Hyde Park: Let's Do This

Alright, Hyde Park. I've got to tell you, I almost cashed it in. After my dramatic entry a few weeks ago, I got lots of notes -- emails, voicemails, texts (a few comments -- thanks!) -- all sympathizing, all offering thoughts on what's going on in Hyde Park, why crime is up, why we're not discussing it, where things are headed.

And then, two days after I posted that blog entry, 8 pm, on the corner that connects our house to the park, a neighbor's visitor got mugged. And not just finger-in-the-jacket-pretend-gun-give-me-your-iphone mugged. Four guys, two obviously armed, waiting around outside for passersby.

The next day, another incident: shots fired at the BP on Hyde Park Boulevard and Cornell. I run past here at least 5 times a week. I coach a girls' running team at Akiba, just down the street.

It's out of hand, right?

I looked at real estate listings, and it doesn't look bad -- the market seems fine, and I'm confident we wouldn't have to sell at a loss.

And yet we're not moving. Not now, at least. And though there are a lot of reasons why, I'm going to offer you my top three. And if you have others, I hope you'll add them in the comments -- for me, of course, and for everyone else who's looking for reasons to stick it out.

Reason #1: Things Will Get Better

I list this first because I think it's most important. If I thought things were going to hell, or even if I thought things were likely to plateau and continue at this too-violent level, we'd be outta here. But there's evidence that things will improve: though there are naysayers (just like there were for Harper Court), the Antheus Whole Foods project keeps moving forward. That puts a high-profile grocer on the corner of Lake Park and 51st and I have to believe Whole Foods, which makes all the right moves, has done its due diligence here in Hyde Park. The redevelopment of Hyde Park's retail scene has picked up serious momentum, and we're fooling ourselves if we think money doesn't buy safety.

I also had the pleasure of hearing Steve Wiesenthal, the UC's VP of Facilities/Campus Architect, speak a few weeks ago, and his message was undeniably hopeful and positive. At one point, as he was discussing the situation of campus between Jackson and Washington Parks, he encouraged the audience to look forward 20-30 years, when Washington Park is to Chicago what Central Park is to New York. I think this is pushing it (I've read Freakonomics), but Wiesenthal is a compelling speaker shilling a product I want desperately to buy.

Which is to say, if the University continues to throw money at it (I've seen plans for the renovation of Nichols Park, I know the plans for 53rd Street), and investors throw money at it (let's overlook the TIF argument for now), there's going to be a lot at stake. That's a lot of people and a lot of resources dedicated to making it work in Hyde Park.

Reason #2: It's Getting Cold

What's simple is true. Crime goes down in the winter months. No one wants to battle the brutal Chicago winter just to steal someone's iPhone. Right? Shootings taper off until spring. Criminals hibernate. And maybe that's enough time for us to get our crap together, create a plan of action that prepares us a little bit better for how to manage -- and FIGHT -- another summer like the one we just had.

Reason #3: I Love it Here

Not always, and not without qualification, but I do. I love the proximity to the lake and the loop. I love the UC campus and its wacky collection of geeks and hipsters and deliberately-not-hipsters. I love Hyde Park Produce and the cookies they give to S. I love my neighbors. I love the parks. I love the tree-lined streets and the historic homes. I love the diversity, the melting-potness, and the open-mindedness (as long as you're a social liberal). I love the spirit of discourse that pervades conversations in every restaurant, in every line, at every bus stop. I love Hyde Park. I care deeply about this community, and I'm not going to be scared away.

Not yet, at least.


Leave a comment
  • One immediate question is whether the uptick in crime is due to Hyde Parkers or criminals invading the neighborhood. I don't think that competing gang territories have been set up in Hyde Park, but if they have, that certainly is going to affect whether anyone else can live there (as opposed to someone coming from outside the neighborhood to rob a student, as was the case of the exchange student killed at about 61st and Ellis).

    The long range question is whether one can count on the neighborhood stabilizing by having the U of C own everything between the Dan Ryan and the lakefront. Your comment about Washington Park 20-30 years from now shows proper skepticism, in my view.

  • It doesn't seem pointed, right? The crime, I mean. Maybe I'm being naive, but it doesn't seem like there's a back-and-forth that would indicate real gang activity. Though maybe there's a difference between what's going on at, say, 61st and Ellis, and what's happening at 48th and Dorchester (let's call Hyde Park and (south) Kenwood the same neighborhood, for the sake of argument).

    But that means we have to hope we're a criminal destination? It doesn't sound like a good alternative. In fact, I remember laughing out loud when I first moved to Chicago and someone said this to me about Lincoln Park. I thought it was a joke -- as if having some cognitive distance from the criminals in your neighborhood made them less threatening (when in many cases, I'd say this makes them more so). Though I do understand the trouble we're in if our neighborhood becomes their territory...

Leave a comment