WBEZ | Chicago neighborhoods http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-neighborhoods Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Shadow city: How Chicago became the country's alley capital http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/shadow-city-how-chicago-became-countrys-alley-capital-113279 <p><p>When&rsquo;s the last time you paid attention to alleys?</p><p dir="ltr">Chances are, unless you&rsquo;re taking out garbage or trying to squeeze a U-Haul back there, you rarely think about the narrow lane that can cut through a block.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s at least one reason to take note: Chicago is the alley capital of the country, with more than 1,900 miles of them within its borders. (If you left Chicago by plane and flew southwest for that distance, you&rsquo;d end up just shy of Mexico City.)</p><p dir="ltr">Chicago architect Dan Weese would never take <em>his</em> alley for granted. To him, the alley is a many-splendored thing. Dan grew up in Lincoln Park, a North Side neighborhood with plenty of alleys, and he spent a lot of time playing in the alley behind his family&rsquo;s rowhouse. As he puts it, the alley was the &ldquo;rec room of the block.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I remember on Saturday mornings, all the garage doors would open up, and people would be working on cars, or working on a woodworking project, or taking the garbage out, and you could have a relationship with them,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It was very different than the people you would meet on your street.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">For Dan, alleys aren&rsquo;t just utilitarian service lanes. They&rsquo;re an important social gathering place &mdash; an informal parallel to the street out front. He&rsquo;s been thinking about them so much, that he sent us this question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>How was it decided that Chicago should have alleys?</em></p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-81fba680-53c1-436f-eefe-33254711a1b9">Well, the answer to Dan&rsquo;s question got us more than we bargained for. It involves a story that spans centuries, and that same story not only explains Chicago&rsquo;s enormous network of alleys but also why some parts of the region are conspicuously alley-free.<a name="map"></a></p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/alleys/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MAPEMBED1.png" style="height: 497px; width: 620px;" title="" /></a></div><p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size:24px;">Hip to be square</span></p><p>What gives? Why all the alleys &mdash; and why the divide between Chicago communities with and without them?</p><p dir="ltr">According to Michael Martin, alley expert and professor of landscape architecture at Iowa State University, the &ldquo;why alleys&rdquo; question is easy to answer. You just have to go back to the late 1700s, decades before Chicago was founded. America was young, and had hardly touched any of its newest territories to the west.</p><p>&ldquo;There&#39;s one thing you can do without having to explore all of it,&rdquo; says Martin. &ldquo;Lay a grid over that giant swath of land, and divide it up in ways that you can then take that land and you can sell it, you can deed it over to people.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The federal government&rsquo;s National Land Ordinance of 1785 imposed a massive grid over everything west of the Ohio River, dividing uncharted territory into square townships, each 36 square miles in size. Those townships were then sliced into progressively smaller sections, all the way down to the city block.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;As you think about finer and finer scales of design, what&#39;s happening is those squares are being infilled and infilled,&rdquo; says Martin. &ldquo;The big grid was always the framework within which people developed things, and that leads to towns having square blocks, and ultimately the alley inside of that block.&rdquo; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">This expanding grid eventually hit the Chicago area.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">According to cartographer and Chicago history buff Dennis McClendon, alleys had become so commonplace in the American West that the Illinois General Assembly &ldquo;simply expected it to happen in Chicago.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/yjGmPNP.png" style="height: 443px; width: 620px;" title="Thompson's plat map of Chicago in 1830, showing alleys. (Source: Alfred Theodore Andreas, 1884. History of Chicago.)" /></div></div><p dir="ltr">The particulars came into play with the Illinois &amp; Michigan Canal. In the 1820s, the U.S. Congress had granted the state of Illinois enough land to dig a canal to connect Lake Michigan and the Illinois River. The state planned to finance the construction by establishing towns along the canal and selling the land to developers.</p><p>The I&amp;M Canal Commission hired surveyor James Thompson to lay out Chicago at the eastern end of the canal in 1830. To attract prospective land buyers, the General Assembly ordered that the new town of Chicago be &ldquo;subdivided into town lots, streets, and alleys, as in their best judgment will best promote the interest of the said canal fund.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Thompson was apparently a law-abiding man: His town plan for Chicago had 58 blocks, and every single one had an alley.</p><p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size:24px;">The practical side </span></p><p>As it turns out, it&rsquo;s a good thing that Thompson planned Chicago with alleys. The city was a filthy, stinky, disease-ridden place in those days. Rear service lanes were essential for collecting trash, delivering coal, and stowing human waste &mdash; basically, keeping anything unpleasant away from living quarters.