Why Bronzeville’s gentrification may become a model for other Chicago neighborhoods

Chicago’s South Side is gentrifying in a way that may not displace longtime residents

4559 S Prairie Ave (Zillow)
4559 S Prairie Ave (Zillow)

There’s a gold rush in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood.

More new houses sold in the South Side community, a historically significant area for the city’s Black community, than any other neighborhood last year, Crain’s reported. That’s due to an influx of residents looking for affordability they can’t find elsewhere without sacrificing access to the city’s downtown and lakefront.

But the way in which the neighborhood is gentrifying may not push out many current residents and could become a model for other areas.

“It’s one of the last places in Chicago where you can get a new, 4,000-square-foot house for under $1 million,” Michaela Gordon, an @properties agent who sold a new, 3,600-square-foot house for $815,000 on 42nd Street in December, told Crain’s. “It has a variety of quintessential old Chicago architecture, and you’re not displacing anyone.”

The median home price in Bronzeville last year was over $550,000, Crain’s reported, citing Chicago Association of Realtors data. That’s higher than some North Side neighborhoods like Avondale and Portage Park. The city-wide median is $318,000.

What makes Bronzeville’s transition different from other places in Chicago where gentrification displaced longtime residents, such as Pilsen and the 606 trail area, is that the neighborhood has thousands of vacant lots caused by years of disinvestment, according to Crain’s. Developers who once viewed them as eyesores that depressed home values in the area are now rushing to develop them. That’s lifting the area’s housing and income profile without driving residents away.

Bronzeville had more than 3,000 vacant lots at the start of the century. Many of those have been redeveloped since 2017, with more than 250 houses sold for $500,000 or more, according to Crain’s.

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The pandemic may be helping homes sell in the neighborhood, which has been slow to attract amenities like the restaurants and cafes that usually pop up in a hot housing market.

“You don’t expect to walk down the street for coffee, for dinner,” Sheila Dantzler, a Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty agent, told Crain’s. “You expect to be home, in your house or in your yard.”

More high-end development is on the way. A set of five homes priced in the $950,000-range will come on the market later this year. Coldwell Banker Paulette Edwards, who has experience selling homes in Bronzeville, told Crain’s she is “absolutely confident” the demand is there.

With prices rising so quickly, some prospective buyers are already priced out of the neighborhood. Dantzler said Fuller Park, to Bronzeville’s west, could be the next place to attract affordable new development.

“A lot of people who could afford Bronzeville two years ago at $600,000 can’t afford it now at over $700,000,” Dantzler told Crain’s. “The prices have gone up so high in a short time frame.”


[Crain’s] – Harrison Connery

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