As part of the South Side, Woodlawn has experienced a mixed reputation given the economic issues that the neighborhood has experienced. With a lack of investment, Woodlawn declined from a peak of near 81,000 residents in 1960 to 23,410 in the 2010 census. However, in the last several years, Woodlawn has seen something of a renaissance as new residents move into the neighborhood. Much of the growth has been driven by its proximity to Hyde Park, direct access to Lake Michigan, public transit options to the Loop, and two very notable developments moving into the neighborhood.
Obama Presidential Library
One of the major reasons for the recent hype around the neighborhood is the 2016 announcement that the Obama Presidential Center would be located in the neighborhood. The library, an estimated $500-million-dollar development, will be built in Woodlawn’s Jackson Park and will serve as the repository for the Presidential archives and other projects associated with President Obama.
Given the large-scale nature of the project and the follow-up development that will be centered around the Woodlawn area, the neighborhood is poised for explosive growth. Woodlawn has historically been looking for a major development to kick start growth and the Obama Library is seen as the perfect fit for the role.
Tiger Woods Golf Course
As an example of the types of follow-up investments in the wake of the Obama Library announcement, Tiger Woods was tapped to lead a major renovation of the golf courses on the South Shore and in Jackson Park. A $30-million-dollar project focusing on the two lakefront golf courses in the city, the investment is set to revitalize the courses for world-class PGA Tour events, including the BMW Championship. With real estate developers usually flooding in at the prospect of a marquee project in the neighborhood, Woodlawn expects to attract an increasing number of business and residential revitalization efforts.
With these two high-profile investments in the neighborhood, real estate developers have begun to move into Woodlawn. While not nearly at the same boisterous pace as construction on the North Side, Woodlawn’s low population density relative to the city has made it an attractive area for developing single-family homes and townhouses. The real estate market in Woodlawn is rather unique, as there is a significant supply of brick two-flats and early-mid century architecture, meaning that much of the activity in the market has been centered around rehabbing older properties versus building new structures. However, the neighborhood has grown 13% since 2010 and is projected to grow at an even faster pace in the years to come.
And developers are trying to stay ahead of the trend. It is currently projected that around 600 for-sale homes will be developed in the immediate Woodlawn area in the coming years. Vacant lots are being snagged up by eager developers and the neighborhood’s formerly sleepy corridors are now welcoming new businesses to deal with the influx of newcomers, lured by the neighborhood’s affordability and amenities.
If the last year is any indication, Woodlawn is poised to have a very busy 2017.