryan expressway in the 50s lead to the destruction of must Black homes in the neighborhood and drastically reduced their population in Armour Square.

The construction of the highways in many ways stabilized Armour Square as it isolated the neighborhood for the blight of Bronzeville to the East. Armour Square also saw its crime decrease after the highways and continued in a more or less stable fashion becoming increasingly Asian as Italians and Croatians moved out of the neighborhood. Some signs of revitalization activity along 31st street with several newer restaurants, but all in all Armour Square doesn’t appear to be changing much. More commercial amenities and in-fill construction would certainly be a major plus towards adding more vibrancy to the neighborhood.

Click here to view my Armour Square album on Flickr


* Excellent urban density.
* Very good ADA and sidewalks infrastructure overall but about 20% of intersections without modern ADA curb cuts.
* Great access to dwtn with the Red line sitting just to the east of Armour Square and solid bike infrastructure.
* Good gridded and connected streets within the neighborhood.
* Historically an Italian District, Armour square is becoming a majority Asian, esp. north of 31st Street.
* Solid economic diversity and excellent generational diversity.
* Some walkable schools within and near Armour Square. Several well rated public elementary schools. A couple well rated middle & high schools not to far away.
* Overall a pretty safe area.
* Good mix of moderately and higher end for sale product. Limited 1-bed condos. Selling around 200K. Decent # of 2-bed condos. Sell btwn 200K-400K. 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 200K-700K.
* A couple subsidized apt bldgs available.
* Only hosts one park (Armour Square Park) but has a diversity of amenities (ballcourts, outdoor pool, playground, and fitness center.
* Decent historic and modern infill. Interesting mix of residential infill from the post WWII era to present.


*Connectivity to adjacent districts is obviously a bit stunted as Armour Square is surrounded by barriers.
* Rentals are pretty limited here but very reasonably priced.
* Okay Tree canopy.
* Decent cultural amenities including several restaurants & bars and the Chicago White Sox’s stadium. Easy access to Chinatown and better amenities in Bridgeport
* Limited retail amenities including a couple Asian grocerias, a couple boutiques, a couple salons, and some odds and ends Asian Stores, a couple churches.
* Mixed urban massing along 25th and 31st Street. Some auto centric spots in the district.

Cabrini Green- Formally Home to Chicago’s Most Infamous Project Housing Now Turned Mixed-Income Community

For my evaluation for Cabrini Green I used Division as the northern border, the Chicago River as the western boundary, Orleans as the eastern border (south of Oak) and LaSalle as the eastern border (north of Oak), and Chicago Ave as the southern border.

The Cabrini Green neighborhood was originally a shantytown built on low-lying land along Chicago River in the 1850s. The population was predominantly Swedish, then Irish. By the 20th century the neighborhood transitioned into a heavy Sicilian population and became an area of concentrated poverty and organized crime. With this history its not surprising that Cabrini Green was one of the first urban renewal and affordable housing targets in Chicago. In 1942, Frances Cabrini Homes (two-story rowhouses), with 586 units in 54 buildings were the first public housing units built. This was only the beginning as at its peak Cabrini–Green was home to 15,000 people mostly living in mid- and high-rise apartment buildings. Crime and neglect created hostile living conditions for many residents, and “Cabrini–Green” became synonymous for problems associated with public housing across America. In 1995, the Chicago Housing Authority began tearing down many of buildings,  Today, only the original Cabrini Green rowhouses remain.

On a positive note, Cabrini Green has become a testing ground for trying out new mixed-income housing models where in many buildings high end condos abut subsidized rentals without any difference in appearance nor layout. Cabrini Green has also seen a significant amount of purely market rated development thanks to its proximity to River North.  Building by building quality urban form and density are returning to Cabrini Green and cohesive business districts along Chicago, Wells, and Division are beginning to coalesce. With more infill development I’m also confident that missing retail and cultural amenities will improve and Cabrini Green will once again be a vibrant walkable community that it once was before its misplaced urban renewal.

Click here to view my Cabrini-Green Album on Flickr


* Pretty poor density for a Chicago neighborhood.
* Good overall ADA and sidewalk infrastructure. A couple spots of deteriorating sidewalks and dated curb cuts.
* Excellent access to Dwtn esp. River North just east of Cabrini Green.
* Great public transit access. 3 subway lines run through the neighborhood.
* Great bike amenities too including great bike rental coverage and a couple good dedicated bike lanes.
* Good overall diversity. Certainly more racial and economic diversity in Cabrini Green than other Near Northside Neighborhoods.
* Okay # of schools in Cabrini and surrounding area but generally well rated.
* Good diversity of for sale housing mixed moderately price and upscale. Fewer hsg options than surrounding River North but still pretty good. 1-bed condos sell btwn 200K-550K, 2-beds btwn 250K-750K, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 450K- around 1 M. Some products sells for more.
* Significant amount of dedicated affordable mixed-income buildings have been constructed in the neighborhood with the demo of Cabrini Green.
* Good park amenities including several nice small-medium sized parks.
* Other than the remaining Cabrini Green Rowhouses (the last of the larger Cabrini Green projects) the neighborhood is pretty safe.
* Generally pretty good urban in-fill stretching from the 90s to the present day. The newer infill is the best.
* Streetscaping in Cabrini Green is generally pretty good.


