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Losing Logan Square

A rapid loss of culture, identity and affordability that is neither natural nor inevitable, but the result of purposeful policy choices.


See also:
* Timothy McManus's YouTube channel.



Comments welcome.


1. From Mark McCann:

I lived in Logan Square in the late 90's-early 2000's. It was a war zone. If you look at the crime rates in Logan Square since 2001, there has been a huge decrease in all types of crime. Violent crime has been cut by more than half:

The identities and social characters of neighborhoods change every generation or so. 30-40 years ago, Logan Square was primarily made up of Eastern Europeans. Imagine the uproar if those Eastern Europeans would have fought against the influx of Hispanics moving to their neighborhood.

What is happening in Logan Square is driven by market forces and changing consumer choices - not racism or greed. People now want to live in an urban area and close to public transportation - not in some subdivision or McMansion in the burbs. Unfortunately, most of those neighborhoods in Chicago are/have been primarily made up of poor or working class minorities since the "white flight" days of the 1960's. How do you stop people from moving into a certain neighborhood? That's exactly what this "gentrification" fight is trying to do.

The end result of gentrification is a more sustainable city with less cars, less pollution, more diversity, more opportunity, less crime and more sustainable local businesses within those neighborhoods.

When you fight against "gentrification," you are fighting against progress while fighting FOR the same "hyper segregation" that has caused a lack of opportunity for Chicago's poor residents for generations. Instead of vacant storefronts, dilapidated buildings, gangbangers on almost every corner, etc., Logan Square is now filled with locally owned stores, restaurants, and construction projects that offer jobs and opportunity for EVERYONE in Chicago, including the local residents. How is that a bad thing?

The New Yorker nicely summed up "gentrification" a few years ago: "a process by which a ghetto might cease to be a ghetto." Isn't that what we are all striving for?


Reply from Steve Rhodes: I couldn't disagree more with Mr. McCann, and his familiar lines of argument in favor of gentrification.

Logan Square, like other gentrified neighborhoods, would have benefited from the same police coverage it gets now when it was still mostly a working-class neighborhood. Police service, like other city services, follows the money. Let's not get confused about that.

In addition, criminals, and the poverty that drives them, do not just disappear when a neighborhood gentrifies; they simply move to a different neighborhood. No crime problem has been solved.

Also, what good is a safer neighborhood if those who helped grow the neighborhood and make it appealing can no longer benefit from that increased safety because they are priced out of their homes?

Next point: We don't have to wonder what Eastern Europeans would do if an influx of Hispanics entered "their" neighborhood. In Chicago, we know, there would be resistance. There would also be a welcome to the population that has kept the city afloat for the last couple of decades - just check the census figures.

And in the case of gentrification, no one is trying to keep an ethnic or racial group out. It's an inapt analogy. Rather than trying to keep people out, folks against gentrification are trying to stay and not be pushed out themselves.

Next: Gentrification is not solely the result of "market forces," but of public policy choices made by the city in conjunction with developers. Neighborhoods are primed for gentrification in a number of ways through the tax and zoning systems, just to name two.

Also, "market forces" are regulated in our society in order to prevent, for example, monopolies, or poisonous food. There is nothing magical about "market forces."

And the idea that gentrification creates a more "sustainable" city is noxious; it creates a city even more divided by race, class and other socioeconomic factors. Indeed, it creates hyper-segregation instead of dismantling it, as Mr. McCann argues.

Gentrification destroys the local culture that makes a neighborhood appealing to so many in the first place, and pushes out longtime residents who will never reap the so-called benefits that gentrification brings. It's great for those moving in who want to recreate a neighborhood; it's hell on those who created it in the first place.

There's no reason city services couldn't be provided to a working-class neighborhood when it comes to vacant buildings and so on. When I lived in Wicker Park decades ago, the gaping holes in the sidewalks on Division Street could have been closed up when poor people lived there, but they weren't until the neighborhood gentrified. See the point?

Gentrification surely does not provide opportunities for everyone, as Mr. McCann argues. Gentrification provides opportunities for those who can afford it. Those who can't aren't against a mixed-income community that includes the wealthy. Unfortunately, gentrifiers want nothing to do with those less affluent than themselves. They just stomp around the city deciding where to invade next, ignorant and uncaring of the consequences on the lives of others, because they have the money push everyone else around. Should the people who create appealing communities really be forced out because rich people decide they want to occupy their neighborhood? That's the problem with gentrification. Folks who resist it are tired of getting pushed out of neighborhood after neighborhood. (And if you don't think it's about greed, in innumerable ways, you are exceedingly naive.)


Posted on May 9, 2017

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