Tracking Community Trends: Where we stand re: some often-stated objectives and standards for communities and HPK

A service of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and its website Join the Conference, help support our support of community objectives.

Return to Tracking Community Trends I (home). Community and Neighborhood News. HPKCC News. News from co-laborers in the Community. Neighborhood Profiles. Quality of Life. Setting Neighborhood Goals. See also section homes such as parks, transit... Calendars and Directories.

2005 Herald year-end snapshot gives some trends to think about--or are some of them just transitory blips?

The Herald's Top 10 newsworthy items were:

  1. Violent crime surges. If it wasn't one kind it was another. Need we panic? No, they say, but violent crimes (the ones up especially) can undermine a neighborhood. "Talk of public safety must warrant the same kind of attention Hyde Parkers give to Promontory Point and other issues." This writer agrees.
  2. Teens gone wild. What did the early 2005 surge mean? That little can be done to stop such episodic spikes from occurring (especially since more of our school kids come great distances) and that "teenagers, teetering on adulthood, need to be listened to, not patronized."
  3. The campaign to preserve the Point mostly in place with the same or similar materials gained a last serious hearing and hope, thanks to Senator Obama and residents firmly saying "no" to bureaucracy. Savvy people power can still work. And Hyde Park still has disproportionate muscle when well directed.
  4. Harper Court may be sold, even demolished. This is sharp turn from the Urban Renewal "settlement" and local/independent retail ownership and, with other proposed developments, may mark a considerably faster rate of change and could effect our stable mixed income population and business climate. Some would say it's time to shake up they see as a stagnant, eroding retail base.
  5. Death of John H. Johnson. This author thinks right things Johnson stood for, including African American entrepreneurship, pride, and activism, are still thriving on the South Side.
  6. The Co-op. Will it survive the retrenchment, even if can lease to 47th store?
  7. End in sight for the Randel era. University involvement in communities, mostly in positive directions, dramatically increased and improved under Don Randel, leaving in mid 2006. This editor thinks the trends are well established and will strengthen further, but the University still has considerable distance to go on sensitivity. This author would couple with this section two subsections a) The year University expansion became palpable and went into full gear, b) the ongoing rifts over race and more shown by the "straight-thuggin'" incident.
  8. Leal's 53rd Cornell and other proposed developments, concern over affordability.This one may well belong much higher on the list.
  9. Theater not coming back to Harper and 53rd. This endlessly-stalled redevelopment, what it will be, may become a high item in 2006. Nothing is moving until the Harper/Herald question is decided.
  10. Checkerboard Lounge opens. It's being asked to carry multiple revitalization burdens by itself, even if a Kleiner restaurant opens next door. It's failure would weaken the neighborhood more than its success would make much difference, this author thinks.


How we're doing on goals, ideals, qualities and measures of community strength:

Diversity, inclusiveness, including re: housing change. (See more in following section, and in Neighborhood Profiles.) Hyde Park is overall and locally more diverse and integrated than nearly every other community in the region and than it has been in at least a long time, if ever, according to the 2000 U.S. Census and widespread observation. There are fewer blocks that are exclusively, or even by large majority, the home of one racial, ethnic or income group. The the number of nationalities and ethic groups present in small or substantial numbers has been large for over a century but is now if anything even higher, with Spanish and Asians having increased to recognizable presence. Non-Spanish whites and blacks are in about equal numbers, neither being a majority but together about 90 percent. See a breakdown further in this section.

Substantial and perhaps increasing numbers of people from surrounding neighborhoods spend time and money in Hyde Park (and Hyde Parkers spend more, maybe increasing, time outside the neighborhood at cultural events (as well as shopping) than most other neighborhoods. Is Hyde Park homogenous? No. By race, ethnicity, and income, people tend to be clustered, but the clusters are more broken up and with lower percentages of whatever group predominates. Despite a considerable turnover (in addition to students), Hyde Park is popular and bursting at the seams--pressures are strong for increasing density and higher prices and rents, residential and commercial.

East Hyde Park and Kenwood are less distinct than they used to be. In some areas this appears to be partially a result of small and larger upscale developments such as Renaissance Place at the old Osteopathic Hospital. In that west Hyde Park sector, where both gentrification and influx from downsized CHA have occurred, the contrasts are especially sharp and increasingly so. (Some would also say that's so along 53rd Street). Sometimes the average-income small-scale changes have strange results: Kozminski School in west Hyde Park in 2003 lost significant funding because the average family income around the school, including the Renaissance project, rose above a low-income funding cutoff point, even though there has been no change in the composition of the student body (nearly all low-income). Kenwood Academy has also lost some funding from similar changes. As for more than fifty years, a wide variety of organizations and places work on these issues and to bring Hyde Parkers into conversation and inclusion (see Ending Homelessness/ open communities; Affordable Housing home). Minority business/retail ownership and thematic offerings, including in arts and stores, have grown enormously in the past few years. See also an article showing how density can be an asset.