* Cabrini Green and several other mid century development messed up the street grid in parts but the neighborhood still has the solid grid of the main street and other historic streets that were unaffected.
* Lots of rents but generally expensive. Studios and 1-beds lease btwn the low 1Ks-3K, 2-beds 2.5K-5K, 3-beds lease btwn 3K-6K.
* Ok cultural amenities within Cabrini Green including some restaurants, cafes, bars, and night clubs. Tons of art galleries a couple blocks south of Chicago and lots of other amenities in adjacent River North, Gold Coast, and Old Town.
* Retail amenities are pretty limited being so close to Dwtn. But some good stuff including a target (which has a pharmacy & supermarket), a couple banks, a couple gyms, a book store, and public library. Good access to all the retail amenities in neighborhood River North.
* Historic architecture is limited.
* Much of the urban fabric was wiped away with Cabrini Green but it is being built and merged with what wasn’t demolished esp. along Chicago, Wells, LaSalle, and Division. Vacant lots are also filling in the interior too.
* Ok tree canopy. Has a ways to rebound.
* The Neighborhood image is certainly improving.

Douglas- Historic South Chicago Neighborhood Most Impacted by Urban Renewal

For this evaluation I only reviewed the portion of Douglas north of Pershing Avenue although the southern half of Douglas between Pershing and 31th is also historically considered part of Bronzeville. The Douglas neighborhood is named after Stephen A. Douglas, Abraham Lincoln’s political foe in the 1860 presidential election. His estate included a tract of land given to the federal government later developed for use as the Civil War Union training and prison camp. Of all the sections of Douglas originally developed by Stephen A. Douglas, only the oval-shaped Groveland Park survives. State Street between 30th and 35th and 35th Streets were major cultural hubs in historic Bronzeville. 

Sadly, the Douglas neighborhood was part of the City’s largest urban renewal project, which began in 1946. It included  the construction of the Illinois Institute of Technology, Mercy Hospital, Prairie Shores, and the 1677 unit Lake Meadows public housing project. Fortunately  Prairie Shores has been adopted as middle-class market rate condo community.  The scale of the urban renewal efforts in Douglas is truly astounding as it covered around 75% of the neighborhood. Sadly urban renewal at the time was founded on racist policies that did not think twice about removing and displacing this cultural home for thousands of African Americans and countless businesses. In the ensuing decades between the 1960s-2000s, Douglas remained an area of concentrated African American poverty with limited cultural and retail amenities. Since the 2000s Douglas has slowly rebounded  with blight being stabilized and the remaining historic stock being renovated and accursing value. 37th Street has seen some new businesses but most of the historic retail fabric of the district has not been rebuilt nor has their been much development spill over from IIT into the neighborhood.

Like its neighborhood Bronzeville to the South, the next chapter in Douglas is rebuilding and healing the urban fabric that was severely wounded by urban renewal and racism. I am hopeful that in 2 decades Douglas may be completed reconstructed given its convenient location near the South Loop, and waning of old racist mentalities, which placed South Chicago in the “do not flight zone” for Whites. I just hope that enough retail amenities are built so this can truly become a thriving mixed-use neighborhood as opposed to an awkward mix of urban density with limited walkability.

Click here to view my Douglas Album on Flickr


* Decent density.
* Great public transit access.
* Generally good ADA curbs and sidewalks but some underinvested stretches of sidewalks.
* Excellent access to Dwtn being only 3 miles south.
* Great bike coverage with several dedicated bike lanes and lots of dedicated bike stations.
* Thanks to the IL Institute of Technology Douglas has a decent Asian population and an ok generational diversity.
* Lots of walkable schools but of mixed ratings.
kept up nicely.
* Decent # of rentals and generally moderately priced but some luxury product with its close proximity to South Loop. 1-beds lease btwn $850-2K, 2-beds lease btwn the mid 1Ks to 2.5K, and plenty of 3-beds available that lease btwn 1.5K-3.5K. A handful for 4 beds at a similar rent. Significant amount of dedicated afford rentals here.
* For sale is a mix of moderately priced and higher end product. Decent # of  studio condos selling btwn 75K-200K, 1 bed condos that sell btwn 135K-350K, 2-beds sell btwn 125K-500K, 3 & 4 beds btwn  225K-800K.
* Excellent park amenities including the expansive Lakefront park, large and multi-faceted Dunbar, Ellis, and Lake Meadows park, and lots of smaller parks and greenspaces on mid-century tower developments.


