Thursday, October 29, 2009

The near South Side

After a summer of intensive study of what is wrong with modern real estate development (by taking walks in Winston-Salem), Susan was shocked to encounter, unexpectedly, a nearly perfect urban enclave south of the Loop in Chicago. (She stayed in a rented townhouse in this neighborhood while at the Society for Neuroscience meeting.) Note the pedestrian walkways (including a safe way to cross under busy 14th Street). There is easy access to trains and buses, a supermarket within easy walking distance, and of course, Soldier Field. This type of development works: the population of this neighborhood has increased 39% since 1990. Of course, the blog would not be able to sit outside and drink its Friday wine on the charming balcony during the winter...

How did this come to be? Here's an excerpt from an interesting account. Wikipedia is also extremely helpful on this topic.

The decline of passenger trains left the rail yards vacant, while changes in the printing industry had emptied out Printers’ Row (an area of Chicago known for the success of its printing). The 1973 Chicago 21 Plan (a 1970s urban renewal plan for the city of Chicago) called for construction in the South Loop to reflect a more urban atmosphere. The result, after many years of fund-raising, political wrangling, and trips back to the drawing board, was Dearborn Park, a planned community on 51 acres of former rail yards. Bears owner George “Papa Bear” Halas had it earmarked for a new stadium until the Dearborn Park planners wrestled them away. Construction on the development wasn’t complete until the mid-90s, but the first residents moved into town homes and high-rises and terraced mid-rise buildings in 1979.

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