Is East Garfield Park ripe for revitalization?

A few years ago, a couple real estate agents in an office where I worked suggested I take a look at East Garfield Park. This was going to be a hot neighborhood, they said. Development and gentrification were pushing in that direction and the implication was that anyone who bought then would see strong appreciation and an improving neighborhood.

I couldn’t tell you what’s on every corner in East Garfield Park, but I had been through the area enough to have some familiarity with it. I knew of the Graystones and stately manses that dotted the streets, buildings constructed at a time when homes were built right. And I also knew of the area from my parents, who in another era had a relative or two they used to visit on the “West Side.” Back then, people from the area were thought affluent and, as I’m told, they looked down upon people of my ilk from places like, say, the South Side.

We all know what happened in the 1960s and beyond as poverty and its ripple effects wreaked havoc on Garfield Park. But a couple of decades later, neighborhoods to the east began to improve. The United Center and the ’96 Democratic National Convention and the invention of a new neighborhood known as the “West Loop” sent new building and new businesses creeping west.

It’s only natural to believe that as development stretches its way toward California Avenue and into East Garfield Park proper, things will improve. The park and conservatory are excellent attractions and their revitalization can anchor a re-birth of the area. The proximity to public transportation, particularly the Green Line – bodes well for the neighborhood.

But in the end, for me, the questions became where and when. As in “where do I want to be now?” and “when will I be able to walk to the things I want to do at night?” Everything is subject to the hands of time, but how long will it be before East Garfield Park, apart from scattered pockets of new construction, is rehabbed into another version of the Wicker Park of early ’90s lore? According to the aforementioned agents, it’s already happening. What do you think? Click on “Comments” below.

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