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This was one of the reason why alleys have this dark and nasty reputation,&rdquo; says Martin. &ldquo;They were very much the grimy service part of daily life. It wasn&#39;t expected that this would be a well-maintained landscape; it was kind of a landscape of raw utility.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">In that same vein, McClendon theorizes that widespread horse ownership in the West translated into a lot of horse dung in the city, which would&rsquo;ve encouraged city planners to include alleys. &ldquo;The horse has the inflow and outflow problems,&rdquo; McClendon says. &ldquo;You have to bring in a lot of hay, you have to muck out a lot of manure. ... That&#39;s one of the reasons that you want to have a service lane that&rsquo;s segregated from where the womenfolk of the town are walking, or other places that you want to be more tidy and well-kept.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size:24px;">Riverside and the beginning of the end of Chicago-area alleys</span></p><p>For its boom years in the 1800s, Chicago was an alley monster; it planned new blocks with alleys, annexed towns with alleys, and added territory to its alley-riddled gridiron. But all grid things must come to an end, and soon communities started popping up <em>without</em> alleys.</p><p dir="ltr">The first of those communities arrived in 1869. That year, Frederick Law Olmsted &mdash; the father of landscape architecture (and who <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/chicago/filmmore/ps_olmsted.html" target="_blank">later played a huge role in Chicago&rsquo;s landscape</a>) &mdash; planned the community of Riverside, which was situated on what was considered to be the far western outskirts of the Chicago region. It was the first planned suburb in America, and the earliest sign of divergence from Chicago&rsquo;s alley trend.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/riverside3.png" style="width: 620px;" title="Olmsted's Riverside community was intentionally designed without alleys. " /></div></div><p>Constance Guardi, from the Riverside Historical Commission, takes me on a walking tour of the town. As we stroll down winding, tree-lined streets, she points to old, beautiful houses set back behind lush, rolling lawns. Guardi explains that <a href="http://www.snre.umich.edu/ecomgt/pubs/riverside.htm" target="_blank">Olmsted wanted to create the town of the future</a>: a community that combined the peacefulness of the country with the luxury of the city.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The plan was so that it would meander, rather than that hustle and bustle,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;This was to be relaxed. ... So that you would be able to really just have a quiet and lovely life.&rdquo;</p><p>She says Olmsted&rsquo;s master plan for Riverside didn&rsquo;t include alleys, because they just weren&rsquo;t necessary in the wide open spaces of the Illinois countryside. It so happens that Guardi is exactly the kind of person Olmsted had in mind when he planned Riverside. She grew up in a Chicago neighborhood with alleys, and she never cared for them.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I&#39;ll tell you why I didn&#39;t like alleys,&rdquo; she says. &quot;They were dirty! ... Everybody&#39;s garbage was out there all the time.&rdquo;</p><p>For years after it was established, Riverside was an outlier. Other suburbs that popped up around it in the years to come &mdash; like Berwyn and Cicero &mdash; followed Chicago&rsquo;s lead with alleys and a grid. Look at a map of the area today, and <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/@41.8274292,-87.8140036,4839m/data=!3m1!1e3" target="_blank">Riverside is a squiggly green island in a sea of squares</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size:24px;">Where the alley ends</span></p><p>By the turn of the century, though, more city planners jumped on Olmsted&rsquo;s bandwagon and began designing communities to be beautiful and clean &mdash; counterpoints to the density and industry they wanted to avoid.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Instead of the old boring grid of the national survey and of the old town,&rdquo; Martin says, &ldquo;we&#39;re now going to do curving streets because they&#39;re modern and they&rsquo;re different.&rdquo;</p><p>As a sign of the times, a 1913 development competition in the suburbs of Chicago yielded almost no designs with alleys; instead, the proposals featured curvilinear streets, and blocks with interior courtyards. (The <a href="http://labs.libhub.org/dallaspl/portal/Being-a-disquisition-upon-the-origins-natural/r0AULVUK/" target="_blank">account is contained in a book</a> authored by alleys scholar Grady Clay.) In one proposal for the contest, <a href="https://chipublib.bibliocommons.com/item/show/310167081" target="_blank">Frank Lloyd Wright advocated for the abolition of alleys</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Martin says the death of the alley came about from this shift in urban planning principles, but other factors contributed, too, including improvements in sanitation technology.</p><p>&ldquo;Once you have systems like sanitary sewers or garbage collection that can be done in an efficient way, you don&#39;t really have to have an alley,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;So we decided that the street was capable of handling all that stuff.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Then, the automobile came along. In 1920 there were about 8 million car owners in the country; by the end of the decade that number jumped to 23 million. Widespread auto ownership meant there were fewer stables and less horse poop in the city. More importantly, the automobile increased the mobility of working Americans, allowing people to live way out in the sparse suburbs, where the house lots were spacious and streets didn&rsquo;t have to conform to a dense city grid.</p><p>&ldquo;Now it becomes possible to build cities at lower densities, [with] bigger lawns, and bigger landholdings for each house,&rdquo; says McClendon. &ldquo;And that allows you to have a side garage or a side driveway. You no longer have to have the vehicle access through this service lane in the rear.