Chicago's Olympic Loss Hurts Bronzeville

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When a city is at the losing end of an Olympic bid, what happens to the city neighborhoods that were counting on a lift from all those Olympic development dollars?

That's the question they've been pondering in Chicago's aptly-named Bronzeville neighborhood since the city lost the bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics in first-ballot voting last October. The unexpected loss leaves this embattled area in Chicago's South Side with an uncertain future.
Bronzeville is where Michael Reese Hospital was located, and its 37-acre plot was to house the Olympic Village if Chicago was chosen to welcome the games. The city bought the site for $86 million in June, with plans to build lakefront housing after the Olympics ended. Concerns arose about the plan back then, and now a fresh set of concerns has surfaced about the neighborhood's prospects.

The supply of affordable housing in Bronzeville has been dwindling, as more condos and high-end homes kept popping up. Tensions were heightened by an expected wave of "Negro Removal" as a result of the arrival of the Olympic Village.

Those worries seem to be tabled for the time being, but the absence of the Olympic Village has taken its toll: "The neighborhood's residential market took a severe hit, and developers have put off major investments," wrote Rachel Cromidas at The New York Times.

According to Zillow.com, the median home price in Bronzeville in November was $248,400, down 5.3 percent from the previous year. Prices have been in steady decline since late 2007, the site states.

Meanwhile, BlockShopper.com shows that the median sale price for homes in Bronzeville was $109,000, down nearly 52 percent from $225,000 in 2008. The company also notes that there were 190 foreclosures in 2009, giving the neighborhood a 41.7 percent foreclosure rate.

While Bronzeville has seen some gentrification, progress has been uneven. And the area still has its share of urban problems. Four homicides took place in December, and 13 of Bronzeville's 16 total homicides in 2009 happened in the second half of the year. However, overall crime in the area has fallen 67 percent since 1999.

There is some optimism for Bronzeville. The city of Chicago has already sunk $100 million into the would-have-been Olympic Village site, and it could still be the key to Bronzeville's developmental resurgence. The city is seeking qualified developers for the land in the first quarter of 2010, and will be asking for developer proposals later, according to Don Debat at SearchChicago Homes.

Will Bronzeville ever strike gold? We'll just have to wait and see.
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