This year I am giving thanks for Chicago. I love Chicago. It’s is where my media career grew. It’s where I met my husband at the coffee machine when we ended up on the same job. If you’ve never lived in Chicago, you’ve never lived. Chicago is in a class by itself and so are its indigenous residents. They are residents in economic categories that ranged at one time from NBA legend Michael Jordan, whose home was so big, they couldn’t sell it.
to deadly poverty within view of money and beauty.
Chicago is different. The architecture, when explored, will blow your mind. The city is on gorgeous Lake Michigan with waves in the middle of downtown that can also boast a high rise skyline, photogenic and frame worthy from any angle.
Even the Federal building, designed by legendary architect, Mies van der rohe. is a building that will make you want to go to court.
Chicago has the best shopping and restaurants in the country, better than New York because the taxes are lower and the stores are easier to find. The universities are among the best in the world, having donated several categories of Nobel recipients and Heads of State. Chicago natives always come home and many don’t need to come home because they never leave. Chicago is the type of place that makes you want to stay.
Dining atop Chicago’s Gwen hotel
Historically, opportunities were always plentiful in Chicago because Chicago operated on “who you know”. If you were politically connected in Chicago, you were allowed to join the ranks of the socially and financially connected. It is perhaps why, as a young law student, Barack Obama chose Chicago to nurture his post graduate career. Yes, I could sell Chicago to a small town farmer from nowhere and he or she would love it.
Now, let’s get serious. News reports remind us Chicago has one of the highest gang and crime rates in the country. The murder rate is soaring and some of that is between police and the community. As a former resident, I’ll take it a step further. The city is and always will be racially, culturally and even sexually divided. It’s in the DNA.
The north side is not AS white as it was when I arrived in 1977 and faced challenges trying to buy a condo on the north side. Areas of the near west (depending how far north or south) are no longer just Italian, Hispanic or Polish. There are now condos scattered about. The near southwest side was predominately Irish, but even that has been diluted with the construction of a new baseball park and condos. Back in the day, which baseball team you supported, depended on what shift you worked (Wrigley Field didn’t have lights for night games until 1988) and on what side of town you lived. Since Wrigley is on the north side, many Cub fans were traditionally white. People of color or ethnic people who lived on another side of town traditionally became White Sox Fans because Comiskey Park was on the south side, where much of the community was ethnic. Now with a new name and new surroundings, Comiskey became U.S. Cellular and lifelong residents even bought old Comiskey seats.
Opportunities were available in Chicago for all income, education and racial categories of people because Chicago was a main destination via railroad when people migrated from the south. Which opportunity one was allowed is another story. With the stock yards, steel mills, railroad and auto factories in the area, there were jobs. There was also opportunity for people of color to become entrepreneurs, as long as their business was operated on “their” side of town. Some areas of Chicago are still ethnically divided by neighborhood.
Chicago is evolving away from some of the old standards and practices. It’s a new day but the old remnants remain in pockets and in the minds of many. It’s like putting a tea bag in coffee. It’s still coffee but it’s “all mixed up”.
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“LOGAN SQUARE — For years, the Megamall served as a kind of center of business and culture in Logan Square for Latino families, the dominant racial group in the neighborhood.
The sprawling former flea market is now closed and set for demolition within weeks to make way for a massive residential and retail development, which some say is symbolic of the demographic shift in the neighborhood.
In the last 15 years, Logan Square has lost more Hispanic residents than of any of the city’s 77 community areas, according to U.S. Census data.
Between 2000 and 2014, about 19,200 Hispanic residents moved out of Logan Square, a 35.6 percent decrease, according to the data.
Over that same period, the white population in the neighborhood increased by about 10,340 residents, a 47.6 percent increase.
In 2000, Hispanic residents accounted for 65 percent of the neighborhood’s 82,715 residents.
Protesters blocked traffic in Logan Square to protest a development they said is not providing enough affordable housing units.
By 2014, Hispanics made up 46.8 percent of the neighborhood.
Compared to the rest of the city, only four other neighborhoods lost a larger percent of their Hispanic populations over the same time period.
Overall, the neighborhood’s total population dropped by 8,660 during that period.
The number of black residents in Logan Square also dropped from 2000 to 2014, but not nearly at the level of Hispanic residents, according to Census data.
In 2014, there were 3,934 black residents in the neighborhood, a 8.2 percent decrease from 2000.
The closure of the Megamall is the most visible and prominent example of the changes, but there are plenty of other subtler indicators that longtime residents say made them aware of the changing makeup of the neighborhood.
A ramen shop is replacing a 30-year-old Mexican restaurant, cheap housing has become increasingly difficult to find and there are perceptions that the neighborhood is safer.”
Today the city’s beauty and tourism attractions have blossomed, the restaurants have expanded and improved, people are moving all over town, Wrigley has night games and the Universities are in demand. What remains in the pockets are the bad relationship between the law and the community and the leftover racial divide in the minds of the indigenous. People who knew Chicago in the 1950s, 60s and 70s don’t quite recognize it today. People who never left the south side or the west side in those days are either dead or they are learning that the entire city is their city. (I remember the day I was standing at a bus stop on the south side when a teenage girl asked me how long it would take to get to Water Tower Place because she had never been to one of the premier high rise shopping malls in the world. shopwatertower.com
The little girl’s question was also proof positive that beauty is only skin deep when there are serious cultural deficiencies beneath. The shopping center is about 20 minutes from where she lived her entire life. It was proof positive that architectural glory doesn’t do anything for cultural divisiveness. Chicago is no longer just the city by the lake where Frank Sinatra saw a man dance with his wife. There is serious work to do and maintain.
So even with the racial divide, Chicagoans remain a clique of all races because from the outside, there is really only one Chicago. When you are a Chicagoan in some other city, other Chicagoans will quickly relate. Many indigenous residents of all backgrounds are still upset over Macy’s takeover of Chicago staple, Marshall Field. After years of negotiations and transfers, Marshall Field officially became Macy’s in September, 2006.
Chicago is a major player on the world stage, thanks in part to Barack Obama and hopefully an Olympic event in it’s future. Chicagoans don’t have Obama to hold on a pedestal anymore. Stop trying to cook a turkey in an old oven. He’s off doing his thing. Fix the problems in the city and celebrate its history. Cultivate the city’s future with the upcoming Barack Obama Presidential Center. The Obama Foundation Center will be located in Jackson Park on the city’s south side. I remember when Jackson Park was where black golfers were forced to hit the links so they could play without prejudice and it was the only place African American boat owners could dock their boats and feel at home. It’s also in close proximity to the site of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and the University of Chicago.
Mr. Obama’s foundation has released this rendition of the Presidential Center.
I love Chicago. I’ll probably never live there again, but if you want to know anything, just drop me an email. Chicago is cold but it’s also hot. Seems Timeout Chicago agrees. Even with the ongoing racial divide, everybody is in Chicago’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
2013 Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade along State Street/Chicago Real Estate Forum©
by Dianne Thompson ® comments welcome at email@example.com