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/4suburballeys.png" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="As you move further away from the city, alleys start falling away. " /></div><p dir="ltr">The move away from alleys in the early 20th century &mdash; combined with <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/gulp-how-chicago-gobbled-its-neighbors-109583" target="_blank">the end of Chicago&rsquo;s growth via annexation</a> &mdash; solidified the divide between alley places and non-alley places in the Chicago region. While new suburban towns and outlying communities forged bravely into an alley-free world, Chicago&rsquo;s historic core and the older suburbs were stuck with their alleys.</p><p>You can see the effects today. Within the Chicago city limits, 90 percent of residential blocks have alleys. But as you move from the city center, alleys begin to fall away. Not immediately, mind you. Suburbs like <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/Oak+Park,+IL/@41.883979,-87.7844989,468m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x880e34ba3f1db787:0xdf588d7dd5d4aea8!6m1!1e1" target="_blank">Oak Park</a>, <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/Evanston,+IL/@42.0309362,-87.6892455,409m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x880fcffd34e80a77:0x6f21a10d05c0671a!6m1!1e1" target="_blank">Evanston</a>, and <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/Blue+Island,+IL/@41.6589961,-87.6852451,348m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x880e235fa95f5f05:0xff39e83b04f67cb4!6m1!1e1" target="_blank">Blue Island</a> are chock-full of alleys, but in suburban communities like <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/Naperville,+IL/@41.7539285,-88.1657724,1137m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x880e5761e216cd07:0x87df9c2c7f203052!6m1!1e1" target="_blank">Naperville</a> and <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/Tinley+Park,+IL/@41.5707306,-87.7919136,728m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x880e158c05a8f865:0xeeefdc310816d898!6m1!1e1" target="_blank">Tinley Park</a>, alleys are much harder to find.</p><p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size:24px;">Repurposing a relic</span></p><p>The role of Chicago&rsquo;s alleys has obviously changed; even though the city doesn&rsquo;t need alleys for the same reasons it did back in the 1800s, they&rsquo;re still essential parts of the city environment. Today, residents put recycling back there instead of piles of horse dung. And, utilities deliver phone service and electrical power through alleys rather than coal.</p><p dir="ltr">Plus, after centuries of building up around them, alleys are pretty hard to get rid of. A few American cities have instituted &ldquo;alley vacation&rdquo; programs. They&rsquo;re not so fun as they sound: The programs basically involve vacating the alley as a public service lane. For the program to work, however, every alley-abutting homeowner has to agree to extend their property line into the middle of the alley. Not many cities have followed through with the administrative nightmare.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/green%20alley.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="A Chicago alley retrofitted with permeable pavers that prevent flooding and allow water to seep into the soil. (Flickr/Center for Neighborhood Technology)" /></div><p>Instead of eliminating them, Chicago is reimagining its alleys. In 2006, Chicago became one of the first cities in the country to conduct a <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/provdrs/street/svcs/green_alleys.html" target="_blank">&ldquo;green alley&rdquo; program</a>, resurfacing alleys to prevent runoff and decrease solar heat absorption. In the last several years, the Chicago Loop Association has been experimenting with alleys as social spaces, <a href="http://loopchicago.com/ACTIVATE" target="_blank">using them to host pop-up art events</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Martin says Chicago&rsquo;s current approach holds promise for the future, and many contemporary urban planners and architects agree. The <a href="https://www.cnu.org/" target="_blank">New Urbanist school of thought</a> considers them to be both useful infrastructure and an important part of the cultural landscape.</p><p>&ldquo;Now you see people designing and building things where the alley is actually a functioning social space, a gathering space, where the neighbors can actually connect with each other in their own somewhat intimate urban narrow space instead of on the street,&rdquo; says Martin. &ldquo;So you have a two-sided situation in these neighborhoods, and I think that&#39;s a very positive development.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/dan%20weese%20%2801%29.jpg" style="float: left; height: 240px; width: 320px;" title="Questioner Dan Weese" /><span style="font-size:24px;">More about our questioner </span></p><p>&ldquo;My curiosity about the alleys came about because it&#39;s part of the landscape and it&#39;s one of these things that you don&#39;t really think about,&rdquo; says Dan Weese. &ldquo;It&#39;s in the background, but it actually forms a really important part [of the city].&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">As for any takeaways from our reporting? He says it&rsquo;s especially interesting that the alley hasn&rsquo;t become entirely irrelevant.</p><p>&ldquo;There was this structure that apparently came about because the folks in the canal commission thought it was a good idea to put in alleys, and then human behavior adapts to that and morphs it,&rdquo; he says.</p><p dir="ltr">Architecture happens to run in Dan&rsquo;s veins. His uncle is none other than renowned architect Harry Weese. (Curious City profiled one of Harry Weese&rsquo;s buildings, the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/real-estate-and-religion-tale-seventeenth-church-christ-scientist-110980" target="_blank">Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist.