Weekend opinion – why not build Volo in Bronzeville?

I believe the city has blown and will continue to blow a major opportunity in Bronzeville. That opportunity was presented by the large amount of vacant land in Bronzeville and the fact that the area’s radical depopulation had made crime largely a non-issue.

The opportunity: replicate a family-friendly suburb within the city at a price that’s competitive with the far-out suburbs.

In suburban Volo, for example, Cambridge Homes is building 2-bedroom townhomes priced from the mid-$150s to thw low $170s, and 3- and 4-bedroom, 2 ½ bath single-families base-priced from the $190s to the low $200s. The monthly cost of owning these homes would be competitive with renting a 2-bedroom, 1-bath at nearby Lake Meadows!

In the video above you can join me for a walk-through of a slightly higher priced ($240s) Cambridge home. Click the arrows toward the lower right of the video to watch it full screen and enable a higher-definition version.

Build homes like this in Bronzeville, provide some decent neighborhood schools and, I believe, people would flock to them by the thousands and revitalize Bronzeville. At these price levels the area should appeal to many young north-siders and would wind up being very diverse.

The barriers to building this type of housing in the city are purely political – i.e., unions, building codes, and a preference for an insider cadre of builders. The city has previously written down land costs to developers to levels that would make Volo prices (or lower) realistic.

Retail / commercial development, in my mind, is a red herring. I don’t see anything wrong with having the equivalent of a family-friendly bedroom suburb with fabulous proximity to downtown and to the lakefront.

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