Monday, September 27, 2004

Prairie Avenue & Neighborhood Life Cycles

On its way back to the top!

It is said that all neighborhoods go through a life cycle. First comes growth, then stability, then decline and then rebirth or gentrification. And Prairie Avenue has gone through them all.

In the 1870's living on Prairie Avenue was extremely fashionable. This street was the home to Chicago's leaders of commerce and industry. Residents included Marshall Field, George Pullman and the Armour family.

As early as the 1880's the area started to fall out of fashion as the leaders of commerce and industry moved to the Gold Coast. Decline had started, by 1905 the area was turning industrial leading to a further decline in the residential area. By the 1960's Prairie Avenue had bottomed out.

Architectural organizations and preservation groups helped establish the Prairie Avenue Historic District. The district was designated a Chicago Landmark in December 27, 1979. A few homes were preserved, however; the area continued to languish for another 20 years.

By the 1990's things started to happen in the south loop. Mayor Daley moved from Bridgeport to the new Central Station development. Many of Chicago's residents followed his example and the area boomed. Land prices were cheap and all those old factories could now be made into fashionable "Lofts". There is now rapid development of new townhouse projects, and wedged in between the old historic homes are the new construction of upper bracket single family homes.

Once again Prairie Avenue is the home to the leaders of Chicago's commerce and industry.

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