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The University and the City
A Centennial View of the
University of Chicago
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Newly constructed townhouses on 56th Street, 1961.

Newly constructed townhouses on 56th Street, 1961. In the background, the dual towers of the University Apartments on 55th Street are nearing completion. Photograph by AI Henderson.

 

Harper Court, John T. Black, architect, perspective drawing, from Harper Court: A New Center for the Useful Arts ... in the Tradition of Hyde Park (Chicago: Harper Court Foundation, 1963)

Harper Court, John T. Black, architect, perspective drawing, from Harper Court: A New Center for the Useful Arts ... in the Tradition of Hyde Park   (Chicago: Harper Court Foundation, 1963). Funded with bonds sold to the community, Harper Court was intended to replace artists' quarters lost to urban renewal and provide space for new galleries and "creative enterprises." Muriel Beadle, wife of President George W. Beadle, led the development campaign. Drawing by Human Tan.

The University Neighborhood

Renewal and Revival
With a grant from the Field Foundation, the University and SECC created a plan for redevelopment of an extensive area of Hyde Park centered on 55th Street and Lake Park Avenue. This plan was approved by federal, state, and city governments and received the strong support of Mayor Richard J. Daley. The initial stage of work, demolition of older substandard buildings, began in May 1955. By the summer of 1958, large tracts of land had been cleared, and construction got underway on new apartments, townhouses, and a shopping center.

The Hyde Park neighborhood redevelopment project was expensive and inevitably imperfect. Over 15,000 neighborhood residents were displaced as buildings considered substandard were torn down. Some of Hyde Park's historic nineteenth-century housing stock was lost, and the character of entire blocks and streets in the heart of the neighborhood was completely altered. The cost of the entire redevelopment effort in the area surrounding the University campus exceeded $300 million. The federal government, which regarded Hyde Park as an important testing ground for emerging urban renewal strategies, provided $4.6 million for development projects. The University invested $29 million, and an additional $250 million was secured from private investors.

As one of the earliest massive efforts to reshape an American urban neighborhood, the Hyde Park-Kenwood renewal program received its full share of social, political, and architectural criticism. Some of the area's old, familiar graciousness and raucousness would have disappeared over time and could not have been preserved in Hyde Park any more than in any other vigorous city neighborhood. Yet, working in concert, Hyde Park residents and the University were singularly successful in constructing a formula for an economically stable and racially integrated community and in confirming the University's commitment to remain an urban institution.


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