New Podcast Spotlights Real Estate Revitalization Efforts in Bronzeville | Black Voices | Chicago News

Bronzeville is steeped in black history and culture, and the neighborhood has produced some of the nation’s most influential figures, including Ida B. Wells and Louis Armstrong.

Known as the “Black Metropolis,” the neighborhood became a center for African American businesses in the early 1900s and remains a popular place to live, particularly for Chicago’s black community.

Now a new construction boom is replacing vacant lots with high-priced homes. Transformation is at the heart of a new podcast series created and produced by Crain’s Chicago Business real estate reporter Dennis Rodkin.

“There has been a boom in home sales for $500,000 and up, and in the years that I’ve been watching that number has grown. We’re seeing a lot of sales above $700,000 and $800,000 now, and this year there’s some coming out for $950,000,” Rodkin said. “That’s not all that’s selling in Bronzeville, but it’s a real indicator that there’s a luxury market that’s filling up formerly vacant lots bit by bit all over Bronzeville.”

Investment in Bronzeville has increased over the years. Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd Ward) led an initiative in 2017 to convert vacant land into single family homes. Bronzeville is also currently one of 10 priority communities selected as part of the city’s INVEST South/West strategy.

“I think since the Chicago Housing Authority buildings were demolished in the late ’90s, early 2000s, a major social blunder in terms of housing people there has been addressed,” said Pete Saunders, a city resident planning consultant. “I think there’s been a big shift towards new housing in the area, more interest in the area and more investment.”

As Bronzeville’s revitalization and construction of quality homes continues, some would also like to see more affordable housing in the area.

“I’m not impressed by 100, 200 new homes that start in a market of $500,000 or more,” said Sherry Williams, founder of the Bronzeville Historical Society. “There are existing apartments that are certainly worth far more, and that would have been before 2008. I think what would be impressive if more than 100 homes or so were built at a time, but to my heart it has always been the needs of those who have not been well represented in new construction, and not just in Bronzeville, so certainly if as we look at the plan for the transformation, the promises made to residents who have been in the community for three or four generations, none of it has been accomplished, nowhere near fulfilled in 20 years. So when I see vacant lots, I see the potential for inclusion, for anyone who wants to live in the community, not for those who have the money to buy real estate.”

With any redevelopment there will always be concerns of people being displaced or pushed out of the community, but there is an opportunity to strike a balance between revitalization and affordability, Saunders said.

“I think if it’s not controlled there will be people who will be displaced or who can’t afford to live in the community but I would say the downside to that is you would end up with an a Community that isn’t getting the investment that it deserves, that isn’t having the amenities that it deserves, and that’s a thing that’s happening right now,” Saunders said. “I think we have to strike a balance to make this a safe, secure and sustainable community that appeals to people across the income spectrum, but also leads in terms of affordability.”

Rodkin said he hopes his podcast listeners can also learn about Chicago’s housing history and how it played out in Bronzeville. The three-part series debuted on January 24th.