</a>) Most of Dan&rsquo;s cousins are architects or designers and his parents founded an award-winning architecture firm &mdash; <a href="http://www.wlwltd.com/" target="_blank">a firm that he now works for</a>.</p><p>When he was a kid, Dan played kick-the-can and raced go-carts in the alley behind his house. He also broke a lot of stuff back there.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You could do more destructive, less socially acceptable things in the alley,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It was just a little more rough and ready, and you could kind of let your hair down a little bit.&rdquo;</p><p>Now 50 years old, Dan lives with his wife and three children, just three blocks from the rowhouse he grew up in. Unfortunately the couple lives in a highrise, and the alley isn&rsquo;t nearly as good for playing as the one he remembers.</p><p>That is, Dan&rsquo;s all grown up, and he prefers nerding out about alleys and their history, rather than destroying things in them.</p><p><span style="font-size:20px;"><a name="data"></a>Download our data</span></p><p>Want to make your own alley map? <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/maps/downloads/chicago_alleys.zip" target="_blank">Click here to download the data</a>.</p><p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.38;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><em>Steven Jackson is an independent producer living in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/_sbjackson" target="_blank">@_sbjackson</a>.&nbsp; </em></p><h2 class="ProfileHeaderCard-screenname u-inlineBlock u-dir" dir="ltr">&nbsp;</h2><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p></p> Sat, 10 Oct 2015 16:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/shadow-city-how-chicago-became-countrys-alley-capital-113279 Photos from Election Night in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/photos-election-night-chicago-111619 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/chuyfan3_ag.jpg" alt="" /><p></p> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 18:25:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/photos-election-night-chicago-111619 In Chicago, neighborhoods that are too black don't gentrify http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-neighborhoods-are-too-black-dont-gentrify-110622 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/4078294934_2075aa0ed5_o-1-_vert-818749762e22fbc8b4877fdbe97cc7058dbdddf8-s51.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>So here&#39;s one way folks tend to think about gentrification in big cities: poorer (therefore: browner) neighborhood becomes more attractive to folks of more means (therefore: whiter) who are in search of lower housing costs. As more and more better-off folks move in, new amenities and fresh investment follow. And that, in turn, brings more demand for the neighborhood among potential gentrifiers, which pushes up housing costs and drives out the people of color who lived there before.</p><p>A <a href="http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2014/08/a-new-view-of-gentrification/" target="_blank">new study by Harvard researchers</a> suggests that there&#39;s also a racial ceiling to how neighborhoods gentrify, at least in Chicago, the city they examined. Robert Sampson and Jackelyn Hwang found that neighborhoods that are too black tend to stay that way.</p><p>&quot;It used to be referred to as &#39;white flight,&#39;&quot; Sampson said, referring to the postwar years in which whites left big cities as more blacks moved into them. &quot;But we refer to it in the paper as &#39;white avoidance&#39; &mdash; [gentrifiers are] not moving into neighborhoods where there are lots of black people. In Chicago, the [neighborhoods] that are gentrifying are the ones where there was a white working class, or Latinos, but not many blacks.&quot;</p><p>The researchers started with earlier data showing neighborhoods that appeared to be undergoing gentrification. But when they looked at those same areas more recently, they found that in areas where the population was 40 percent black, that gentrification seemed to grind to a halt.</p><p>Indeed, Sampson said that many of the neighborhoods that have become synonymous with gentrification &mdash; like the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn &mdash; actually underscore their study&#39;s findings. That neighborhood <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2013/05/02/fashion/20130502-WBURG.html" target="_blank">has a reputation of being a hive of hipsters</a> who moved in and displaced all the black people who lived there before. But before it gentrified, the neighborhood actually boasted a sizable Polish-American working class and a large Latino population, while its black population had always been very small. (It was about 7 percent in 1990.) Sampson said the <a href="http://nymag.com/nymetro/realestate/neighborhoods/features/11775/index2.html" target="_blank">Bed-Stuys</a> and <a href="http://nymag.com/realestate/features/48328/index4.html" target="_blank">Harlems</a> of the world &mdash; heavily black urban neighborhoods that have seen lots of whites move in &mdash; are outliers, not the rule.</p><p>The researchers used a novel method of qualitative research to determine how much change a neighborhood had experienced &mdash; a mix of Census data, surveys of thousands of Chicago residents, and Google Street View:</p><blockquote><div><p>The new research builds on a 1995 study that examined gentrification trends in nearly two dozen cities across the country, including nearly half of the census tracts in Chicago. The earlier study categorized census tracts according to how gentrified they were based on how much visible reinvestment they were seeing.</p><p>To examine whether those trends had continued, Hwang and Sampson targeted areas that had earlier been identified as gentrified and adjacent census tracts, and began using Google Street View to examine them in painstaking detail.