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The Future of Humboldt Park

Chicago’s northwest side seems to be in a constant state of flux. Leave for one year and you'll come back to a different neighborhood. One of these areas is Humboldt Park. Businesses and organizations are quickly coming and going in the Humboldt area and new developments are underway to reinvigorate the community. However, much of the new development is being met with resistance by long-time residents.

There were several school closings in Humboldt Park that have left inhabitants — at best — confused. But certain new developments promise to curb the diminished educational facilities in the area. The Von Humboldt Elementary building is up for redevelopment and proposals are projecting a "Teacher's Village" to occupy the space. It would consist of affordable housing geared towards teachers in the middle- and low-income brackets with units also available for low-income applicants who are not teachers or instructors. Facilities would also include a café and spaces for educating and instructing. Other developments, specifically ones put forth by North Clybourn Group last year, were met with protests by residents as it is believed that these new developments only serve the interests of higher-income brackets and not the current community who call Humboldt Park home.

Humboldt Park Beach / photo by Steven Kevil / CC BY-SA

The still new 606 Trail is driving a lot of this development as the scenic route makes the area more desirable. These housing developments are sprouting up along the 606 and it is resulting in a general rising of property taxes on all the surrounding properties. According to the Chicago Association of Realtors, the median sales price of homes in Humboldt Park was around $138,500 in 2015. The proposed new housing near the 606 will be going for prices upward of $900,000.

While many changes are slated for the year to come, there's much more potential for development with Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Chicago Community Catalyst Fund. This fund, outlined in the 2017 City Budget Overview, will allocate $100 million in city and private funds over the course of three years. The budget will serve as a fund to back development in neighborhoods that are more resource deficient. And while the neighborhood is certainly vibrant and rich with character, there are still some blighted areas that have left empty storefronts, vacant lots, and broken facilities.

Entrepreneurial citizens have taken it upon themselves to create a vintage boutique district in the West of Western area (known locally as the WOW District) on North Avenue. The Catalyst Fund would help other potential shop owners to invest in the community and resuscitate a storefront property just as Richard Biasi, owner of Richard's Fabulous Finds, did with a locale that was previously vacant for three years. This could serve as a chance for the local population to strengthen its roots in the area and reinvigorate its presence. With the Catalyst, residents have a chance to recognize the area's wants and needs and stake a claim of their own with proposals for review by the committee of the fund. It's an opportunity to be a part of the development and a driving force in the community at large.

Humboldt Park's Jensen Formal Garden / photo by Steven Kevil / CC BY-SA

 

Humboldt is capable and resilient. People of Humboldt Park successfully managed to push out Riot Fest, as the musical festival consistently would result in large scale debris and incidents of misconduct. Despite impressive efforts to clean and maintain the area following the festival, residents still did not appreciate the raucous event, especially when considering the historical context of the area and its history of social unrest. Riot Fest will be occupying Lawndale’s Douglas Park for the tentative future.

A recent example of Humboldt Park’s resilience is its efforts to preserve the Humboldt Park Beach and push for aid to revive the Jensen Formal Garden. Last year, the beach opened later in the season following budget cuts and proposals to let the space become "natural growth". Residents fought the proposal that would allow the beach to fall into disrepair. Currently the beach is on track to reopen its gates again this summer. With Riot Fest relocated, the future of the parks and the beach secured, and outreach in place for citizens to have more control over development, Humboldt Park is primed to move forward on its own terms.

Sources:

Future of Humboldt Park Uncertain [DNA Info]

Humboldt Park Beach to Reopen [Chicago Tribune]

Humboldt Park Initiative [UIC]

Chicago Park District

Humboldt Park Residents Are Fighting Gentrification [Curbed]

Protest Slated Over New Prices of Humboldt Park Homes [Crain's]

Teachers Development Proposed in Humboldt Park [DNAinfo]

Chicago Public Schools

Humboldt Park Restoration [Chicago Parks Foundation]

Keep Riot Fest in Humboldt Park [Riot Fest]

What's Behind Emanuel's New $100 Million Neighborhood Fund? [Chicago Business]

2017 Budget Overview [City of Chicago]

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