Via reader EB, a Chicago Magazine article from 1980 wonders where the gentrification really is (because it was 20 years in the future):
Thus it was that Yuppies began regentrifying poverty areas along the lakefront, such as Lincoln Park, Old Town, New Town, Lakeview, and Uptown. As population expert Pierre de Vise has noted, these singles are able to establish beachheads in “the buffer zones separating the Gold Coast from the slum” because the singles are less concerned with poor schools and street crime than middle-class families. The families, which had been fleeing to the suburbs since about 1950, continued to flee—would you send your child to a Chicago public school? Between 1970 and 1975 alone, the number of white households in Chicago with children dropped from 488,000 to 447,000, a loss of 41,000 households and the biggest drop in any category of the Census Bureau’s housing survey. Nevertheless, the arrival of the Yuppies was the first spontaneous evidence of new urban life in 30 years, and so the “urban renaissance” was hastily proclaimed.
But the word “renaissance” usually implies a cultural rebirth pervading all of society. The renaissance in Chicago has, in fact, been limited to a few oases. Of the 30,000 new housing units constructed in Chicago between 1970 and 1975, nearly half are concentrated in just 28 of the city’s 840 census tracts; as you might have guessed, all 28 of those tracts are on or near the lakefront.
Despite the frantic real-estate activity along the lakefront today, a 1975 study by Pierre de Vise turned up entire neighborhoods—mostly in black ghettos or blue-collar areas—where there hadn’t been a single conventional house sale all year; virtually all of the conventional mortgage sales, de Vise found, were restricted to the North and Northwest sides, the Far Southwest Side, and lakefront houses and condominiums.
Only, the hated Yuppies moving into those communities actually did reduce crime and improve schools, but also drove out minorities and the poor. Chicago today would be unrecognizable to people from 1980. In fact, people in my own family who moved away from Chicago in the 1970s cannot comprehend $500,000 condos at Wells and Division, nor walking alone through Oz Park after dark. And they certainly would never send a child to Lincoln Park High School.
We've got a long way to go to have a truly sustainable city, but we're on the right track (despite pensions). I'm glad to be living here now.