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Table of Contents > Chapter 11

South Lakefront (continued)

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, and 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 demolition of the first building "one of the most important events in the city's history." The program to rebuild Hyde Park was under way.

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Figure 1: Looking south on Lake Park at 50th Street, 1950.

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