Hyde Park is 44% white and 38% African-American while Woodlawn is 94% A-A and 3% white. Only $19 million was spent in the 2003 in the much-vaunted housing "rebuilding" Woodlawn while figures in Hyde Park (boundaries not given in stats. by Dept. of Buildings) are given as $289-fourth highest of any neighborhood.

The Harper Court Chess controversy and the dispute over the continuing validity of the purpose of Harper Court to promote and subsidize small and artsy businesses also highlight other aspects of the diversity and inclusiveness issue. Fights over schools equity (i.e. Kozminski and Reavis vs Murray, Ray and Harte also show fissures in the community, especially between west versus central and east Hyde Park.

Affordability. See Affordable Housing Forum, Affordable Housing Information, New Coalition for Equitable Community Development, Ending Homelessness and Protecting Affordability, Neighborhood Development and Policy, Community Resources, Nonprofits- outside community-building resources

[Section to be updated]

Affordability is an increasing worry, especially as a growing number of properties are being converted to condominiums (although it's hardly a stampede like the '70s and early '80s). New organizatins form but seem to accomplish little except on the micro level (i.e. Seminary Action, Transitional, and hopes for a seniors place like Senior Suites). Hard measures (that are more than just neighborhood-wide averages) should be sought. Several faith-based organizations including HP cluster of Interfaith Open Communities (HP Transitional Housing Project, Home Sharing), Older Women's League, and church/synagogue social justice committees, are working on the problem: from home and apartment sharing between empty nesters and persons of modest means to cooperative housing. They held forums April 29, 2006 and May 19 2007 that are leading to a 501 Task Force and perhaps vehicles to create affordable housing in the neighborhood. Chicago Rehab Network survey shows only 24 affordable rental units in the city--with rents about to shoot up here, realtors say. See analysis and breakout for Hyde Park and Kenwood in Affordable Housing Information. Also surf CRN, Metropolitan Planning Council, and Metropolis 2020.

These problems plague the whole South Side and city--especially as, at least until very recently, CHA has been emptying faster than refilling and a disturbing proportion of its ex-residents are homeless. Affordability also affects more well-off folks, as well as middle class owners on fixed incomes, as tax assessments soar (see Taxes) and fees rise and mandated building masonry, elevator, and other costs rise (see Sprinkler Retrofit), threatening viability of both rental and condo buildings and potentially driving people out of their homes and the neighborhood. Older housing is expensive to keep up, whether substantial mansions, bungalows and cottages, or buildings long since subdivided. Fortunately, transportation and parking and purchasing (with exceptions) costs are reasonable and housing stock generally sound although again aging in this neighborhood. (A coalition on the County Board seeks to put a stop on increases in assessments for owners of 10 years or more standing in areas with rapid growth in assessments.) On the other hand, a drop in housing prices would certainly have a devastating effect on the neighborhood, as it did in the 1930s and before and during Urban Renewal.

Much of the University of Chicago student upper classes (junior and senior) is in the private housing market, usually, but not always--some parents buy/invest in condos for their kids--, seeking affordable housing that creates niches for real estate managing firms (sometimes acting like slum lords) and also for homeowners seeking sharers. Their presence, as well as the University's sometimes taking market units for student and staff housing, does increase the pressure on availability and rents, but the University seems to be sensitive to avoiding imbalance. It will be interesting to see whether the university pulling out of such dorms as the Shoreland in favor of just south of the Midway and near-campus will have significant effects.

The University, 30 percent of whose staff lives in the area, has been providing, and now has a new program (EAHP) of, subsidies for members of the University and Hospitals, including forgivable loans, for those who buy and stay for a certain length with the institution and in new units in HPK, North Kenwood-Oakland, Washington Park, and Woodlawn. ( and and Real Estate Operations, 5100 S. Dorchester.) For such programs to come into being, there must be 1) farsighted individuals such as King Harris, a trustee of the University and a board-program person in the Metropolitan Planning Council, 2) partnerships such as that between MPO and Housing Services of Chicago and the city, 3) a wide experience and perception that those in authority at the institution (such as President Randel and Community and Intergovernmental Affairs) will pick up and follow through on good ideas. It's notable that IIT is collaboratively embarking on the same program for Bronzeville developments. This is a trend to watch: employer-assisted mortgages. The catch is that you often have to sign an agreement not to quit your job or sell the mortgage during the next 5 years--This may be a great deal if you can live with the above, the neighborhood is ok and increasing in value and livability, and the employer agrees not to terminate except for just cause. The University has also partnered with Community Investment Corporation to buy viable rental buildings and keep them affordable--selling under strict agreements in Woodlawn. For Hyde Park, the University so far seems to offer just advice (set up a Community Development Corporation to tap into funds for affordable units) and support for affordable set aside. However, this there is information that this may change, re close to the campus, if such the University is involved someway in these possible moves.

