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Neighborhoods SECC

Located eight miles south of downtown, the Woodlawn neighborhood boasts easy access to Chicago's lakefront and the golf courses and lagoons of historic Jackson Park. After years of economic decline, Woodlawn is in the midst of an economic resurgence.

Community Development

Despite its prime location, Woodlawn suffered through many years of disinvestment and population loss sparked by white flight in the 1950s and arson and crime in the following decades.

Since the 1990s, however, the area has seen a resurgence of community leadership and development, led in large part by strong local nonprofit organizations including The Woodlawn Organization, the Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corporation, and Woodlawn East Community and Neighbors Inc. A partnership with the New Communities Program of The Local Initiatives Support Corporation/Chicago has attracted critical resources and forged alliances within the community.

In 1995, redevelopment efforts began in earnest with the completion of Plaisance Place, a 38-unit complex of single-family homes. Within ten years, dozens of private developments and condominium conversions were under construction or for sale at market prices.

Community institutions have enjoyed a similar rebirth. The South Side YMCA, built in 1990, offers programs for residents of all ages, while the Harris YWCA is undergoing renovation. The Bessie Coleman Branch Library opened in 1992.

The University of Chicago has played a key role in the community's recent growth. In addition to expanding its police service into Woodlawn, in 2009 the University opened a new residence hall at 61st and Ellis with a dining hall and convenience store that are open to community residents.

Business & Retail

Woodlawn's business community has seen a number of positive changes in recent years. The 1920s-era Grand Ballroom, for example, recently re-opened after a meticulous restoration. Originally home to shops and a cafe, the Ballroom how hosts special events.

A few blocks east of the Grand Ballroom, the Experimental Station houses a variety of cultural, educational, and environmental projects and small-scale enterprises. Founded in 2002, the not-for-profit brings together and supports artists, writers, gardeners, ecological initiatives, and a bicycle shop/youth education program. The Station also runs the 61st Street Farmers Market, which brings healthy produce to the neighborhood once a week during much of the year.


Directly adjacent to Woodlawn is Jackson Park, encompassing 600 acres of lagoons, green spaces, migratory birds, a Japanese Garden, and the Chicago Park District's only 18-hole golf course. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the park hosted the World's Fair in 1893 and still houses the Museum of Science and Industry, which was built for the Fair.

Oak Woods Cemetery, located in the heart of the neighborhood, serves as the final resting place of Olympic star Jesse Owens, Mayor William Hale "Big Bill" Thompson, Enrico Fermi, Ida B. Wells, and Mayor Harold Washington-among others.

Also in Woodlawn is the family home of writer Lorraine Hansberry, whose play A Raisin in the Sun was inspired by her family's move to Woodlawn, then an all-white neighborhood, in the 1930s.


Community Organizations

Elected Officials


Woodlawn Plans

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