</p></div></blockquote><p>From Google Street View, the researchers gathered visual evidence of hundreds of blocks around Chicago. They tagged evidence of new construction, renovations of existing homes, public improvements, and signs of &quot;disorder&quot; like graffiti or litter.</p><p>&quot;While gentrifiers prefer a certain level of diversity &mdash; there&#39;s a sense that gentrifiers are hip, urban pioneers &mdash; there&#39;s a kind of diversity threshold wherein gentrification goes up, but then you get to a certain level [and it stops],&quot; Sampson told me. &quot;Really segregated, less-diverse neighborhoods tend to have less gentrification over time.&quot;</p><p>Hwang said that they controlled for things like poverty, the amount of public housing, and availability of public transit, which showed that race was a key factor in how much change a neighborhood saw. That&#39;s pretty consistent with other research on race and housing, she said.</p><p>&quot;In a lot of the literature on segregation and residential preferences, studies have found that people have preferred neighborhoods with more whites and least preferred neighborhoods with all blacks &mdash; and Asians and Latinos in the middle,&quot; Hwang said.</p><p><a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/05/the-case-for-reparations/361631/" target="_blank">As Ta-Nehisi Coates&#39; blockbuster story on reparations exhaustively outlined</a>, Chicago has a particularly sordid history when it comes to race and housing. The city&#39;s policies and their consequences have contributed to deep levels of residential segregation there, and Sampson said that history continues to shape the way Chicagoans think of different neighborhoods.</p><p>&quot;[There&#39;s a] perception that predominantly black neighborhoods are higher-crime, more disorderly,&quot; he said. &quot;And that&#39;s feeding into which neighborhoods &mdash; among poor neighborhoods &mdash; are being gentrified.&quot;</p><p>Hwang said that also means that the same neighborhoods that saw massive disinvestment when they became mostly black and poor are not benefiting from the waves of new construction and new businesses that gentrification necessarily brings along with it.</p><p>&quot;What&#39;s really happening is that the neighborhoods that could use some reinvestment and renewal aren&#39;t even being touched,&quot; she said.</p><p><em>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/08/08/338831318/chicago-neighborhoods-that-are-too-black-resist-gentrification" target="_blank">via NPR&#39;s Code Switch blog</a></em></p></p> Fri, 08 Aug 2014 13:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-neighborhoods-are-too-black-dont-gentrify-110622 There is 'home' there http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-10/there-home-there-108810 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/4110857626_80c28d7bac_z.jpg" style="height: 415px; width: 620px;" title="(Flickr/spylaw01)" /></div><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">I tell people where I live and they say little to nothing. I tell people where I came from, where I started, and they show an understanding that I live where I currently do for a reason.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">For a large part of my childhood, I straddled the line between city girl and suburban girl. My grandparents, currently living in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago, like to say that they raised me during the first years of my life. I have vague memories of my immediate family&rsquo;s time in this neighborhood, but I will always remember my grandparents&rsquo; home &ndash; truly, my second home &ndash; in a quiet enclave of the area.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">The blocks were long, very long, seemingly neverending. The houses were never small and usually fit somewhere between just right and too much. Later, while living in Oak Park, my friends would never believe that you could stand in the middle of one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city and confuse it for the simplicity of the suburbs.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">&ldquo;The houses are just as big,&rdquo; I used to begin. Thinking about our cramped apartment off Lake street and later, our stucco bungalow, I would add, &ldquo;Even bigger.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">When you are young, it is difficult to understand one&rsquo;s hood as anything other than home. I had no concept of Austin&rsquo;s violence. I remember New Year&rsquo;s Eve and the wave of gunshots that would go off in celebration. It was a frightening, if not expected reminder that other people existed when the streets get quickly quiet and the sky gets quickly dark at night. In winter, we were kept indoors, kept away from any perceived dangers.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">&ldquo;Do you remember how their used to be shops all up and down Madison?&rdquo; my mother asked my aunt. We were all gathered around the dining room table at my parents&rsquo; home in Oak Park for a final, gluttonous, post-birthday meal.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">I looked up. My mother turned toward me.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">&ldquo;It was like we had our own downtown,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;But then the riots happened.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/3597296136_45320e21c3_z.jpg" style="height: 207px; width: 310px; float: left;" title="(Flickr/Laurie Chipps)" />When talking about the neighborhood her family finally settled in after moving around the city after their migration from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, my mother has a tendency to end her statements with, &ldquo;But then the riots happened.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">Nothing else needs to be said. For her, for many people, there was the &ldquo;before&rdquo; and the &ldquo;after.&rdquo; The West Side of Chicago, like many black-dominated neighborhoods across the country, never truly recovered from the riots after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.