Some believe that, once urban renewal and vigorous code enforcement bought the neighborhood internal and temporal space, the abandonment and depopulation of the surrounding areas, providing the chance for rebuilding and repopulation with mixed income now, is what has saved Hyde Park and Kenwood as viable, multiracial communities. In these surrounding areas, our aldermen led the fight, with Ald. Tillman, for affordable housing set-asides for new developments. Their bill, with 20 of 50 supporting, is near critical level of support. A Daley administration bill that mainly codifies present rules and has loopholes, was adapted however. Two projects to our north are advancing and receiving City Council funding (Madden-Wells/Lake Crescent and Jazz on the Boulevard.) They have affordable components, although the debate continues over the units' affordability to whom, and it is evident that the quality of units in such developments is (how much?) lower on the inside. On the other side of the debate, groups of upscale relative newcomers (almost all of whom are African Americans), oppose almost any component of lower income people in "their" space. To the west of Kenwood, a number of larger buildings have been converted to affordable senior housing in the area. A non-profit group will be rehabilitating CHA building(s) as mixed income in the Washington Park homes.

Alderman Preckwinkle co-sponsored a resolution passed by City Council in 2003 asking increased federal help--actually a National Trust Fund--aiming at 1.5 million affordable units of housing in Chicago siting families that spend more than 30 percent of income on housing (a whopping 41 percent in "affluent Illinois). The city has a cooperative housing, renter-to-buyer program. Call the ward offices to learn more. There have been largely attended seminars and rallies. Some state legislation was passed in 2004 through 2006 promoting affordability, assessment growth relief, and time for associations of subsidized housing structures to buy buildings when subsidy is dropped or times out. (Whether something will be done about expiration of large amounts of Project-Based Section 8 subsidies remains to be seen.)

Congressman Danny Davis has amassed an impressive coalition and funding for affordable first-time homeownership in targeted neighborhoods of the south and west sides, including Kenwood and Oakland, along with prospective homeowner training. Congressman Rush has a similar program. The zoning reform ordinance's parking requirements for developments and homeowners will also have a major impact on affordability as well as quality of life. (Requirements apparently stay the same at 1:1 but with area flexibility). See Zoning Reform home.)

Affordability of course requires lending options. There are lots more in the area than even in 1990, after the drought and aftermath from red-lining, restrictive banking laws and worse ended. And being added is a community-owned South Side institution, South Side Credit Union, the dream of Greg Brown, Cecilia Butler, Walter Freeman, and others, at 55th and Wentworth, with the idea spreading. Among the first task is to build its depositor base, including with Individual Development Accounts.

Much "affordable", well-designed, multi-family mixed-income housing is being built near employment and transit,with rent subsidy provided, under the Regional Housing Initiative under the umbrella of the Metropolitan Planning Council and the Illinois Housing Development Authority. Contact Robin Snyderman at 312 863-6007.

On another front, Senior Suites is a new alternative to assisted living and nursing homes. Learn more about efforts at affordability and to combat homelessness in Neighborhood Capital Budget Group website. There is one in west Oakland and another at 67th and Oglesby.

Jack Spicer to HPKCC Development Committee after the December 8 2007 53rd Vision Workshop:

Affordable housing was not thoroughly dealt with at the workshop. it is standard practice for affordable housing advocates... to petition (beg) the aldermen to encourage (lean on) developers to provide below market units in their developments. Nobody is building new rental right now, so this is mostly low-end condos or off-site rental in older buildings. There's not much potential here for poor or old people because the condos are still too expensive and the off-site rental isn't where people are now living. Why not create a not-for-profit community development corporation that creates and manages "low-equity co-op housing"? The local banks and the developers involved in local projects would be partners and community members could buy shares in the corporation and "invest" affordable housing. Development and "gentrification" are going to happen in Hyde Park. As we work to make sure it is good and smart development, we need to take it into our own hands to limit the damage to poor and old people. Not-for-profit, low-equity co-op housing corporations are operating all around the country, often in the same way a nature conservation land trust operates. Burlington, Vermont has a good one (also has a good, successful co-op grocery store, by the way).

Things to watch: any increase in particular buildings that seem ripe for conversion or are on the slide (including the "N0 Deposit" signs?), any upsurge in tear-downs and buildouts instead of rehabs, how the redevelopment goes in Oakland and Woodlawn (in Woodlawn especially there is very little "affordable" component in new housing and huge tracts of empty land are not being built on)--including these neighborhoods' ability to attract retail and services since elimination of retail zones on most of 47th and 63rd, any upsurges in section 8 housing or slum warehousing in the neighborhood and surroundings with any impacts this has.


