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Washington Park
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Washington Park Overview

For now Chicago's Washington Park neighborhood may be a predominantly residential south side community with a sprawling public park and rich culture of African-American heritage, however, as the potential site of the Olympic Stadium for the 2016 Summer Games, this modest neighborhood could really make its mark in the near future. Remnants of the last century's architectural movement are found throughout the area, with a wave of new designs and gut rehabs dusting the streets as well. As Olympic talk heightens, developers and city officials are anticipating the impact such a huge event would have on Washington Park. Temporary athlete lodgings and the massive 80,000-seat arena would only be around for a short period, but the hope is that a surge of new businesses would ride in on the coattails of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bolster the Washington Park neighborhood for decades to come. The current commercial base is slight, with a few soul food mainstays and Chinese takeout, but the annual cultural festivals and fun Park District programs keep things on the up as Washington Park awaits an impending transformation of Olympic proportions.

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As we’ve just mentioned, Washington Park is the 2016 Summer Olympics location hopeful. If Chicago ends up with the winning ticket to host the Summer Games, Washington Park neighborhood will get a second chance to reinvent itself and step even further away from the half-century of disrepair that plagues its past.

Aside from the massive parklands of Washington Park, and rundown remnants of the last century’s architectural movement in Chicago, roughly 50 percent of the neighborhood’s lots are vacant. The majority of Washington Park’s residents are low-income families. However, we Chicagoans haven’t lost faith in rebuilding this once affluent community.

The City of Chicago recently launched programs that allow mixed income residents to live side-by-side by creating affordable homes below market price for individuals and/or families that meet eligibility requirements. This is all made possible with the cooperation of participating developers working with the city to retain as many of the long term community members as possible. The surge in gut rehab and new construction condominiums is a sure sign that the neighborhood is amidst change. We feel that the ambitious revitalization taking place in the surrounding neighborhoods such as Kenwood, Hyde Park and Bronzeville will only make Washington Park’s fresh makeover inevitable—with or without the Olympics.

As it is today, much of the neighborhood consists of low- and mid-rise brick condos—both vintage and new construction models. Surrounding many of the properties are wrought-iron fences that provide both a sense of security and a nice, well-kept appearance to the residential streets. While attached multi-unit homes are in abundance in Washington Park, single-family detached houses are more difficult to find. The average sales price for a one-bedroom condo is around $168,000, with some studios listed for under $100,000. If you and your family need a little more space—most likely you will—the price point is more, but you definitely get your money’s worth. For example, a three-bedroom condo around here is $205,000, on average.

Washington Park History

Washington Park’s earliest non-native settlements began in 1890 during the time when the South Park Board purchased large tracts of land to accommodate the rapidly growing meatpacking industry.

The construction of new upscale homes and major thoroughfares like Grand Boulevard (a.k.a. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive) and Midway Plaisance in neighboring Hyde Park drew more working-class laborers to the area, many of whom took up residence in Washington Park. Later, the opening of the Washington Park Club in 1884, with its race track and putting green, served to stimulate the interest of wealthy newcomers to the south side, including to Washington Park neighborhood.

In 1893, when rumors were confirmed that the Columbian Exposition would be held in the Washington Park area, the news brought on another wave of people to the community. And the next decade saw a further population boost upon installation of the elevated train system (or 'El') at 55th Street and cable cars running as far as 63rd Street.

As Washington Park continued to grow the socio-economic makeup of the community shifted from affluent businessmen to low-income laborers that were predominantly African American. By 1930, 92 percent of Washington Park’s population were African American families. Racial tensions increased between white and black residents, and many white residents moved further south.

Despite all the set backs that the Washington Park community endured in the latter half of the 20th century, it has once again struck the interest of many land prospectors. Today the neighborhood is undergoing a healthy redevelopment spurt that is widespread throughout the entire south side of the city. Washington Park neighborhood is even the proposed site to host the 2016 Summer Olympics which would bring an 80,000-seat temporary stadium to the area that could later be converted into a smaller permanent 5,000-seat amphitheatre.

The Sights of Washington Park

Washington Park Neighborhood Photo
Washington Park Neighborhood Photo
Washington Park Neighborhood Photo

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