&rsquo;s assassination. An older generation is in mourning of what they once knew. A younger generation is in mourning of what could have been. An even younger generation knows no difference at all.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">Why do some neighborhoods thrive while others find constant suffering? It is not for lack of effort. The blocks around my grandparents&rsquo; home are largely calm and friendly. Just like in my childhood, I still see women setting up snow cone stands in front of their homes. Kids still play with each other, running up and down the block until the weight of the sun and the weight of the day has worn them out. Neighbors still know and speak to each other.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">This is more than I can say about where I currently live. I am friends with the women in my three-flat apartment building, but I know no one else on my block. A couple that lives in a condo building next door only pause in my presence to stop their dog from mauling my arm as it has tried to do since I first moved into my building two years ago.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">There is community where I grew up, where my family is from, where my grandparents still live. But sometimes community is not enough. A cul-de-sac was built at the end of my grandparents&rsquo; block to deter loitering on the corner after a shooting.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">&ldquo;I was on the couch and had to jump to the floor,&rdquo; my grandmother once said to me about the incident. This was a comical image in my head at the time, but she gave me this look. This was not the first time it happened, she seemed to be saying. It was the first time she was telling me about it.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">The <em>New York Times</em> recently <a href="http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/26/can-you-tell-an-up-and-coming-neighborhood-by-its-emergent-energy/?src=recg" target="_blank">asked</a> if we can tell which neighborhoods are &ldquo;next&rdquo; based on their &ldquo;emergent energy.&rdquo; I would say yes, this is possible, but also coupled with more practical factors. How close is it to public transportation? What is its proximity to other &ldquo;good neighborhoods?&rdquo; Is it safe, or rather, can it be safe? Is its identity too strong to be overtaken by the forces of gentrification? (Because in the end, isn&rsquo;t a &ldquo;next&rdquo; neighborhood almost always about stripping bare its essence?)</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">Even living in it, one can never know a place truly. There are more pockets of my neighborhood I do not know than ones I do. To write off any one neighborhood is to discredit and discount the people living in it, trying to make it something other than what most see. I can feel that energy in parts of Austin, that spark needed to turn a place around, but sometimes a spark is not enough. If a weak and battered foundation exists, one spark can destroy everything in its path. It is easier to destroy than to build.&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Britt Julious is the co-host of&nbsp;<a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbezs-changing-channels" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Changing Channels</a>, a podcast about the future of television. She also writes about race and culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow Britt&#39;s essays for&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Tumblr</a>&nbsp;or on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms" target="_blank">@britticisms</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 01 Oct 2013 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-10/there-home-there-108810 Untangling TIFs http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/untangling-tifs-108611 <p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="500" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/Kmx4ryRc2Gc" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Many Chicagoans have heard the word <em>TIF</em>, but few people understand how they work, and they may even have trouble untangling all the threads related to this complicated economic development tool.</p><p>TIF stands for <a href="http://www.cookcountyclerk.com/tsd/tifs/Pages/TIFs101.aspx">tax increment financing</a>, a definition that &mdash; on its own &mdash; misses the nuance in TIF programs. It also skips right over what the point is in the first place. So, Emily Hanneman of Logan Square probably wasn&rsquo;t alone when she asked us:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What are TIFs? Where does the money come from and who decides where it goes?</em></p><p>To her credit, Emily may be a bit more informed than most when it comes to TIFs, since she&rsquo;d been to one of Tom Tresser&rsquo;s TIF presentations (more on him below). There, she learned who receives TIF money collected in the Logan Square neighborhood. But, obviously, there was a lot more explaining to do.</p><p>To help her out, we recruited three experts who&rsquo;ve spent time answering questions similar to Emily&rsquo;s. They are:</p><ul dir="ltr"><li>Tom Tresser, who&rsquo;s the lead organizer of The <a href="http://civiclab">CivicLab</a>&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.tifreports.com/">TIF Illumination Project</a>.</li><li>Cook County Clerk David Orr, who&rsquo;s responsible for <a href="http://www.cookcountyclerk.com/tsd/tifs/pages/tifreports.aspx">Chicago&rsquo;s TIF reports</a>. His office offers basic resources on how TIFs work.</li><li>Rachel Weber, UIC Urban Planning and Policy Professor, who&rsquo;s studied TIFs for almost a decade. She constantly reminds Chicagoans that a TIF is a tough concept to tackle.</li></ul><p>Armed with our experts and some Sharpies (and inspired by <a href="http://www.thersa.org/events/rsaanimate">RSA Animates videos</a>), we made a whiteboard explainer ... sans the whiteboard.