Finding Community: 1Woodlawn


  1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
  2. a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
  3. a group of interdependent organisms of different species growing or living together in a specified habitat.

I’ve lived in Woodlawn a little less than a year.  Actually, I signed my second lease this week, which means I will be in Woodlawn for at least the next year, which I’m happy about.  I like this community.

People ask me why I chose to live in Woodlawn.  I answer it was all by circumstance.  I wasn’t exceptionally familiar with the neighborhood, I had actually been here a few times to visit a friend, and had been through the community in passing, which was pretty much the extent of my exposure.  I worked, at one time, just north of where I live now, as an intern at the Dusable Museum of African American History.

But Woodlawn is the southside.  It feels like the southside.  From the moment I get off the Metra train, I know I’m in a different place than Streeterville where I work.  This neighborhood has character.

I’m ashamed to say that with nearly a year in this neighborhood, tonight was my first neighborhood meeting.  Because I’ve managed to miss every other meeting that I’ve known about, I made it a point to be sure to make tonight’s meeting, especially since it was the last large community meeting of the year.

Better yet, the meeting was literally right across the street from my house at a community church.  There was an excellent turnout I thought, and I was told that there didn’t appear to be as many people as normal.

Particularly, I personally was interested in any discussion that would revolve around the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) and the related Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).

Not to be confused with a presidential library, the OPC will be this behemoth of a place that will likely change the fabric of the neighborhood as a whole, which already houses the Museum of Science and Industry.

There was a lot of discussion about economic development of the neighborhood as a whole.  It also became very apparent that there is a large diversity of views about the current state of the CBA. I don’t know enough about the topic to offer any informed perspective, but it is definitely something that I plan on researching more in the coming weeks.

I am very sensitive to the effects of gentrification.  From what I could gather, the major discrepancy over the CBA was on exactly what the agreement would most be created for; setting aside affordable housing for current residents vs. using generated funds to facilitate home ownership by current and future residents.  I need to sit and think about that for a while..not sure how I feel about the propositions.

My desire to own a home, or not, depends on the day.  I do know that i don’t want to get priced out of yet another community.  I got priced out of Ukrainian Village.  I was lucky to be in Ravenswood for a few months, but that community is definitely outside of my price range.

As someone I spoke with this evening also said, I’ve never seen a Chicago neighborhood that was gentrified in which the original tenants were able to stay in the neighborhood in the aftermath.  To me, The OPC feels like the flagship of gentrification.  Reportedly, a recent study has found that the OPC has already begun a rise in rents, that many current residents cannot afford.  I signed my lease so early (current lease expires in February) partly because the inevitable raise in rent was only $50.  I said “Fuck, let me jump on that before the change their mind or something happens and it’s a $250 dollar jump.”

I trust no one in this town when it comes to money.

I look forward to learning more about the CBA, and what impact it will have on me personally, however it is framed in it’s final incarnation, and hopefully I’m able to have a voice in the ongoing process.  I look forward to the next large community meeting, as well as my next quadrant meeting, which I will be sure to attend as well.

And so it goes….another day in the big bad city.  To learn more about Woodlawn, visit the 1Woodlawn website.

What neighborhood do you live in?  Is gentrification something you worry about?  Are you in fear of getting priced out of your community?  Let me hear your thoughts down below in the comments.

Also, I’m now a podcast host.  The show is Off The Beaten Podcast. You can find this week’s show on Apple Podcast, on Stitcher, Spotify, or on our website. Also, follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter to see the sights of the city and what’s going down.

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  1. Portage Park. Not worried about gentrification, would actually embrace it. We are not in danger of being priced out of this community but if that did happen, we would move to the Memphis area to be closer to the wife’s family. We are fortunate in that we have transportable jobs.

    Our new alderman just made a move that put a halt on a project that could have kicked off economic growth and perhaps gentrification.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting. I lived in Ravenswood for a short period of time, but never should have been there to begin with, but definitely got priced out of Ukrainian Village a few years ago. I like this neighborhood, and would like to stay a while. Rent is going up $50 next year. I can live with that, much better than the $200 wake up call I got in UV.


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