Chicago’s City Council passed the 606 Bloomingdale Trail Neighborhood Area Neighborhood Improvement Program in 2017. This was a grant that would “keep long-term homeowners and renters of the rapidly gentrifying Humboldt Park and Logan Square neighborhoods (the ‘606 Residential Area’) stably in place,” according to the website for LUCHA, a community organization that advocated for the grant.
When Ramos’ family migrated from Mexico to Logan Square, they grew close to their landlord. Ramos saw him as a grandfather, she said, so her family was taken by surprise upon learning that their rent would be doubling.
After her interview, Ramos got up to look across at the Target store in Hyde Park. While gazing at the bright red sign, Ramos noted that the South Side neighborhood has changed as well. In the last few years, the area has seen the addition of stores such as: Target, Akira, Ulta Beauty, and Whole Foods.
Some would argue that these new developments signal gentrification.
He added, “The argument that everyone loses from gentrification is overly simplistic; those with socioeconomic privileges, often the wealthy and the white, stand to profit immensely from the increasingly prevalent process [of gentrification].” The University of Chicago, which is based in Chicago’s Hyde Park and Woodlawn communities, has development plans that are going to displace residents, Reilley further posited. One project raising such concerns is the forthcoming Barack Obama Presidential Center.
This facility is being built in partnership with the University of Chicago, the Barack Obama Foundation, and the City of Chicago. When it was announced that Jackson Park, a public space in Woodlawn, would house the center, organizers proposed a community benefits agreement (CBA), which is essentially a contract between community residents and developers, said Devondrick Jeffers at a recent assembly.
They now recommend a CBA housing ordinance that will address matters ranging from affordable housing to property taxes. This pending legislation has been supported by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Obama Foundation. “The forces are starting to align that will allow us…to protect people,” said Jawanza Malone, executive director of Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), another founding member of the CBA coalition.
To organizers, a CBA will ensure community trust.
Kwynn Riley, a member of Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), said, “[Developers] come into impoverished neighborhoods and feel like they’re doing something better for the community without the community consent, and that’s really what gentrification is—it’s doing something without the community consent.”
However, the CBA can only protect the people if its promises are met, said Atlanta-based organizer Da’Shaun Harrison. Harrison recalled a moment when he was organizing in Atlanta, and advocates proposed a CBA, but its promises were unmet.
Thus, a CBA was introduced. However, because the university did not fulfill promises made in the CBA, community members remain unprotected, he noted.
“The [West end] residents now are still fighting to make sure that their housing is maintained,” Harrison said.
Harrison added that developers will green light these projects under the guise of revitalization and use coded language to mask the harm that gentrification causes. Therefore, semantics are important when thinking about the issue.
Malone, on the other hand, offered a different take. He said, “The bigger issue [with gentrification] is [not semantics but] the displacement that occurs as a result.”
Malone added that gentrification occurs when people are pushed out of a neighborhood “simply because they have the income that a different group of people think isn’t sufficient enough.” In Woodlawn, this is a pressing concern for organizers. Without a CBA, these residents will be displaced, Malone said.
Malone added that the median income of Woodlawn residents is less than $24,000 a year, and they will not be able to keep up with increased property taxes likely to come with the arrival of the Obama center.
Therefore, a CBA is imperative.