Chicago neighborhood name game: Chrysler Village to follow Pluto?

You go to bed one night in a solar system with nine planets and you wake up in one with eight. All seems a little arbitrary, no? Well fans of Pluto (the planet, not the dog) should quit their whining and consider Chicago neighborhoods, which are created, named and renamed fast enough to make even P. Diddy’s head spin. At least Pluto had a nice 75-year run.

The city names only 77 official community areas, but hundreds of neighborhoods don’t make the cut. University Village, Heart of Chicago, Tri-Taylor? Sorry, not good enough. At least these neighborhood names are in use. What about SoLo, a name Realtors and developers devised for the South Loop that was around for exactly 45 seconds? New City (the neighborhood, not the publication) had a longer run, but who even remembers its boundaries today? Back of the Yards, however, remains in use long after the Union Stockyards faded.

Neighborhood names on the Near South Side, which has seen massive amounts of destruction and construction, are up for grabs. North Kenwood has seceded from Kenwood and is now more commonly associated with Oakland. The name “Bronzeville” was resurrected with the area and depending who you talk to, it comprises lots of smaller neighborhoods in a swath that might stretch all the way from 26th Street to 51st Street.

The massive public housing projects in this area constituted their own neighborhoods, but will Stateway Gardens and Robert Taylor stick around as “neighborhoods” after the CHA buildings are gone? Will the names of new mixed-income communities such as Park Boulevard replace them?

Is this town big enough for both West Ridge and West Rogers Park, which have been used interchangeably to describe the same area for years? I grew up in a neighborhood still labeled “Chrysler Village” on some maps, though neighborhood residents long ago dropped “Chrysler” in favor of “The Village.” Since that pocket is two blocks wide and not much longer, and no one knows where it is, most people in the neighborhood now identify the enclave as Clearing, the name of the larger neighborhood – not that that’s any clearer for most North Siders.

So, fans of Pluto, take heart. This celestial body might no longer have official status as a planet, but it’s the same hunk of rock it always was. And you’ll still be able to get $1 drafts in Chrysler Village even if it continues down the slippery slope of anonymity and one day ceases to be even an unofficial neighborhood.

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