</p><p>Think of our video as &ldquo;TIFs 101&rdquo; a way to wet your beak before diving head first into TIF world. (But be warned, we know from experience it&rsquo;s tough to resurface quickly.) The purported benefits of TIFs are baked into their very existence (TIF districts are meant to spur local economic growth), so we also lay out critiques that have been made against the programs and how they&rsquo;ve been run in Chicago:</p><ul><li><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dcd/provdrs/tif.html" target="_blank">TIF info from the City of Chicago</a></li><li><a href="http://tifreports.com/" target="_blank">TIF Illumination Project</a></li><li><a href="http://www.cookcountyclerk.com/tsd/tifs/Pages/default.aspx" target="_blank">TIF-related videos from the Cook County Clerk&rsquo;s Office</a></li><li><a href="http://www.uic.edu/cuppa/voorheesctr/tif/public_html/" target="_blank">TIF Information Forum (UIC)</a></li></ul><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1176383_451129338328381_1253004708_n.jpg" style="height: 383px; width: 500px;" title="(WBEZ/Jennifer Brandel)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size:11px;">WBEZ&#39;s data intern Simran Khosla illustrates how TIFs work, and it takes way more Sharpies than you&#39;d expect (above). For more behind-the-scenes photos, stories and general stream of consciousness, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/curiouscityproject" target="_blank">&#39;Like&#39; Curious City on Facebook</a>.&nbsp;</span></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></div><p><em>Simran Khosla is WBEZ&rsquo;s data intern. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/simkhosla" target="_blank">@simkhosla</a>.</em></p><p><em><span style="font-family: Cambria, serif;">Corrections: A portion of the video above wasn&#39;t clear on the meaning of taxes that &quot;stay frozen.&quot; The correct wording: Property taxes (and property tax bills) can rise. But under Illinois TIF law, the amount of tax revenue going to taxing bodies is frozen for at least 23 years. The difference goes to the TIF.&nbsp;</span></em></p><p><em><span style="font-family: Cambria, serif;">We also misspelled the name of a source&#39;s name. The correct spelling is Tom Tresser.&nbsp;</span></em></p><p style="margin:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt"><span style="font-family: Cambria, serif;"><o:p></o:p></span></p></p> Wed, 04 Sep 2013 17:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/untangling-tifs-108611 Two views of Pilsen, decades apart http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-06/two-views-pilsen-decades-apart-107755 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/02--1947--West.jpg" title="1947--18th Street near Wood Street, view east (author's collection)" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/02--2013.JPG" title="2013--the same location" /></div></div></div></div><p>Chicago&#39;s Pilsen is named for a city of ancient Bohemia, what is now the Czech Republic. In the course of 66 years this neighborhood has changed from Czech to Mexican. Meanwhile, the streetcar has been replaced by a bus, the cars look different, and the &#39;L&#39; station has been renovated.</p><p>And yet all of the buildings are still in place. Film-makers searching for a 1940s streetscape would do well to consider this stretch of 18th Street.</p></p> Fri, 21 Jun 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-06/two-views-pilsen-decades-apart-107755 Changing Roseland http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-06/changing-roseland-107691 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/26--1955--South_0.jpg" title="1955--Michigan Avenue at 112th Place--view north (CTA photo)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/26--2013--Michigan%20%40%20112th%20Place.JPG" title="2013--the same location" /></div></div><p>This section of Michigan Avenue runs along the top of a ridge, and was originally a trail used by the native peoples. In the early 20th Century, the State Street streetcar line was extended via Michigan to 119th Street, and a shopping strip developed. That&#39;s a postwar PCC streetcar in the 1955 photo.</p><p>Gately&#39;s Peoples Store, long a fixture on the Michigan Avenue, closed&nbsp;during the&nbsp;1980s. The streetcars have been replaced by buses, too.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 18 Jun 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-06/changing-roseland-107691 West Garfield Park, past and present http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-06/west-garfield-park-past-and-present-107658 <p><p>In 1869 the West Side Park Board created three major parks.&nbsp;One of them, Central Park, was later renamed Garfield Park.&nbsp;The neighborhood immediately west of this park is Community Area 26&ndash;West Garfield Park (WGP).</p><p>Settlement here began in the 1840s, when a plank road was laid along the line of Lake Street.&nbsp;Chicago&rsquo;s first railroad came through the area in 1848.&nbsp;The railroad became the Chicago &amp; North Western, and later built&nbsp;train shops&nbsp;near today&rsquo;s Keeler Avenue.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/06-17--01--Madison%20%40%20Pulaski-b%20%282013%29.JPG" title="The heart of West Garfield Park--Madison and Pulaski" /></div><p>But it was the park that really got the community going.&nbsp;New construction sprang up in the area around it.&nbsp;There were single family homes and some large apartments, though two-flats were predominant.&nbsp;Graystone was popular.</p><p>A gentlemen&rsquo;s&nbsp;trotting club&nbsp;operated along the east side of Crawford (Pulaski) south of Madison.&nbsp;Gambling kingpin Mike McDonald took over the track in 1888.&nbsp;The Garfield Park Race Track became the center of controversy, as neighbors feared for their property values. There were shootings and one near riot.&nbsp;The track closed for good in 1906.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/06-17--02-WGP%20Map.jpg" title="" /></div><p>In 1893 the West Side&rsquo;s first elevated railroad&ndash;another Mike McDonald project&ndash;went up&nbsp;over Lake Street.&nbsp;This line was soon joined by the Garfield Park &lsquo;L&rsquo;&nbsp;at Harrison Street.&nbsp;Now downtown Chicago was only minutes away.&nbsp;More people flocked to WGP.