Housing stock maintenance, with room for renewal and also historic preservation and preservation of block quality and characteristics; control of density. These goals have often been vigorously-pursued and sources of contentions in the community. In its early years, HPKCC fought for and over Urban Renewal and housing regulation/density reduction issues (and the wide consequences of these for racial and income groups). (Visit Urban Renewal and Urban Renewal Timeline.) Sometimes renewal was indeed minority removal (including Appalachians, not just African Americans) or "black and white together against the poor", but not always. The Project had many distinct and conflicting goals and constraints and sometimes was surgical, in other places was close to being the bulldozing it was supposed to substitute for. The Conference organized or coordinatied 60 block clubs. SECC, in part representing the University and persons and interests alarmed at the "idealism" of the Conference or seeking more practical or specific goals, followed the Conference into and eventually became the lead in housing code monitoring and enforcement (which was sometimes draconian and accompanied by dirty tricks). SECC continues to help and encourage the city in its monitoring and enforcement programs. Today, block clubs are weak to uneven, with notable exceptions and attempts by CAPS to reestablish them in troubled sectors.

Recently, there have been conflicts and organizing over historic preservation and density-from-development issues. Density is equated by many with congestion, others are intrigued by contrary arguments. HPKCC and others are examining with interest ideas ways that zoning reform and other tools can help preserve or foster desired microscale character through subtle modifications: in requirements re off-street parking and footprint or back yard land use requirements. The modern advice is for keeping mixture and variety of structures, scales, inhabitants, types of businesses. We certainly have one of the most diverse set of housing scales and styles. Much of it is old and expensive to maintain.

The demolition of a frame house in a derelict lot at 5121 Kimbark in October 2004 brings out the complicated character of preservation and community upkeep advocacy. People's takes are very different, with all being thoughtful and true to important principles. There is a concern that older, less-heavily-developed parts of the community, especially between 51st and 53rd or 55th (which have no protection), may be vulnerable to teardown redevelopment that could be out of scale and character. Be sure to visit the History and Preservation pages including Preservation Hot and Preservation Beat as well as subsections above. For this and next section, visit an article arguing for density as part of neighborhood-building.

Some people are ticked off by something as simple as the cutting down of a pre settlement cottonwood north of the 55th Starbucks to squeeze in another four-flat condo to sell to UC doctors and Lab School parents in a "busy" market, according to the developer who said, "It's my property." Indicative of many trends. Story in the Preservation Hot page.


Commercial Strength and Development. If you want to pass "go" and have a real run with this, go to the 53rd Street News-Vision-Process page (including pieces by Jack Spicer and others), Harper Court pages, Business Climate, and Development home navigator. See below Jack Spicer and otherrs' pieces on revitalizing comercial districts. Are we stuck in the mud, lacking vision for the business districts, anti-free enterprise, our residents preferring to travel long distances for goods and services, our business people not providing services or providing them well? A few have said so, others deny it. It us undeniable, though, that no matter how vacancy statistics are massaged, retail has slipped since alarms about it led to the Vision for Hyde Park Retail District and creation of the TIF (citing slow growth of commercial valuation) at the turn of the 21st century. In 2007-08, the community and TIF are starting a new visioning process for 53rd, more process voices are emerging, and the University is wrestling with findings of a new retail survey.

Some don't want new (especially chain or larger scale) retail development at all, others want more of it, with more diverse and larger shopping options. Commerce is always going to be tough going in this location because we are close to downtown, people can get in their cars (which they often can't park near our pre-auto age shopping areas), and we do not have the consistent high income level and population density--here and in the wider south side--that makes it easy to attract a variety of retailers of all scales. (However, there is much more shopping money in such areas than traditional survey measures show.) The retailer base is not large and tends to be small scale; these often do not encourage bold presentation and marketing--yet examples elsewhere and planning models show that a path to to vibrant, socially mixed communities is a variety of small, incubator businesses--see Caitlin Devitt's piece in Neighborhood Goals.

Many from surrounding neighborhoods do shop in Hyde Park because it's relatively nice and quiet here and their neighborhoods have less or higher-priced retailers, but this is starting to change as new retail comes to those areas as well--just wait until Cottage Grove and Stony Island really get going. It seems that Hyde Park, according to studies, cannot or does not draw enough people from the optimum distances to get the boxes--as if we had any parcels large enough for them. The retail mix is widely thought to be limited and unbalanced and the retail sector has lagged the residential in valuation growth. But ethnic diversity in retail ownership and offerings has grown enormously and is still growing. While our bookstores and ethnic restaurants are strong and the Co-op stores are a great though troubled anchor (endangered--see Co-op), some of the specialty-niche commercial uses (especially if they include culture, such as coffeehouses) that residents most want to see here are marginal and vulnerable to slight economic changes, even fad changes. The TIF and the new city, and likely zoning, standards have not yet significantly strengthened the picture. There has been new retail, with more promised though it comes very slowly, and many vacancies are filling despite the poor economy, although the net vacancies may not have gone down.

