Population: 3600 people [see Map 1]
Land size in acres: 163.15 [see Map 2]
The residential area bounded by 43rd street, 47th street, Cottage Grove and Lake Shore Drive has a distinct sense of unity throughout the entire area in terms of walkability, housing style and structure, and natural environment. It all appeared to be one continuous community. Despite this, the neighborhood does not seem to have a visible sense of identity as the “North Kenwood community”. Although the area includes parks, schools ranging from elementary grades to high school, churches, shopping centers, as well as a community health center, none of these structures made reference to the neighborhood of North Kenwood [see Images 1-5]. Names, particularly of parks and schools, seemed to come from the larger city not the local residents. There was one sign that designated the neighborhood as a Chicago Historical District.
The neighborhood has a very residential feel to it. Walking through on a Saturday morning, it is easy to run into one or two others entering or leaving a community center, school or church. The houses are well-kept and most house single families, although there is also a large number of small estate apartments on each block. The entire community is quite small, taking perhaps forty-five minutes to walk around the border of the neighborhood. This size adds a sense of closeness to the neighborhood, a sense that is heightened by the traffic heavy streets that line North Kenwood on both its East and West boundaries. There is a distinct entrance into the southern neighborhood of Kenwood due to the change in scenery; Kenwood is marked by small mansions, large yards, and wider streets.
The neighborhood has a variety of different geography delineations running through it. It is part of two congressional districts and three census tracts.
Community centers range from schools to parks to churches. All centers are easily accessible from anywhere within the neighborhood by walking.
North Kenwood and Kenwood were once one
community spanning the region from 51st street to 43rd street and Cottage Grove
to Lake Park. The name Kenwood comes from the first settler of the land. Dr.
John Kennicott bought the region in 1856 and named it after his Scottish family
home. Cradled between Oakland and Hyde Park, the slowly developing Kenwood had
a distinct feel to it that was less urban than surrounding areas. For years,
its population was primarily from the upper socioeconomic class that included
many of Chicago’s innovators and builders. It was reputed as the aristocratic
neighborhood of Chicago.
As Chicago grew, Kenwood was slowly urbanized. Small houses, in contrast to the mansions of the past, were included all throughout the community, apartment building were constructed, and older homes were torn down. The population diversified and the African American population grew in the northern side of the community. After the clearing of Lake Meadows Housing complex in the late 1940s, a high rise to the north of Oakland and Kenwood, this black population increased significantly.
North Kenwood was separated from its southern entity mainly as a result of urban renewal in the southern region. The division into two separate communities occurred in the 1950s.This splitting came due to similarities of the population of now-Kenwood to that of affluent Hyde Park directly below it, the community that houses the University of Chicago. The community north of 47th street, which would become North Kenwood, contained a lower-income population that the University did not want to associate with itself. Kenwood was designated a Historical District in 1979, a city action that prevented the demolition of buildings in the community. Therefore, through the clearing, rebuilding and protection of Kenwood, the neighborhood was firmly distinguished from its Northern neighbor. Although Kenwood prospered due to the investment and improvement, North Kenwood suffered from the neglect. The result was fires, house clearance and demolitions, and gang activity.
Eventually, due to neighborhood pressure on the city, in 1988, the Kenwood-Oakland Neighborhood Planning Committee was established. Two years later, North Kenwood-Oakland was named a conservation area by the city and the city appointed members to a conservation community council for North Kenwood. With the creation of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) and their active involvement in the maintenance of the two neighborhoods the North Kenwood neighborhood is slowly returning to its reputable state physically. Just as importantly, it is finally receiving the attention from the city that it needs.
Socialexplorer.com [Map 1-3]
Google Earth Pro [Map 4-5]
This diagram, which portrays built space to open space, shows that North Kenwood has a densely packed built environment. There are not many open spaces or green areas. The building are distributed relatively evenly throughout the community with no clear center.
This second diagram shows several parks in relation to the building locations shown in diagram one. The parks, representing public space, are centrally located in the community and take advantage of small pockets of open space. The diagram also shows parking spaces, which represent the community's private-public spaces and general commercial, educational or religious centers. The community therefore has more private-public spaces (usually dedicated to commercial areas or schools) than public spaces.
North Kenwood is a small neighborhood. A walkable region with a quarter mile radius almost completely encompasses the entirety of the community. Within this region, there are three schools for every age group from kindergarten to 12th grade, parks, religious establishments, grocery stores, a restaurant/café and a fitness center. Just beyond the quarter mile radius, there is a bank, a community health center, and a shopping plaza that includes a weightwatchers, Walgreens, and a tailor shop. Walking through the neighborhood on a Saturday afternoon, the streets are quiet but not deserted. It has a residential feel to it and there are people walking places or doing work in their yards. This gives the neighborhood streets a friendly atmosphere that encourages walking between services. If walking is not preferred, there are also many transit stops along the streets that border the neighborhood. Therefore, as a walkable neighborhood, North Kenwood provides its residents with daily amenities and safe streets for them to reach these amenities.
