Once the 1954 Federal Housing Act was passed, these local organizations
gave Hyde Park-Kenwood a definite advantage for receiving federal
aid. The law required public meetings, and this was a requirement
the neighborhood could easily meet. Hyde Park also had the administrative
ability to carry out programs, and it met federal financial requirements
as well. It was as if the 1954 law was written specifically for
the area between 47th Street and the Midway Cottage Grove Avenue
and the lake.
Add to this a major economic and symbolic force like the University
of Chicago, and the district had a good chance to protect itself.
The economic power of the university should not be underestimated.
This institution was able to expand and influence the real estate
market as none other had before it. Buying up buildings and turning
them into student housing was one tactic; political influence
was another. The university used the South East Chicago Commission
to develop a broad plan of attack using the wrecking ball as well
as the recycling of buildings for a major urban renewal project.
Fifty-fifth Street would never again be the same.
It began in May 1955. Nearly forty-three acres of buildings
were slated for demolition in an area from 54th Street to 57th,
from Kimbark to Lake Park Avenues (See Fig. 1).
Then another 909 acres of buildings were added to the list to
be pulled down. Hyde Park underwent radical surgery. The Chicago
Land Clearance Authority spent $9,800,000 to acquire the buildings
to be torn down. The city, the university, and the community
cooperated in the effort. Mayor Richard J. Daley called the
the first building "one of the most important events in
the city's history." The program to rebuild Hyde Park was
Looking south on Lake Park at 50th Street, 1950. »