The City's new Business Express and other streamlining has also not significantly helped businesses and developers. 312 744-CITY. And facade rehab rebate has been taken advantage of by only a few businesses--why or whose fault is debated.

Streetscape improvements continue to be made (following 53rd and 55th) and more are planned along Lake Park and Metra and the viaducts. The Chamber of Commerce did a customers' survey of business service and a survey was released of demand/desires in cultural business. A question: does commercial health preclude coexistence with slow-go activities such as the chess that was in Harper Court? Another, in light of the past holdup of Bar Louis' liquor license and now the opposition on Harper Court redevelopment will there be an anti and NIMBY cold wind from the past--it is reasonable to expect neighbors to take a close look at changes that might not be in their and/or the community's interest. There is always the "micro" vs the many levels of "macro" when it comes to well-being and quality of life. And will the new smoking ban for restaurants hurt the scene?

Some express disappointment with the TIF Advisory Council, saying it hasn't lived up to being a proactive and at least quasi independent voice. Others that it can re-grasp the initiative by insisting on a public conversation on getting retail space and parking going- such as the Herald-Theater complex and parts of Harper Court (now University) and the Leal properties east of the tracks and by Kenwood.

Jack Spicer on the University and commercial real estate holdings, development. To HPKCC Development Committee:

The University of Chicago could help local development by selling all its commercial real estate. As a matter of self-defense it was understandable that the University would want to control the real estate market back when the neighborhood was dicey. But the neighborhood is fine now and ready to grow gracefully. The University's huge position in the commercial real estate business serves no legitimate self-interest today and disrupts the entire market. They are inept commercial developers and managers because, like government, they don't have to do it well enough to make a living at it; it's like a hobby. (Where's Milton Friedman when you really need him?) The University i8s very, very big and its sheer size distorts everything in the neighborhood. But it can't help being big if it wants to continue do9ing its job well, and we have to accept the effects of its size and learn to live with them. But its huge position in commercial real estate today is not part of its job and is a dis-service to itself and to the community, whatever the quality of its intentions.

The University's handling of the Harper Theater Building project was close to perfect. With thorough community input they created an excellent Request For Proposal and threw it into the free market ring for developers to wrestle with. Then they sold the property to the winner. The winning proposal is outstanding on every dimension, all the better for the competition and the lack of backroom interference.

Doctors Hospital, not so good. Instead of creating an RFP based on the recognized need for a hotel and the realities of the existing building, the site and the surrounding neighborhood, they started with a chosen developer. Bad process, bad result. The neighborhood needs a hotel, probably 2 or 3 of them, and the Doctors Hospital site would be just fine if it were a good hotel project being proposed. The White Lodging/HOK concept was too tall, too busy, too boring and demolishes the existing hospital building to absolutely no advantage. Landmarks Illinois has commissioned an award-winning hotel architecture firm to develop a plan that uses the existing building, has high-quality new construction added, is quiet on the street, and is shorter - all this using the White Lodging's own specifications and with up to 20% of the construction costs being offset by preservation credits. The University is reviewing the alternate proposal and other hotel developers have expressed interest in taking over the project using the preservation architects' approach.

Things to watch: Harper Court/City lot play out. With drive-through McDonalds and BP Connect as well as Borders on line, will Checkerboard/Kleiner restaurant and Harper Theater development get off the ground and will there be a new proposal for Mobil-present McDonalds. What will a parking study show, and can the parking holdback be resolved?

An Urban Land Institute Workshop, held in Chicago summer, 2003, identified Ten Principles for Development. Thanks to Howard Males for passing this along.

More resources: see the in-site and other organization websites given at the top and in General Development and Public Policy. Also Zoning and Development. TIF News


Mobility and walkability, Parking. This is a never-won give and take. Improvements and relieving infrastructure have been made and are being planned, but congestion seems to grow. Circulation improvements at the lakefront, most intensively in Jackson Park, achieved by the Lake Shore Drive rehab may come back to us when the Dan Ryan is complete. But there always seem to be tie-up spots in Hyde Park, especially along South Hyde Park, South Shore Drive, Lake Park, 53rd west of Lake Park. Lake Park is being looked at, the rest are just window dressed. Rehabbed Metra stations have improved access including with elevators at 51st (where many seniors live) and at 57th. Changes such as a Parking Improvement District and possible parking garage on 53rd both needing to be studies might help, although new University garages is reported to have made little if any improvement for neighbors--and the University is shifting gears to alternatives to the single auto and parking (see Parking). Zoning reformers have designated a pedestrian-friendly and transit-oriented street overlay district with special requirements on part of the 53rd Street commercial corridor. Zoning reform did not tinker with the current requirements for commercial off street parking or the residential requirement of 1:1 parking space for each residential unit. Environmental, sustainability, neighborhood, affordable housing, and transit advocacy organizations and developers worked together to make a strong case for not increasing the requirements. A case was made locally that the actual ratio in HP and the south side really averages well below 1:1. But if residents keep insisting on increasing cars here while the housing stock and street space is static, congestion will nevertheless continue to grow.

