Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Cottage Grove Development

I don't know about you, but it's easy for me to get up to 47th Street and every time I do, I wish there was more there. It's certainly got history going for it, as anyone who knows about Chicago's musical heritage can tell you. And "it's got good bones," as a stroll up or down the nearby mansion districts of Drexel Boulevard, Cottage Grove, or King Drives will convince. Broad boulevards that lead directly to the South Loop, solid public transportation infrastructure, and a spectacular architectural heritage are all tremendous assets for this area.

Which is why recipients of Alderman Toni Preckwinkle's 4th Ward newsletter can't help but be ecstatic over the announcement of the big mixed-use project slated for the corner of 47th and Cottage Grove. If the partnership between the Midwestern regional specialist in mixed-use development, Silken, and the South Side Quad Communities Development Corporation holds up, this could be the biggest reinvestment in the South Side in decades and a spectacular feather in Preckwinkle's cap. It would represent exactly the kind of thing that 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston has been unable to pull off just a few miles to the south, along equally promising Stony Island Avenue, which, admittedly, has not experienced a similar rate of residential infill, nor is starting off from as strong a base in housing stock.

Both Cottage Grove and Stony Island, as well as most of the major east-west thoroughfares (47th, 63rd, 79th) were historically major commercial strips and their geography still favors redevelopment along those lines. This can only benefit the lakefront communities adjoining Hyde Park-Kenwood.

No neighborhood is an island, not even the Ivory Tower community of Hyde Park. Commercial development is much needed in surrounding communities, and this is a win-win for everybody. By bringing services to under-served South-Side communities, we also alleviate some of the stresses that intensive development focused within Hyde Park would generate.

Hyde Parkers would do well, instead of stonewalling the prospect of change and reinvestment, to contemplate the urban landscape surrounding them. Our neighbors are embracing positive, progressive mixed-used developments that are viewed with suspicion just a few blocks south, where the focus is less on improvement of the entire community than in guarding one's own little slice of the urban pie.

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