1. King College Prep High School
2. Church of God of Chicago
3. Gwendolyn Brooks Park
4. Zaleski and Horvath Marketcafe
5. Ariel Community Academy
6. One Stop Foods
7. Robinson Elementary School
8. Masjid Al-Faatir (Mosque)
9. Lake Park Gateway II (Condominium housing)
11. Advocate Med Group
13. Lake Park Plaza/Point Shopping Center
14. Komed Hollman Health Center
North Kenwood is made up of primarily square and rectangular blocks. A few elongated blocks and a few irregular blocks line the right side of the community. Each rectangular block has a side length of 0.15 miles or less. The longest block length (shown above) is about a quarter of a mile.
North Kenwood is made up of boulevards, avenues, and streets. According to the Lexicon of New Urbanism, a boulevard is defined as a thoroughfare with high vehicular capacity and moderate speeds. An avenue has high vehicular capacity and low to moderate speeds. A street is a thoroughfare of low speeds and low capacity.
Along with the thoroughfares discussed above, there are several alleys and paths that accessible only to pedestrians. These serve to increase the connectivity of the neighborhood.
North Kenwood is primarily a Savannah Pattern (also known as an orthogonal grid) with some Nantucket pattern influences due to the irregular shape of some of its blocks.
North Kenwood is a highly connective neighborhood due to the shape and size of its blocks, the locations and forms of its thoroughfare, and the overall network type that defines it. It is composed primarily of rectangular and square blocks, no longer than 0.15 miles in length. This length makes each block walkable in about 2 minutes. Each square block is no more than 9 acres in size. Each rectangular block is around 5 acres large. This small block size, along with the quarter-mile walking shed of the entire community, makes it walkable and pleasant to do so. Although the community has some irregularly shaped blocks, the longest block length is only about a quarter of a mile, and monotony is broken up by alleys and paths along this stretch.
The type of thoroughfare it has, determined by their size and length, makes the roads safe to bike on and easy to walk across. North Kenwood is bounded by South Drexel Boulevard, 43rd street, 47th street, and South Lake Park Avenue. It is cut across vertically by South Ellis Avenue, South Berkeley Avenue, South Greenwood Avenue and South Woodlawn Avenue. Horizontally, it is cut across by 44th, 45th, and 46th streets. There are several alleys and paths that allow pedestrian access but not vehicular transportation, expanding the connectivity of the pedestrian walkable shed.
The network type of the neighborhood is closest to the Savannah pattern in terms of its straight, gird-like pattern. The variety in blocks and lots at times though may add some elements of the Nantucket pattern to North Kenwood. Therefore, its advantages include wonderful directional orientation, even dispersal of traffic through the thoroughfare, and elimination of monotony by terminated vistas (1). Some of its disadvantages include slight monotony in areas exclusively made up of square blocks as well as inability to absorb environmental interruptions.
The main issue of connectivity that North Kenwood faces is in respect to connecting outside of the neighborhood. The community is bounded by large boulevards and avenues designed for high vehicular capacity. These avenues and boulevards are not as easily transversible as the other streets in the neighborhood. This creates a feeling of entrapment that may limit walking beyond the neighborhood’s boundaries. As connectivity with surrounding communities is important to the well-being of a neighborhood, such heavy traffic boundaries are not beneficial to the overall North Kenwood community.
A Duany, E Plater-Zyberk, The lexicon of the new urbanism, 2014
Images made using Open Street Maps, Google Earth Pro, and Geoff Boeing's OSMnx (Boeing, G. 2017. “OSMnx: New Methods for Acquiring, Constructing, Analyzing, and Visualizing Complex Street Networks.” Computers, Environment and Urban Systems. 65, 126-139. )
My three initiatives for the neighborhood of North Kenwood center on increasing diversity and community identity. Currently, the neighborhood of North Kenwood is not diverse compared to the city of Chicago in the areas of race/ethnicity, income, and age (Table 1). It is predominantly black (87.2%), low income with over 70% making less than $50,000 annually1.
Diversity in a neighborhood has been identified as crucial
to creating a strong, vibrant community2,3 . In her book, Everyday Neighborhood, Emily Talen says that
in American cities, a lack of diversity is “the root cause of intractable urban
problems from sprawl to inner-city disinvestment, from failing schools to
environmental degradation”3. Therefore, with the goal of creating a
strong and diverse community within the neighborhood of North Kenwood, the
following three initiatives are recommended: revitalizing the community center,
increasing housing diversity through the building of truly mixed-income
housing, and boosting the commercial center with neighborhood-run businesses.
