Friday, January 25, 2008
In my neighborhood of Rogers Park, the recent condo boom transformed whole blocks of formerly affordable (and often run-down) apartment buildings. A survey by Lakefront CDC counted 3,600 condo units created or converted since 2003, and my own walks around the neighborhood suggest the long-term numbers are much higher.
Is this a good thing? For Rogers Park and other hot 'hoods -- Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Pilsen, Albany Park -- the gut renovations and Euro kitchens will extend the lives of hundreds of courtyard buildings, six-flats and corner buildings. With millions invested by developers, and shops and restaurants following the money into the neighborhoods, these areas have a good shot at long-term stability.
That's mostly good, especially if the alternative is losing buildings to decay and demolition.
But thousands of renters have had to move -- and not just down the block, because those buildings are turning too. Next door on Pratt Avenue, we watched two corner buildings shift from rental to condo with 100 percent displacement. Down the block, condos took over a 60-unit string of courtyards that had been well-kept and affordable for decades -- housing many families who sent kids to nearby Kilmer School. The new occupants are noticeably younger, richer and whiter.
Not such a good thing. Which is why I've been heartened to see that the condo market is collapsing -- witness the auctions and extended sales periods -- and that in Rogers Park, at least, some buildings are being renovated for rental, not sale. One building at Pratt and Sheridan has all the characteristics of a condo conversion, from balconies to duplex units, but the sign says "Now renting."
Of course rents will be higher on the renovated buildings, but the slowdown in conversions means Rogers Park, and other places, can take a breather. Kids can stay in the school they've been attending, families can avoid the disruption of finding a new neighborhood, and the diversity that makes such neighborhoods interesting and healthy can be sustained and nurtured for a few more years.
That's good, no question about it.