The UC is rethinking its mix of (highly subsidized) parking and additional transportation provisions and incentives (that it knows need to be increased). New garages will be only part of the mix to handle increased density in its master plan.

New thinking on parking for the central business district (53rd) is to manage the problem with a parking improvement district (overlain on the TIF) including pay and display, make arrangements with key private lots (sharing), educate and supply materials to the public on parking resources. A study and more parking may be needed if new development cannot handle the issue internally.

Watch for: plans for improvement along Lake Park and its viaducts and on Midway Plaisance. Movement on a parking study geared toward a PID and possibly a 53rd garage. More usage of I-Go car sharing, which keeps adding spots throughout the city, including now at CTA stops.


Citizenship. HPK has long been a bastion of citizen involvement. Civil liberties and civil rights, social justice are vigorously defended here. Chapters of Americn Civil Liberties Union, League of Women Voters , Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights, faith-based groups for peace and justice and against war and racism abound, often in association with civically and socially conscious religious organizations. Active citizenship is by no means confined either to the "Left" or to politics or to NIBY activism. (Indeed, the power of left political groups and the dominance of local politics by Independent Voters of Illinois has greatly decreased.) And the issues change--antiwar, end the death penalty/help for ex offenders, affordable/transitional housing, organization around services leading to self-sufficiency, anti-sweatshop, Fair Exchange coffee, the Point, original purpose of Harper Court, internet neutrality (with some it takes a while to get the meanings behind the slogans).

Many people are increasingly uneasy about perceived remove and arrogance of the city government. Aldermen and legislators keep their ears to the ground here and generally work for constituent wishes. Of course, the wishes are often hard to discern or broker! Community pride is very strong, although accompanied by a healthy skepticism and willingness to criticize perceived internal problems and weaknesses. Schools are vigorously debated, although it is hard to get parents and neighbors involved or their kids attending local, especially public schools. Many are unsure whether "the community" is "in control" here.

There are other gauges of a vibrant citizenship. A serious problem is the stress of life, the balancing of the demands of the workplace and of family. People run into meetings late and revert to their cell phones wearing worried, stress-weary faces. Many are of course not so un relaxed.

A key factor is a serving and responsive public sector and set of elected officials. HPK is very fortunate in that regard. Division of districts (except possibly Congressional) and wards works quite well for us. The problem is how to mesh what downtown wants or is good for the whole city etc. and what HPK folk believe is best for us. And there is still something of a moat-and-island mentality, although HPK is becoming more and more a component of the greater mid-south. Visit Setting Community Goals and Neighborhood Quality. Do we need a more thorough planning process?


Involvement and volunteerism, locally created institutions and initiatives. View an article on "how to organize for success including getting volunteers" in LILAC: Greening a Vital Corridor (navigate from near top in LILAC).]

Is it becoming harder to recruit people to be involved in community projects and activism as lifestyles change and many newcomers treat the community as just a bedroom?

The pressures on people's time is enormous in this time of two-person incomes, demands of the workplace and long commutes, and the need to really pay attention to the kids and their schools (or forever shop for the "right" school). Stress takes its toll also. Many moving into the large buildings from outside the neighborhood seem to just reside there and never interact with or learn about the neighborhood. Still, the number who do volunteer is very large, although they tend (more?) to focus on just narrow issues or a rigid agenda. With a high proportion of people you meet here and converse with, you soon find out how many casual or ongoing volunteer activities they engage in. The "Hyde Park matron" tradition endures. And there is regular recognition of volunteers in the community. Still, it's a "tend your own garden" age. And there is still a large contingent whose idea of activism is to just vocally oppose anything new or "from downtown". Yet, the number intelligently engaged or interested in the Promontory Point issue should encourage and shows that the old Hyde Park Spirit is alive and well. The University and Hospitals are also becoming more engaged with the community. Things to watch: Level of growth, activity of the Conference, the Neighborhood Club, SECC board, HP Historical Society and the Blue Gargoyle; whether such groups as Kiwanis can recruit and revitalize; and how the community supports new Promontory Point and Harper Court plans or resolutions.

