ELIZABETH BRACKETT: It doesn't look like much--another vacant lot on the south side of Chicago. But when ground was broken here for the first new shopping center in the community in 50 years the rebirth of an urban neighborhood had reached a new milestone.
BISHOP ARTHUR BRAZIER: This shopping center--I do believe--is--and I say this with all sincerity--the beginning of the end of community disinvestment in this neighborhood. We see this as a marked turn in the life of this community.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: The community is North Kenwood-Oakland. Its latest turn was particularly satisfying for Bishop Arthur Brazier, pastor of the largest church in the area. He had watched the life seep out of the neighborhood for the last 40 years, watched the housing deteriorate, watched the influx of gangs and drugs, all the more painful because he remembered the area as it once had been.
BISHOP ARTHUR BRAZIER: It was really the center of commercial life on the south side of Chicago for African-Americans, and it was very lively, a lot of life. The Palm Tavern was there. The Walrick Ballrooms was there, the Regal Theater, along with the Savoy, so it was a very, very lively community.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Now, after years of deterioration, this tough inner-city neighborhood is once again showing signs of life, a revitalization city officials take pride in. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.
MAYOR RICHARD DALEY, Chicago: You have to be creative about it. You can't do the same thing they did 10 years ago or 15 or 20 years ago and be able to be creative at the same time, understanding what you're trying to provide. This is not rocket science; it's work. People confuse it. It is not. I know how to get it done. And that's--you have to do it.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: At one time the community had a vibrant middle class. Brazier says that's because restrictive covenants kept African-Americans from living in any other neighborhood.
BISHOP ARTHUR BRAZIER: If you were a doctor, a social worker, or a pull man porter, or a postman, or if you were on what we called "relief," everybody lived in the same community. So it was because it was a mixed income community, economically integrated, although all back, there was money, there was disposable income.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Ironically, the neighborhood began to deteriorate when the Supreme Court outlawed restrictive covenants in 1948. For the first time African-Americans had choices. As more neighborhoods opened up, much of the middle class left.
BISHOP ARTHUR BRAZIER: There was really disinvestment in the community. Financial institutions were not lending money in these communities, so consequently people began to move out. They became really bad toward the end of the 60's and the 70's when drugs became involved and especially crack cocaine.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Mary Young, an artist and city administrator, stayed through it all. She had been raised in the neighborhood, and when she had her own family, her mother's influence kept her there.
MARY YOUNG: I was sat down and told not to run; that black people do not run and if--you don't run from each other, and where you're running to, and what are you running from, and where are you going. Those were the questions that, you know, my parents posed.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Young remained but she was often fearful for the safety of her two young daughters.
MARY YOUNG: I was worried all the time about their safety, and so I became like shields around them. And, you know, I remember the fires. I remember the gun shots, you know, the shootings that were going on.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: In the late 1980's the first attempts were begun to redevelop the neighborhood. Community organizations began using the low income housing tax credit to finance new construction. This was one of the first projects using such a method of financing. Ground was broken here by the late Mayor Harold Washington on November 25, 1987, the morning of his death. When Richard Daley was elected in 1989, neighborhood development continued as a top priority.
MAYOR RICHARD DALEY: Neighborhood revitalization is a number one issue in the city because you have to revitalize each community. And as you build from one community to another, you're basically building bridges.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: The mayor declared North Kenwood-Oakland, a conservation district, which gave the city the power to acquire and demolish the many abandoned buildings. Local residents were appointed to a conservation council to attract and oversee development. Shirley Newsome heads the council.
SHIRLEY NEWSOME: While we were mainly residents of low and moderate income we hoped to attract those persons of upper income into the community, and one way of doing that was through a better housing stock.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: And the housing stock has improved dramatically. With nearly 40 percent of the land vacant development could proceed without fear of displacing existing residents. With financing from public and private sources nearly 1,000 new units of housing have been created in the last 10 years. Some of the most crime-ridden public housing projects in the neighborhood have been shut down. Replacement housing is planned but not yet built. And to the amazement of many a few streets in the neighborhood now have homes that sell for as much as $300,000. One of those homes belongs to Mary Young. She built her three story home on the vacant lot next to the house where she grew up.
MARY YOUNG: We have always had faith that this community would come back.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: The expensive homes were developed after the city put in a new--to lure private developers. The street is now seen as a catalyst for development in the rest of the neighborhood. But it was just the redevelopment of her street that convinced Young to build. It was also the view.
MARY YOUNG: I built here because of the beautiful lakefront. You know, it's spectacular. I don't think I would want to live anywhere else, except near water. I love the trains, I love the sound of the trains. There just environmental things that I wake up to that I really enjoy.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: The proximity to the lake in downtown did help the North Kenwood-Oakland neighborhood come back, but the community still lacked decent shopping, particularly a top flight grocery store.
BISHOP ARTHUR BRAZIER: Retail people saw this revitalization. They saw people purchasing the kind of homes and living in the kind of apartments that were either being built or renovated. So, a good location was 47th and Lake Park, and having the support of the city of Chicago we were able to acquire this land. And now we're going to build a $9.5 million shopping center.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Finding equity is critical in inner city development. For help with the initial equity Bishop Brazier turned to Andrew Mooney. Mooney heads the Chicago office of LISC.
ANDREW MOONEY, Local Initiative Support Coalition: What LISC does in many cases, both in housing and commercial development, is take the higher side of the risk that a bank or other investor really is unwilling or unable to take.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: With equity from LISC and an empowerment zone grant from the federal government in place, the Harris Bank, a major downtown bank with a new branch North Kenwood-Oakland, agreed to a $7.2 million loan for the project. Landing the right grocery store was also tough. With profit margins up less than 1 percent, grocery stores are often the last retail outlet to risk returning to the inner city. Bishop Brazier nailed down the Hyde Park coop, a cooperative grocery store with a highly successful store in a more upscale neighborhood just to the South of the new site. The general manager of the coop says cooperative principles should help the project suc