* Good connectivity along the main streets but due to urban renewal side streets often have limited connectivity and often dead end.
* Economic diversity is not the best. Over half of the population is living in poverty but still some middle and upper middle class households.
* Crime seems to generally be under control in Douglas and less so than Grand Boulevard to the south. Also far fewer vacant bldgs here as blight is mostly cleaned up. Plenty of vacant lots but generally maintained.
* Cultural amenities are limited including some restaurants,  a couple cafes, a brewery, a couple historic sites, and some cultural amenities at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT).
* Docent retail amenities including 2 supermarkets, a couple drug stores, several banks, a Hardware store, a couple boutiques, lots of salons/barber shops, a couple dessert joints and gyms. a local public library and post office, a major hospital, and several churches.
* Much of Douglas historic urban fabric and most of its urban biz district fabric has been demolished. Some good stretches along 35th and a few along Pershing.
* Some better recent modern in-fill but most of it is cold mid century or bland 90s/early 2000s infill. Also a lot of autocentric infill.

Bronzeville- Chicago’s Historic African America Center

The Bronzeville neighborhood is an expansive one with a bit of fuzzy boundaries. I used the southern boundary to be both 51st St and 43rd St., the northern border at Pershing Rd, the western I-90 and the eastern boundary is College Grove and the lakefront parks. I thus included the southern half of the Oakland subdistrict and all of Grand Boulevard.

Originally the Grand Boulevard neighborhood hosted many of Chicago’s elite establishing stately homes along the lavish boulevards (MLK and Drexel Boulevards). It wasn’t until the 1890s that the neighborhood began to transform into an extension of the expanding Near Southside African-American community. By the 1920s Bronzeville was the site of Chicago’s version of the Harlem Renaissance, and home to many famous African-Americans. Black-owned newspapers, restaurants, clubs, theaters, and other businesses “the city within a city” were founded on and around State Street between 30th and 35th (“The Stroll”) and 43rd Street and 47th Street between State Street and Cottage Grove Avenue. Its hard to express just how massive this footprint was, probably 2-3 times the size of Harlem. The Great Depression hit the area hard but racist policies of city government were the most destructive force to the neighborhood. In 1941, the city built the infamous and gigantic Ida B Wells housing projects btwn 35th and Pershing and in 1961 the Robert Taylor high rises covering many blocks along State Street. You may recall seeing these along I-90 on the way to Downtown. Both projects produced severe social problems exacerbated by concentrated poverty. They were demolished by the 2000s.

Thankfully the 21st century has been more positive for Bronzeville. Population contrasted from 78K in 1950 to 18K in 2010 but has began to rebound the past decade. Much needed residential in-fill has begun to emerge throughout the neighborhood, especially along stronger residential streets. Commercial development has lagged behind but some new mixed-use bldgs emerged along Cottage Avenue and renovated storefronts in the remaining nodes of business district fabric along 47th Street. Urban strengths for Bronzeville include great public transit access, decent bike infrastructure, convenience to Downtown, great park amenities, diverse housing options and a relatively affordable neighborhood to buy a condo or home.

Click here to view my Bronzeville Album on Flickr


* Solid urban density.
* Very consistent curb cuts at modern standards. Sidewalks are generally good but still some sections of crumbling sidewalks generally corresponding to areas of vacancy.
* Excellent access to public transit.
* Solid bike infrastructure with length dedicated bike lanes running down MLK Blvd and Drexel Blvd and many dedicate bike stations.
* Good connectivity overall.
* Still a good amount of quality historic buildings remaining with most of the residential being kept up nicely.
* Decent # of rentals and generally moderately priced. 1-beds lease in the low-mid 1Ks, 2-beds lease btwn the mid 1Ks to low 2K, and plenty of 3-beds available that lease btwn the high 1Ks to 3K. Some 4-beds as well that are at a similar rent. Significant amount of dedicated afford rentals here.
* Decent # of 1 bed condos that sell in the 100Ks, 2-beds sell btwn 100K-450K, 3 & 4 beds btwn  175K-750 but mostly units sell below 400K.
* Access to a good amount of park space including many small-medium parks spread throughout and the massive Washington Park on the southern border and the NE section has access to the expansive lakefront park.