</p><p>The community reached residential maturity in 1919.&nbsp;The largest ethnic group was the Irish, and the St. Mel&rsquo;s complex on Washington Boulevard took on impressive proportions.&nbsp;There was also a significant Russian Jewish settlement.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>WGP&rsquo;s boom continued into the 1920s.&nbsp;The shopping district along Madison Street was one of the busiest outside the Loop.&nbsp;The 4,000-seat Marbro Theater was among the city&rsquo;s largest.&nbsp;The nearby Paradise was slightly smaller, but was often called &ldquo;the world&rsquo;s most beautiful movie house.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/06-17--04--Pulaski%20Rd%20%40%20Madison%20St%20%281934%29-view%20north.jpg" title="Pulaski at Madison, looking north toward the Guyon Hotel, 1934 (CTA photo)" /></div><p>Cultural institutions included an active West Side Historical Society and the Legler Regional Branch of the Chicago Public Library.&nbsp;Paradise owner J. Louis Guyon opened a new hotel down the block from his theater.&nbsp;The Midwest Athletic Club was completed in 1928, the tallest building between the Loop and Des Moines, Iowa.</p><p>Then came the Great Depression, followed by World War II.&nbsp;WGP stagnated, but remained stable.</p><p>During the 1950s, African-Americans began moving into the community.&nbsp;They were usually met with hostility.&nbsp;Panic-peddling by real estate companies scared long-time residents into selling. Others were forced out by construction of the Congress (Eisenhower) Expressway. WGP changed from all-White to all-Black within 10 years.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/06-17--03--Mike%20McDonald%27s%20Lake%20Street%20%27L%27.jpg" title="Mike McDonald's Lake Street 'L'" /></div><p>Many homes and businesses were destroyed in a 1965 riot.&nbsp;The trouble developed after a fire truck leaving the Wilcox Street firehouse knocked over a light pole, killing a woman.&nbsp;More of WGP burned down following the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. &nbsp;in 1968.&nbsp;The big movie theaters closed, major retailers&nbsp;left.&nbsp;Crime rose.</p><p>Now people began moving out.&nbsp;Vacant lots became common.&nbsp;In 1961 CTA had added a new Kostner station to its Congress (Blue Line) &lsquo;L&rsquo; route, to take care of heavy patronage. Less than 20 years later, the station was shuttered.</p><p>Jimmy Carter came to WGP in 1986.&nbsp;The ex-president was working with&nbsp;Habitat for Humanity, and personally helped construct new homes at the corner of Maypole and Kildare. Despite their pedigree, the buildings became derelict. They were torn down a few years ago.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/06-17--05--Jimmy%20Carter%20Habitat%20for%20Humanity%20homes%20%282010%29--SE%20corner%20Maypole%20and%20Kildare%20Ave.jpg" title="Jimmy Carter's Habitat for Humanity homes, 2010" /></div><p>No one can deny that WGP has problems. Yet there are positives.&nbsp;There are still stores at Madison-Pulaski, and they still draw customers.&nbsp;Compare this to the fate of another old-line shopping district, 63rd-Halsted.</p><p>Some blocks have been rehabbed.&nbsp;The Tilton School is an architectural gem designed by Dwight Perkins.&nbsp;The nearby Garfield Park Conservatory draws people to the area.</p><p>A century ago West Garfield Park promoted itself as being &ldquo;only five miles from the Loop.&rdquo; That location is still a selling point.&nbsp;Perhaps the next economic boom will bring better times to the community.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/06-17--06--renovated%20two-flats%20%284200-block%20W%20Washington%20Blvd%29.jpg" title="Renovated apartments on Washington Boulevard" /></div></p> Mon, 17 Jun 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-06/west-garfield-park-past-and-present-107658 Changing Edgewater http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-06/changing-edgewater-107650 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/25--1948z-image_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><div class="image-insert-image "><iframe frameborder="0" height="450" scrolling="no" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/INTERACTIVE+DATA+PUBLISHING/2013+Projects/June/BeforeAfterSchmidt/EdgeWaterBeforeAfter.html" width="620"></iframe><br /><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></div><p>Today&#39;s pictures are from the North Side Edgewater community. The 1948 photo is dominated by the Edgewater Beach Hotel. Before Lake Shore Drive was extended north in the 1950s, the hotel had direct access to the lake, and really did have its own beach.</p><p>The hotel closed in 1967 and was torn down a few years later. The double-deck buses are long gone, too.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 14 Jun 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-06/changing-edgewater-107650 Changing South Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-06/changing-south-chicago-107641 <p><p>We&#39;ve had some fun here with &quot;Then and Now&quot; photos of Chicago. Sometimes the changes in a site have been striking. For today, let&#39;s look at a South Chicago location that looks dramatically different from its appearance a half-century ago.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/27--1956--89th-Avenue%20O_0.jpg" title="1956--89th Street, looking east toward Avenue O (CTA photo)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/27--2013--89th-Avenue%20O.jpg" title="2013--the same location" /></div></div></div><p>The older photo shows 89th Street and Avenue O when the U.S. Steel South Works was still going strong. In 1956 this was the east terminal of the 95th Street bus line. By the way, the destination sign on the bus says it&#39;s headed for Evergreen Plaza--new then, but closed now.</p><p>In 2013 the only visible remnant of the plant is that one metal utility pole. But redevelopment is on the way, and I plan to come back in a few years to take another picture.</p></p> Wed, 12 Jun 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-06/changing-south-chicago-107641