Jack Spicer wrote as part of analysis of the state of comunity to HPKCC Development Committee following the 2007 53rd Vision Workshop:

Our community has a tradition of making institutions for ourselves that serve our unique needs. The Co-op Grocery Store, Harper Court, the Neighborhood Club, Seminary Co-op Books, etc.- these are truly "home made" things that help us define and express who we are as a community and provide us with value the "market" can't and won't. These institutions have filled in the gaps where conventional institutions came up short. We roll up our sleeves, we get to work, and we build what we need, instead of sticking out our hand and presuming the world will put into it what we "deserve." We will probably lose the Co-op, Harper Court is in the way of the alderman's bulldozer, sounds like the Neighborhood Club is at risk, and Seminary Books is barely surviving the predator version of monopoly capitalism. There is no excuse for a community-created institution to be bad at what is does, but these institutions, when they are doing their jobs well, are an essential part of who we are. It is important that we use density, diversity and decentralized decision making to ensure that the wave of development coming our way recreates the kind of neighborhood we want. It is just as important that we lead the community in protecting and supporting the neighborhood institutions that we still have as they evolve to suit our current needs and that we help build the new institutions we will need in the future. We could build an affordable housing conservation corporation, a small business micro-loan bank focused on local entrepreneurs, a new Harper Court that would incubate new local businesses, a network of food buying clubs, a community supported science library and lab for young children, a Hyde Park "city hall," a salvaged building materials exchange, a theater arts workshop for high school kids and young adults - or a hundred other things that one person alone would never think of and that our community could do for itself.


A strong and socially conscious religious and faith-based sector

This is strong and looks out for itself and the community well while seldom pinching against other community-popular goals.


Quality of life and public safety. This is hard to gauge and varies according to the observer and month to month. Traffic congestion, parking, and noise are worse in places, considerably so where an increased number of construction projects are underway and at retail nodes and junctions. Whether there is more apathy toward crime and unpleasant behavior is a subjective judgment. Crime is down to where it hasn't been in thirty years despite an occasional uptick. Violent crimes seem often more brazen and damaging. Some of the improvement is due to enhanced cooperation between Chicago and University police, whose territory has been extended south and northward. We owe much of the well being--a privileged well being?--of HPK to this extra policing. CAPS is active and able to mobilize mass "positive loitering" in troubled areas. One wonders whether plans to deploy force into problem areas or consolidate districts will mean less patrols in more stable areas like HPK. Still, there are instances of unevenness, sometimes over vigorousness? in police enforcement. The proliferation of panhandling and of homeless persons on commercial streets and in parks is disturbing. Some good buildings seem lately to be undergoing neglect while others undergo rebirth. Yet Hyde Park still seems to be a safe, nurturing, confident place where walking is a pleasure (when weather permits).

Things to watch: Whether the crime rate stays down amidst the poor economy.


Caring. It's a mixed bag as to how we are doing. A growing number of social organizations including the Neighborhood Club and Blue Gargoyle and religious, service clubs, and UC student organizations are active and help those with needs economic, physical, social, spiritual, and psychological. Several churches and the neighborhood club have regular free or low-cost meals or grocery distribution. Part of the problem is that many of the needy appearing in neighborhood streets and parks are not based/housed in the neighborhood, so are hard to track, house, and help on a sustained basis. Several scholars and groups are looking at how globalization and changing macro regional economies on the one hand and food/services deserts on the other affect our ability to care for the needy and give them the means to become self-sustaining. See Affordable Housing, Ending Homelessness and Community Organizations/Service or Community Resources to continue.


Cultural vitality. See Cultural providers. To cultural calendar. To Community Organizations/Arts. To Community Resources/Arts. To 2002 Cultural Use Survey. Despite the perception of having "no night life," Hyde Park is a center of cultural and intellectual activities, from the lectures, concerts, art fairs that attract from all over the city to impromptu showings and music offerings including at bars, coffee houses, schools, and churches and other places of worship, or even in parks or on the street. Much of the activity, but far from all of it, is centered at or near the University. Smart Museum, Court Theatre, Midway Studios/Department of Visual Arts, the performance programs are exploding - to the point that the University is planning new arts centers.

Our bookstores are a treasure and one of our major draws. We, and Bronzeville to the north and northwest and Woodlawn, used to be a major venue for blues, jazz and many other venues. Can some of the latter be revitalized, despite rising rents? Checkerboard seems to be coming out of a tough time. The University of Chicago and a number of local and Bronzeville groups and organizations think so. Several culturally-related businesses have moved to the "new Bronzeville" retail/cultural centers northwest. The jazz and blues archives of the University are growing and being shared. The Sutherland has hope for being revived as a venue. There are occasional jazz and blues concerts at Museum of Science and Industry, Ramada Inn, and the University- and now an annual festival. New recreational venues are opening, but there seem still not enough recreational and cultural places for youth to go. And 2nd City is coming to 47th and King, prestigious Nichole Gallery to 717 E. 47th, and Little Black Pearl Design and Art Center has come and Muntu Dance Studio will to new space at 47th and Greenwood.

