By Kyler Bunton
Evanston’s 5th and 2nd ward communities located on the city’s west side has always been a thriving historic African American community dating as far back as the 1940’s. Over the past decade the area has been experiencing a change in demographics due to gentrification resulting in a decreasing African American population. When people ask why the change is occurring I believe there are several reasons for this. I say gentrification is one reason for recent changes. Gentrification is a shift in an urban community towards wealthier residents resulting in higher property taxes and more desirability for the area. Most citizens in Evanston would state that gentrification is not happening here but citizens of West Evanston tend to disagree.
On my interviews with West Evanston, everyone had the same image of their neighborhood being completely different in 20 years. They all described how the neighborhood is today as well as the changes they see happening in their community. Wayne Davis states that there is increase in vacant homes in the area which gives off a bad impression of West Evanston. Lynne Greene says that she is starting to see a lot of vacant homes being gutted and remodeled then sold for a high price. When this process happens the value of the surrounding houses goes up.
When this happens three or more times on the same block then the property value rise so much that certain families are unable to afford living in the houses that their family has owned for generations. In the end, they end up moving to areas more affordable in surrounding communities such as Skokie or Rogers Park. Ben Johnson says that there are no jobs for young people just starting off in Evanston. All of the factories and big named companies have left the city moving further out in the suburbs. The younger generations are also leaving. Lynne Greene states that local home ownership isn’t being encoraged to the next generation anymore, so they have no special reason to stay.
View the Interviews in the short video below.
Notes: Kyler Bunton was a graduating senior at Evanston Township High School at the time he penned this article. The article and companion video was part of his Senior Studies project of which he made a public presented May 12, 2014.