Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Gentrification, From a Woodlawn Perspective

posted by chicago pop

Very Nice Map of Woodlawn

Woodlawn Wonder, one of our happy band of local South Side bloggers, shares an interesting take on gentrification in Woodlawn from the perspective of a black "urban pioneer" in a largely black neighborhood, in conversation with mostly young folks, some white, affiliated with the University of Chicago, who feel guilty about it.

Fascinating, Captain. It scrambles a lot of the usual categories we use to think about this issue.

Here's an excerpt, since I'm lazy, and it's a good read. Or just check out the blog it comes from, where you'll also get the latest skinny on the 3 new farmer's markets (see the Tribune's article also) opening up on the south side food desert.

Woodlawn Wonder reflects on the gentrification panel:

Naturally I was curious about one’s role in gentrification since it’s a much discussed and vilified topic these days. Since I’m a condo owner and by definition a gentrifier in Woodlawn, I had to stick my head in and see what all of this was about.

Perhaps I was slightly disappointed because of the un-preparedness of the panel.

Perhaps I was slightly disappointed because of the sparse turnout.

But one thing struck me as the discussion progressed, I’d bet you a million dollars that you’d never see a group of educated successful Black people beat themselves up over gentrifying a neighborhood.

Some say gentrifying, I say improving.

The panel was in the process of developing a brochure about responsible gentrifying. There seemed to be a lot of hand wringing by some people about gentrification in general.

People in attendance and the panel realized that good intentions and your personal budget often collide. As a result of finances and due to some people’s personal living preferences they have to (or choose to) live in “emerging neighborhoods.”

That’s a nice way of saying minority neighborhoods

I think it’s awfully conscious of the people at the forum to be concerned about being responsible gentrifiers.

But as far as I’m concerned, it’s called being a good neighbor.

And as we all know, you can’t teach consideration, manners or good taste.

Well maybe you can try.

What I think the young people in that room may not have considered that change is a constant in Chicago neighborhoods.

Humbolt Park wasn’t always Hispanic. Woodlawn wasn’t always Black. Some parts of Old Town and River North used to be the “red light district.”

Obviously block busting, redlining, overt racism and down right ignorance played a huge role in the changing of the guard in the residential areas.

As those of us in the Chicagoland area know, it’s not the neighborhood but who lives in it that drives how it’s perceived and the services it receives.

Hey that rhymed.

In a sort of neighborhood circle of life, older neglected neighborhoods are bound to be rediscovered by those seeking beautiful, architecturally interesting buildings.

Not to mention accessibility to public transportation and green spaces.

Older neighborhoods in the city are experiencing a renaissance. Naturally, gentrification will follow.

And while many opinions will continued to be expressed about the re-emergence of urban neighborhoods, a few things continue to ring true.

People who want affordable accessible homes aren’t the problem. They shouldn’t be treated as such.

If you don’t want the flavor of your neighborhood to change, purchase it. Short of eminent domain or a federal injunction, not much can be done to take it away from you.


And to my fellow forum attendees that happen to be white a small aside:

You don’t need a manual on how to be a good neighbor. In fact, I think it’s somewhat ridiculous to feel guilty or apologize for simply being who you are.


Hyde said...

Mary Patillo has a great book on this subject - Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City

Neighborhood is North Kenwood/Oakland, story is the same.

The Woodlawn Wonder said...


Where did you get that super hot map of Woodlawn? I want to find a copy for the flat.

Big Ups,


chicago pop said...

Hyde: I've wondered if we should be doing book reviews, and recos like yours may help make it happen. Although I was hoping to be lazy here, I may just have to read this book. Or ought to, at least. Thanks.

WW: I filched the map here; I don't know why in the world it doesn't include your homestead among the landmarks. Maybe the next version will.

Would look good in a room with earth tones. Good luck with the home decorating!

Richard Gill said...

When a neighborhood goes "downhill" there is wailing. When a neighborhood goes "uphill" there is wailing. An eternal steady state is not a realistic option. Thus, there shall always be wailing throughout the land.

eternal footman said...

I live on 62nd and Ellis; moved here about two years ago. A neighbor of mine crossed the street yesterday to tell me about the buildings that were going up on the vacant lots that exist on three sides of our building.

He told me to look it up and since I keep a semi-irregular blog on the subject, I did. Imagine my delighted surprise to find this post and learn that I am definitely late to the party.