Hyde Park seems to have fewer artists than in the past--certainly since the time the 57th Art/Community Art fairs were new. Yet the recent revitalization and new home of the Hyde Park Art Center with a state of the art "exhibit" structure planned with gift from the University of Chicago is a sign of a possible turn around. And the collaborations and outreach within and outside Hyde Park are enormous and growing. Many still believe the interior or site of the Hyde Park Theater/Herald buildings should restored or include either new space for Court Theatre or a performance and arts center. (That would require many millions of dollars and have to have an income-generating component. Since this will not happen, some are seeking such a spot in the city lot if it is redeveloped. )

Hyde Park continues to be a popular place to film and has the U of C film center and Doc Films.

Watch for: The Checkerboard to prosper and be followed by the Kleiner restaurant and a fine plan for the Theater, opening of Muntu. Progress on a new arts center planned for the southwest edge of the University. Whether new galleries and art stores/interactive art spots such as Brush Strokes come into the area to replace those being lost. Disturbing is city regulations, some thought to be impinging on civil liberties, that made it hard for stores such as Second Hand Tunes, Dr. Wax... and landlords that make it difficult for a Dr. Wax.


Accountability. A large number in this community believe strongly that individuals, institutions, businesses, even organizations have responsibilities to each other and the whole, and carry that idea even further into a theory of accountability. These sometimes need to be reminded that owners are free to do as they will within the law with their property and that institutions are accountable to their boards rather than outsiders including the "community." The accountability thesis also sometime fosters a NIMBY, negative approach to any and all proposals. Accountability will always come up as the University and Hospitals, their near neighbors, grow and these and the community at large continually redefine their relationships to each other.


Good Town and gown relations. (See Historic Preservation and Heritage in depth (scroll down there).

The University of Chicago has been praised for its diligence in helping squeezed businesses relocate but critcized for letting vacancies go on too long, an inconsistent or unclearly set forth set of goals, and its role in the Co-Op debacle-- too lenient, then pouncing (some say laying a trap) when its interests were hurt and pressuring the community for acceptance of its plan that is in some ways generous but also gets rid of a long-time community institution it did not control but had enticed onto its property nearly 50 years ago. See Co-Op home. And there is wide feeling that President Zimmer is not a friend to the community but just the University.

Former University President Randel and Hospitals President Riordon introduced initiatives to help surrounding disadvantaged neighborhoods and engage communities, and indeed have begun to outline a South Side improvement strategy and end to UC/Hyde Park isolation. Most significant of these are extension of UC Police coverage to Woodlawn (64th, Evans) and N. Kenwood-Oakland (39th)-- at acceptance and request from both aldermen and community organizations in those neighborhoods--, housing forgiveness loans for its staff/faculty in Woodlawn and Oakland (in tandem with a similar initiative by IIT near its Bronzeville campus), affordable housing reserves, community planning, healthcare including vans, clinics, and fairs, and major involvement/partnerships in the larger area's schools and CPS as well as scholarships and residencies for CPS pupils and teachers.

Also, the University is working to improve nightlife and student life in the area, not just on its campus (example Checkerboard Lounge (see page and side links), Seven Ten Pin..). U of C is the second largest non-city property owner in Chicago. The University and Hospitals have held several forums on community and neighborhood life. In recent years, the University has stepped up, with revised goals, its policy of several "strategic" purchases particularly of commercial properties, in part to bring night life, such as the Checkerboard blues Lounge, into Hyde Park. Some people are disturbed at the University's apparent failure to spell out its rationale for when it steps in and it's goal for such properties. The Hospitals is also making a concerted effort to present community issues to its staff and bring/involve them in the community. The Hospitals recently won three awards for its recent record on minority and women involvement in its construction projects.

Still, the University is often faulted for tunnel vision, especially in redevelopment and real estate management decisions.

Watch for: how renewed University concern and involvement plays out--less paternal or developer/high-income oriented? Increasingly productive and sensitive/inclusive nuances of its heavy involvement in Woodlawn and coming involvement in Oakland and Washington Park neighborhoods? More foresight in campus project management? Community involvement in property issues such as in the 55th/53rd commercial district (where UC is a dominant and recently larger property holder including with the Theater)? Telling-- and seeking community voice (not just SECC's) even more in-- the University's long-term strategy for the community, including the housing split and parking? Theater building plans.

We also have to take into account the role of other educational and other institutions as a component in community life. How can the students and continuing-scholar adults and monks/clerics more fully interact with residents--much is already being done, ex. by Brent House and several Catholic orders.