| Community Area 40 - Washington Park|
Location within the city of Chicago
|ZIP Code||parts of 60609, 60615, 60621, 60637|
|Area||3.83 km² (1.48 mi²)|
|14,146 (down 27.18% from 1990)|
|Source: U.S. Census, Record Information Services|
Washington Park is a well-defined community area (and neighborhood) on the South Side of Chicago in Cook County, Illinois, USA. It includes the 372 acre (1.5 km²) park named Washington Park, stretching east-west from Cottage Grove Avenue to the Dan Ryan Expressway, and north-south from 63rd Street to 51st. The park is the proposed site of the Olympic Stadium in Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. Half of the neighborhood's lots are vacant, reflecting the fact that Washington Park is one of the poorest in Chicago, with a median household income of only $15,000 per year, As of the turn of the century nearly half of the residents lived below the poverty level.
The area rapidly changed from European American to African-American in the 1920s. By 1930, the population was only 7.8% white. By 1960, the population was 0.5% white. From 1950 to 2000 the total population of the neighborhood declined from 57,000 to 14,146. This population decline is partly due to initiatives of the Chicago Land Clearance Commission, who acted under the 1955 Amendment to the Blighted Areas Redevelopment Act, which empowered redevelopment authorities that have acquired land by condemnation or otherwise to redevelop such lands for non-residential uses. A good example of the Land Clearing commission activities is the Lake Meadows Park to the north Washington Park. The failure of the evolution of industry and commerce in the community, the above mentioned white flight and land redevelopment for non-residential use combined lead to population decline.
Religion and worship are cornerstones of the South Side communities. The nearby hub of Bronzeville at 47th and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive (known as King Drive and formerly Grand Boulevard) was a cultural center of the rising ghetto that fostered a cultural identity. In keeping with the racial transformation, the cultural and religious institutions, including those of Irish Catholics, Greek Orthodoxy and the Jewish faith, converted to African American institutions. The DuSable Museum of African American History, founded in 1961, moved to Washington Park in 1973. It is a Washington Park landmark and one of the largest African American museums in the country.
The neighborhood once contained many public housing complexes including about a third of the nations largest, the Robert Taylor Homes. The Taylor homes have been demolished because of the socioeconomic problems that they perpetuated. The area has minimal industry or commerce at the current time. However, there is hope that the prospects of the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid will change the lack of commerce. As part of the plan, the Olympic Stadium would seat 95,000 initially for the games, and would later be converted into a 10,000-seat below-ground arena for track-and-field and cultural events after the Olympics. It would be built in Washington Park for a cost estimated to be at least $300-400 million. The plan faces diverse opposition among which are those that note Washington Park's listing on the National Register of Historic Places cannot survive this Olympic plan.