The North Side of Chicago (Yes, It’s a Thing!)

In the chapter “New Urbanism” in City of Rhetoric, David Fleming gives real-life examples of his views from earlier chapters on commonplaces and built environments in terms of Chicago, Illinois. With a focus on the North Town Village and the Near North Side, Fleming explains the difficulties the city faced while trying to erect mixed-income communities. Since, as Fleming explains, the “‘one-for-one’ replacement rule” had been removed, tearing down old infrastructure to rebuild new homes and communities was a lot easier (124). That being said, the city still faced challenges with getting different socioeconomic classes together. Chicago, a city known for its segregation and crime, would have to find a way to bring people together to coexist in a civil way.

One area of focus was Chicago’s Near North Side, and remodeling this part of the city meant changing the Cabrini Green housing that was known for its crime, drug use, and poverty. However, one way to combat this was with the idea of “New Urbanism” (125). This idea focused on public space, one of Fleming’s main topics in earlier chapters, and interaction through close proximity from people of all backgrounds. Furthermore, there is an emphasis placed on close-knit quarters, community living, and pedestrian activity, all of which promote discourse in one form or another. From 1993 up until 2002, various plans and companies were thrown around in the debate of how to best go about remodeling the north side of Chicago. As of 2002, the Near North Redevelopment Initiative (NNRI) had multiple projects underway.

Another area of focus was Chicago’s North Town Village (formerly known as Halsted North). This part of the city, with the help of Holsten Real Estate Development Corporation, quickly became a pinnacle of redevelopment and a center for public discourse. With the first tenants moving in in the Spring of 2001, the emphasis of community was quickly brought into the spotlight. This emphasis on community is a prime example of Fleming’s previous chapter. Fleming made the point that in the built environment around us helps to dictate discourse and interactions within the environment. As Fleming explains about the North Town Village, the focus of the mixed-income community was not individual families and their differences, but the community as a whole mixture of people. That being said, the world is not perfect, and there are some drawbacks to this type of community.

While Fleming commends public discourse, he also sees problems within the mixed-income communities of Chicago. The biggest issue, Fleming says, is the fact that higher-income community members have more power in their environment. Since low-income families may be living in the community since it is the only thing they can afford, they do not have the luxury of being able to say, “I don’t like [insert problem about the community]. Fix it, or I’m moving elsewhere.” Therefore, the people with money are the ones with the say. In addition to economic status, Fleming suggests that race is also an issue. According to Fleming, individuals of one race tend to do better overall if they grow up surrounded by people of the same race. Unfortunately, the world is not perfect, and we cannot fix every problem with mixed-income communities, but if we continue to participate in public discourse, like these communities help us to do, we can make these areas better places.

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