| The implementation
of the Project I plan began in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the
relocation of 460 families, 333 individuals and 145 commercial businesses.
Condemned buildings in Project I’s target area were demolished and replaced
with new structures. These included high- and
mid-rise apartment buildings along LaSalle and Clark Streets, and four-plus-one’s
on the corner of Eugenie and North Park and on the 1700 block of Mohawk
The DUR along with outside realtors began making offers to purchase land from local homeowners whose houses were scheduled for demolition. Some property owners who were reluctant to sell were threatened by realtors who told them that the neighborhood would soon be a ghetto and they should sell while they still could. Many of the people who sold their homes relocated to other areas of Lincoln Park; however, due to the increasing property values brought on by the urban renewal, most people were forced to move to other neighborhoods. Among those forced to leave Old Town and Lincoln Park were the lower- income families and the elderly, whose housing was removed to make way for the four-square block Oz Park at Webster and Larrabee.
In 1976 the OTTA and the LPCA drew up a proposal to get Old Town designated as a historical landmark. This would allow the neighborhood associations “architectural control” over new developments. No building would be demolished without consent of the associations and the city's historical society. In 1977, the proposal was accepted and the City Council designated Old Town a historic landmark.
As the poorer populations continued to leave, modern housing was developed and with the designation of Old Town as a historical landmark, a new population was attracted to Lincoln Park. The 1970s brought Old Town a wave of white ex-suburbanites who approved of the urban renewal progress and liked Old Town’s convenient location near the city’s downtown. Throughout the '70s, the population of Lincoln Park’s Old Town area changed dramatically. It was no longer a community of diverse ethnic and socioeconomic peoples, but was becoming a haven for young urban professionals.
The neighborhood associations and the DUR received numerous complaints from concerned neighbors regarding this issue. Residents feared that the modern housing and the removal of lower-income families was destroying the unique character of Old Town and the family community, which was supposed to be maintained. In response to these complaints, the OTTA and the DUR amended their plans. In the late 1970s, the Krema Trucking Company, located on Larrabee just north of North Avenue, which was originally planned to be replaced by commercial facilities, was instead replaced with low-income housing apartments.
This new housing was intended for the relocation of Old Town’s poorer families. However, most of these families had either already left the area or had plans to leave, and so the housing units were occupied by a majority of black families escaping the ghetto life of Cabrini-Green. Now, it was the associations’ turn to fear the progress of the neighborhood. The middle-class residents believed that their new neighborhood may become a ghetto after all, and a few decided to leave. To deter other urban professionals from changing their minds about living in Old Town, the OTTA, LPCA and DUR immediately began plans to construct “safer” living conditions, namely, gated communities.
Gated communities sprouted up all over Lincoln Park throughout the 1980s. These “communities” were comprised of townhouses all facing in towards each other. Most require a code number to open the gate, while a few are operated by armed security guards requesting visible vehicle stickers.
At the same time, the first condominium buildings were being erected. These condos were high priced, but too small for a family to live in comfortably. They were marketed towards the young professionals who continued to pour into Old Town. The problem with this was that once the newcomers married and had one or two children, the condos were no longer sufficient. As a result, many young families moved back out to the suburbs to raise their children.
By the end of the 1980s and into the 1990s, the diverse ethnic and socioeconomic nature of the Old Town neighborhood had been somewhat maintained, but at a price. Gated communities isolated the newcomers from the lower-income families and condos provided a transient atmosphere. The community spirit that had joined Old Town in the early 1950s to improve their neighborhood had become extinct.
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