Kennicott Park sits in the center of Kenwood on 44th street and S Lake Park. While it is a functional community center, it does not foster mixed uses (and therefore the weak social bonds created through casual meetings) in the way Jane Jacobs explains that a community center should4. Jacobs explained that “neighborhoods should use parks, squares, and public buildings to intensify and knit together the streets and their uses”2. In order to create a mixed-use space that encourages relationships between community members, the park needs an outdoor public space to balance the primarily indoor facilities it currently has. Therefore, an outdoor basketball court should be built adjacent to the center. This creates a public space for youth and their parents to meet and commune. Additionally, with the creation of a basketball league that draws youth from outside the neighborhood, social connectivity of North Kenwood is expanded.
Kennicott Park is located in the center of North Kenwood and currently has many indoor facilities but very little outdoor open facilities. It should almost become a more mixed-use space with the addition of cooking classes, book club groups, science camps and more to the itinerary.
Suggested location and style of outdoor basketball court
Currently, North Kenwood is 70% renter occupied and 30%
owner occupied1. Most housing units cost around $1000 per month and
the most apartment buildings are on the south west of the neighborhood5.
In the interest of diversifying housing types and price points, it is recommended
that a row of affordable family houses be built down Greenwood between 44th
and 45th street to replace the empty lot spaces currently on this block. These
houses should range in size, design, and price while still being integrated
with the rest of the neighborhood and each other. Additionally, an apartment
building should be built closer to the center of the neighborhood that has
diverse price points as well. A suggested location is 46th Street
and South Lake Park, currently Wolcott apartments. Prices should be begin
around $500 a month and range upwards from there. In this way, a diversity of
housing type and price welcomes diverse people from varying professions,
educational backgrounds, and most likely race/ethnicity into the neighborhood.
An apartment similar to the Sutherland should be added closer to the center of the neighborhood. Price points should begin from $500.
Suggested location of new family homes. These homes should match the architecture of homes already in place in the community.
Lake Park Plaza at the south east corner of North Kenwood is housed by stores like The Original Pancake House, WeightWatchers, Fung’s Chop Suey, Steamer’s, and Walgreens. While these stores bring necessary services to the people of North Kenwood, they are not owned by people who live in the neighborhood. Alexander Van Hoffmann describes the benefits of neighborhood businesses in his essay, Neighborhood Business Ties6. He explains that they “encouraged local social ties and neighborhood allegiances” by giving a residents “an economic interest in the future of their community”. Therefore, I propose recreating Lake Park Plaza to offer much of the same services but with businesses run by people living in the neighborhood (current residents or new). Businesses should include North Kenwood in their name to create a strong internal sense of identity within the community. Talen explains the importance of naming by mentioning how it “raises awareness and fosters a sense of identity and ownership”3.
Additionally, the space should be transformed into an inviting public space. Through beautifying the physical space and providing grants to initiate and stabilize neighborhood businesses, North Kenwood can have a thriving commercial center.
With housing options for all socioeconomic classes, a vibrant community center with well-maintained playgrounds and courts, as well as neighborhood-owned diverse businesses, the community of North Kenwood will benefit from increased diversity at all levels, stronger community identity, and empowered business owners.
Open Street Map
Google Earth Images, North Kenwood Chicago
Google Earth Images Lake Park Plaza
The Simpson Diversity index is a calculation tool that shows how diverse a population sample is. Given a particular number of categories, the lower the Simpson Diversity Index, the less diverse the population while the higher the index score, the more diverse the population. Therefore, an index score of 1 indicates that the entire population lies in one category while an index score equal to the number of categories present indicates that the population is split evenly between all categories and is therefore maximally diverse.
Age (5 categories)
Under 10 years
65 years and over
Race (7 categories)
American Indian and Alaska Native Alone
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander Alone
Some other Race Alone
Two or More Races
Education Level (7 categories)
Less than High School
High School Graduate
Professional School Degree
The neighborhood of North Kenwood is not as diverse as would be ideal. In terms of age, North Kenwood is not very diverse although it does follow the diversity trends of the Southside region and Chicago area. The most common age group is 35-65 years, which matches the city’s demographics. Although the Simpson Diversity Index shows that North Kenwood has a similar racial spread as that of the Southside region, we see less diversity within the neighborhood than the diversity found in the entire city. The North Kenwood neighborhood and Southside of Chicago is almost 90% black with a white population making up most of the remaining 10%. This is in contrast to the city, which is about 56% white and 24% black. Hence, even though all three regions are not racially diverse, they have very different racial make-ups. North Kenwood’s most diverse category is in level of education. This matches closely with both the Southside region and the city. In North Kenwood and the city of Chicago, the most common education level is Some College or More.
Overall, North Kenwood, is diverse educationally but not in age or race.
Sources: Socialexplorer.com for demographics information.