From hot to not: Washington Park, three years later

5400 block of S Indiana Ave

In the summer of 2007, New Homes Magazine announced its picks for Chicago’s hottest ‘hoods. This morning I started looking up stats on each of these picks to see what’s changed in three years. The first place I studied was the last one mentioned in the New Homes piece, an area that has suffered not only from a bad economy but from the fallout of Chicago’s failed Olympics bid: Washington Park, the South Side neighborhood that encompasses the area from 63rd Street north to 51st, and Washington Park and King Drive west to the Dan Ryan Expressway.

At the time, New Homes said of Washington Park:

Like much of the South Side, Washington Park suffered deteriorating housing stock and rising crime as white residents fled in the ’50s and ’60s. At first glance, an observer might see only a desolate landscape of boarded-up stores, vacant lots and blatant drug dealing, but, like nearby Woodlawn, Washington Park is a diamond in the rough.

Some observers say the Olympics could rejuvenate a significant portion of the South Side centered on Washington Park. Meanwhile, though, homebuyers won’t find convenience retail in the neighborhood – residents rely heavily on nearby Hyde Park for restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores and other amenities. The twinkling blue lights of the Chicago Police Department’s security cameras on local streets serve as reminders of the neighborhood’s crime problem, and much of the property is distressed.

But the park from which the neighborhood takes its name is a beautiful oasis of lagoons, running tracks, soccer fields and basketball courts. That park, and the neighborhood surrounding it, could be poised for a major boost.

In mid-2007, the median price for a condo in Washington Park was $185,900. Today, 44 of the 54 condos for sale in the neighborhood are priced below that amount, and the median price for a condo has dropped to just $90,000. Homes that sold in 2006 and 2007 in the mid-to-high $200s are back on the market for as little as $12,900, and 57 condos and single-family homes in foreclosure, according to Trulia.

$90,000 is also the median price for the 213 home sales that have occurred in Washington Park since July 2007. Only about one in eight of the condos sold in the neighborhood in the past 12 months have gone at six-digit prices; by comparison, half of all condo sales between summer ’08 and summer ’09 went for $100,000 or more.

Developers haven’t completely abandoned their Olympic-sized plans for Washington Park. As recently as this winter, New South Partners and Team4 Construction were talking to the press about their Gateway at Washington Park, a 1.3-million square-foot mixed-use development to be anchored by a Target, proposed for land bounded by 54th Street, 55th Place, Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Prairie Avenue. This project appears not to have passed beyond the conceptual stage, however.

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