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“The neighborhood of Bronzeville on the South Side of Chicago has been gentrifying now for more than a decade. Formerly boarded-up beautiful brick homes along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive have come to life. New construction has gone up on land where high-rise public housing projects were spectacularly imploded starting in the 1990s. Median incomes and property values have soared.
Gentrification, though, means something different in Bronzeville than it does in other neighborhoods. In most U.S. cities the word has generally come to imply the gradual taking of a place from one group (usually poor people, usually minorities) by another (usually middle- or upper-class whites). But in Bronzeville, a historically black neighborhood – once Chicago’s version of Harlem, the city’s “Black Metropolis” – the gentrifiers are black, too.
Some of them have been there for years, ascending the income ladder as the black middle-class nationwide has dramatically expanded. Then there is the sense that others are “returning” 30 or 40 years after the black middle-class left Bronzville. Either way, there seems to be space enough in the neighborhood amid the vacant lots.