Once the nation’s most vibrant, creative and economically rich mecca for African-Americans after Harlem, Bronzeville is making a major comeback.
With elegant new properties like this one at 4010 S. Ellis, a new day of luxury is dawning in Bronzeville. (Photo courtesy of Whatasteele.com)
Home prices—especially for luxury single-families—are notoriously high in the ring of neighborhoods that fan out a mile or two from Chicago’s Loop. Ditto for other North Side districts like Lakeview, North Center and Lincoln Square. “It takes at least $1.5 million, and usually more, to get a home that qualifies as a true luxury residence in those areas,” says Hasani Steele, CEO of Steele Consulting Group.
That makes the six stylish, spacious Craftsman-inspired properties in Steele’s Bronzeville development quite a steal, no pun intended. The latest—a 3,900-square-foot six-bedroom, 3.5-bath charmer at 477 E. 41st—went for $700,000. By comparison, a similarly sized home Steele is marketing in Roscoe Village on the North Side is up for $1.7 million.
Of course, Bronzeville is worlds away from Roscoe Village. As home to vaudeville stars and stockyard barons from the 1880s to 1910s, it was one of the city’s most elite neighborhoods, and many of its patrician historic mansions still stand. With the Great Migration, it became home to a thriving African-American community. But years of economic trials—like the closing of Michael Reese Hospital, losing the 2016 Olympics in 2009 and the Great Recession—sent it into decline.
That makes the 3,800-square-foot five-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom that Related broker Sheila Dantzler and her husband, Eric Dantzler, CEO of R & D Builders, just finished and sold at 4510 S. Prairie for its full list price of $644,000 equally remarkable for its size, scope and value—especially given its oversized 30-foot-by-160-foot lot. It’s the first of nine homes they plan to build in Bronzeville.
A sophisticated sitting room at 4510 S. Prairie. (Photo by Donna Binbek)
Thanks to its history, magnificent historic housing stock, grand boulevards and proximity to the lake, the Loop, the Museum Campus and Hyde Park, Bronzeville is arguably more suited to gracious living than many of its North Side brethren. It’s also perfectly suited to a resurgence. What Bronzeville doesn’t have—for now—are the amenities North Side properties enjoy, such as vibrant streetscapes dotted with retail and restaurants, though the Mariano’s at King Drive and Pershing (the area’s first major grocery store) is always packed, says Steele.
The success of retail corridors in the South Loop and Hyde Park serves as proof points for what Bronzeville can be, while the redevelopments of the Michael Reese Hospital and Stateway Gardens public housing complex sites promise to bring more people to the neighborhood. That’s important for the area’s tax base and vitality, since Bronzeville lacks the healthy density other highly desirable Chicago neighborhoods enjoy.
“There are still several hundred vacant lots here,” Dantzler notes. But that’s about to change. Between July 2017 and July 2018, the city granted 73 permits for new Bronzeville construction that represents almost $30 million of work, compared to 27 permits for projects totaling $19 million from July 2014 to July 2015, when $11 million of that figure represented work on a park fieldhouse.
Even more telling is the neighborhood’s median home sale price, which climbed from $148,000 to $233,000 from July 2015 to July 2018— well over 60 percent—while the citywide median grew from $266,000 to $299,000, or a bit over 10 percent, during the same period, according to Redfin data. The numbers make it clear that the neighborhood’s stylish and well-built residential real estate won’t stay so well priced for long. “Homes are appreciating here very quickly,” Dantzler points out.
Sitting room flows into kitchen thanks to 4010 S. Ellis’ airy, open layout. (Photo courtesy of Whatasteele.com)
The city worked at making it happen, explains Steele. Third Ward Alderman Pat Dowell initiated a Parade of Homes in a blighted part of the area west of King Drive in 2016. “Going west of King is like going west of Western on the North Side,” Steele notes. The program set aside 42 vacant Prairie Avenue lots that were sold to 3rd Ward single-family homebuilders for $1. “Subsequent lots will be half-price of current fair market value,” Dantzler indicates.
Now, two years later, four of those Prairie Avenue homes delivered (including Dantzler’s), and other developers are building homes on Calumet, Indiana and Wabash avenues—all west of King Drive. More significantly, “the potential buyers who look at these homes represent a diverse population,” says Dantzler.
Today, the city is preparing to sell its second round of vacant lots on Calumet, Indiana and Prairie avenues between Pershing and 47th, says Dantzler. While Bronzeville, which is sited in two of Chicago’s official 77 Community Areas (Douglas and Grand Boulevard) got its current name when African-Americans migrating north settled here in the early 20th century, a full century later it is undergoing a dramatic and exciting renaissance that will make it a truly appealing magnet for all cultures and races.