* Ok economic and diverse diversity. Large Black population at about 85% and most households earn less than 40K.
* Crime is still an issue but much better than it used to be. Lots of vacant lots throughout the neighborhood but most are well trimmed. Few vacant residential buildings but still a decent amount of vacant commercial remains.
* Good # of walkable schools but only a handful have at least decent ratings.
* In fill is a mix bag of quality residential in-fill, bland res, infill and autocentric commercial. Newer projects are getting better.
* Fair cultural amenities includes some restaurants, bars & cafes, the Harold Washington Arts Center, a couple small museums.
* Okay retail amenities including a small format Walmart, a couple supermarkets, a couple pharmacies, several boutiques & clothing stores especially 47th st, a couple banks, a local public library & post office, plenty of churches and a major hospital.
* Urban massing isn’t great as much of the historic fabric has been erased especially along the biz districts (i.e. 47th, 43rd, Cottage Grove, and Pershing.
* Lots of dead spots in the neighborhood.

Kenwood- A previously redlined community in Chicago’s Southside and now a success story for building African American generational wealth

Kenwood was once one of Chicago’s most affluent neighborhoods, and  still contains some of the largest single-family homes in the city. Kenwood was originally settled in the 1850s by wealthy Chicagoans seeking respite from the City. The first of these residents was John A. Kennicott, who built his home near the Illinois Central Railroad at 48th Street. He named his home Kenwood after his ancestral land in Scotland. Kenwood continued to prosper through the 1880s and 1890s, and new concentrations of large single-family homes began to emerge along Drexel Boulevard. By the early 1930s signs of deterioration emerged within the community, as the population exploded but with many of the older homes being converted in rooming houses and subdivided into apartments. Sadly with a large influx of African American’s in the neighborhood, White flight took root in the 60s and 70s and Kenwood’s population plummeted from 41K in 1950s to 21k in 1980. This was also the period when Kenwood’s commercial districts along 43 and 47 streets fell into disrepair and the neighborhood lost a significant amount of its retail and cultural amenities from which it still has not recovered.

Thankfully a large number of middle class homeowners (mostly African American) stuck it out in Kenwood and helped stabilize many gorgeous historic streets in the neighborhood. By the late 70s historic districts were created and by the late 90s the population stabilized. By 2000 in-fill construction began in earnest as the City pushed for the redevelopment of many vacant lots. Kenwood is now an economically diverse neighborhood and what I would consider a success story for a previously redlined African American community. There is now a strong Black middle class here and many of them own their homes and are building generational wealth. The next step for Kenwood is to reconstruct its blighted commercial districts along 43rd & 47th streets so this can truly become a mixed-use walkable community more akin to nearby Hyde Park. Even without strong retail amenities Kenwood is a solid urban neighborhood thanks to its great public transit access, wonderful park amenities, decent walkable schools, diverse and often affordable housing stock, gorgeous historic architecture, and comfortable tree lined streets.

Click here to view my Kenwood album on Flickr


* Excellent urban density.
* Great public transit access and easy access to Dwtn as its only a 15-20 minute train ride.
* Decent bike amenities with two main north-south bike routes and several dedicated bike stations.
* Great sidewalk and ADA infrastructure overall.
* Good diversity overall, especially economic.
* Good number of walkable schools but with mixed ratings.
* Good diversity of for sale options with lots of affordable options. Some 1-beds selling btwn 75K-300K, 2-beds generally sell btwn 100K-350K with some more expensive luxury product. 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 200K and 1 M.
* Good rental supply ranging from moderate to pricy. 1-beds lease in the 1Ks, 2-beds 1.5K-2K. 3-beds btwn the high 1Ks-3Ks. Limited 4 bed rentals.
* Great park amenities including the expansive lakefront parks, several small-medium parks spread through the neighborhood, and the lengthy  Drexel Blvd. Promenade running along the western border.
* Solid tree canopy.
* Generally solid architecture including some very excellent brownstones and 1920s apts bldgs that have been preserved. Wide range of in-fill including some crummy autocentric strip malls, early residential infill attempts and better more recent infill.


* Generally a safe neighborhood but still vestiges of blight and disinvestment that used to blight the neighborhood. Higher crime average than North Chicago neighborhoods.
* Ok cultural amenities: some restaurants, bars, & cafes, an art gallery, local ballet school, a local community theater, and the Hyde Park Arts Center. Convenient access to the many cultural assets in Hyde Park to the south.
* Decent retail amenities including a right sized Walmart, Whole foods, drug store, a couple banks, a Marshall’s & Ross’s, a couple boutiques, plenty of salons/barbers, some gyms, a local post office and library. Many retail amenities nearby in Hyde Park as well.
* Much of the historic commercial fabric has been wiped away along 47th, 43rd but good intact nodes at 47th & Drexel Blvd and Hyde Park & Lake Park Ave.
* Due to a lack of retail amenities pedestrian activity is pretty underwhelming but some activity thanks to Kenwood’s density.
* Kenwood still struggles with a historic negative image and bias, but it seems to be improving as the White population has increased in recent decades.

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


* 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.


* 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.