Today, Bronzeville is making a strong comeback as professionals, many of them African-American, have picked up the run-down graystones at bargain-basement prices and rehabbed them to their former glory. By 2007, the public housing developments had nearly vanished, with the last building of the Robert Taylor Homes facing demolition in March 2007. Thousands of displaced public housing residents were relocated or received Section 8 vouchers to subsidize their rent in private apartments; five mixed-income, low-rise developments are planned to replaced 7,300 of the homes Bronzeville lost when the old projects were demolished. The attractive new buildings that are already completed have proved popular.
In 2001, Chicago instituted the African-American Showcase of Homes to encourage residents to rebuild Bronzeville. The city donated land and the African-American Home Builders Association donated two million dollars to assist local builders in creating market-rate homes on South St. Lawrence Avenue. Driving south on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, the contrast between old and new is remarkable. From 26th St. to 35th St, the new developments tower overhead, but they are surrounded by large open spaces. South of 35th, you feel like you’ve stepped back a hundred years. The houses are spectacular, with intricate stonework and wrought-iron fences, a perfect complement to this wide, tree-lined boulevard. Bronzeville remains primarily, and proudly, an African-American neighborhood, with historical awareness continuing to increase along with property values. However, word is spreading, and improvements are bringing demographic changes to the community. The Chicago Reporter found that, in 2003, 34% of those buying homes near the sites of the former Robert Taylor and Stateway Garden projects were white, while another 6% were Latino or Asian.
Today, the neighborhood is seeing major community-driven revitalization efforts, mostly by wealthy and entrepreneurial African-Americans who value the neighborhood’s historic importance. Historic clubs are reopening, and there are a handful of nice coffee shops and restaurants that have opened in recent years. More so than the present, however, the principal attraction remains the neighborhood’s rich history. As a rule, the revitalization efforts have not extended below 47th Street or west of the Dan Ryan Expressway into the Washington Park and Fuller Park neighborhoods, which remain very blighted, with an extraordinary amount of vacant lots and the highest violent crime levels in the city. Unfortunately, this means that 47th Street, which has some major draws, can be a little edgy after dark. But don’t worry about Washington Park the park (as opposed to the neighborhood) — is perfectly safe during the day. So the next time you’re in the area…or just visiting the city. Make sure to take the time to stop by an check out what Bronzeville has to offer. It may not be the most well known, or most popular, tourist destination, but it will surprise you with what it has to offer.