Close your eyes and think about a neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. The first places that come to mind might be Beverly, Douglas or South Shore. But there is a neighborhood where residents are passionate about their community and where investments are creating exciting opportunities. Welcome to Auburn Gresham.
According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago, Auburn Gresham, like so many neighborhoods in the south side, became well known and prosperous during the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. During the World’s Fair, public transportation from downtown to the south side was created. This drew people from the crowded downtown neighborhoods to Auburn Gresham. During this time, city, stockyard and construction workers made the neighborhood home, and the population tripled by 1930.
By the 1950s, Black residents of Chicago made their way into Auburn Gresham as the Black Belt became overcrowded, racial tensions grew and disinvestment followed. Currently, the neighborhood is about 96% Black, according to the Chicago Historical Society.
“Auburn Gresham is very unique with its residents, its parks, its schools and its churches,” the neighborhood’s 77 representative, Cherron Phillips of The Real Estate Company, said.
Churches are a cornerstone of the Auburn Gresham community, with many options for residents who are looking to attend services. One of the most recognizable is St. Sabina, a catholic church on 78th Place. Not only does the church provide mass and services for the congregation, but it also established the ARK of St. Sabina, a non-profit that enhances the lives, talents and spirits of Auburn Gresham and Englewood youths through education, mentoring and linkages to resources.
The neighborhood is also park dense, with places like Auburn Park, a 5-acre oasis in the middle of the neighborhood, complete with a lagoon, waterfall, benches and a pond for fishing. King Park, named after
Martin Luther King Jr., not only offers outdoor recreational areas but also includes an indoor roller rink and bowling alley in its Family Entertainment Center.
Despite years of disinvestment due to city initiatives, Auburn Gresham is finally seeing a variety of new businesses and opportunities for residents. The brand-new Healthy Lifestyle Hub on 79th Street was awarded a grant from the city’s INVEST South/West program. The building is home to health and wellness services, restaurants, banks and a Boys and Girls Club center, along with a roof terrace for urban agriculture and renewable energy
Auburn Gresham residents can easily get downtown via the bus and the red line, and I-94 is a short drive east to get you downtown in less than 30 minutes. A Metra station is also being developed, with plans
to be open in 2024.
Residents of Auburn Gresham are nothing if not passionate about their neighborhood. They frequently use their voices to provide insights on initiatives and projects that are forthcoming in the community and help to drive investments to the neighborhood.
Not only are they passionate about the neighborhood itself, but they’re also supportive of one another. Phillips, who grew up in Auburn Gresham, recalled there being a lot of trust in the community, and said everyone knows their neighbors –even those from a few blocks away. The neighborhood, she said, helps to create a sense of community with a variety of festivals, block parties and other community events.
Many of these initiatives are mobilized by the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation, which seeks to help improve and enhance the delivery of community and economic development. This initiative keeps residents informed on projects in their neighborhood, makes them aware of how they can use their voices on important community matters, and, of course, lets them know about fun get togethers and ways they can give back.
When walking down the residential, treelined streets in Auburn Gresham, you’ll find two main styles of homes: bungalows and two (or three) flats.
Both styles of homes are popular for distinct reasons, according to the 2021 Auburn Gresham top producer Frank Montro, Keller Williams Preferred. Bungalows allow for the opportunity to be expanded, as the style easily provides the chance to add extra floors on top. Two flats, on the other hand, can be used as a way for a homeowner to build equity by renting out the second unit in the building. In some circumstances, Montro said, it’s possible that the rent collected from a tenant could cover the amount of the mortgage on the home.
Also, for home buyers who are willing to take on a challenge, Auburn Gresham is the ideal location for home renovations, Montro said. For instance, he’s witnessed many homebuyers utilize loans and grants, like the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 203(k) Rehab Mortgage Insurance program or the city of Chicago’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program to help finance renovations, so homebuyers can purchase a home and make it the home of their dreams.
And more investment is coming into the neighborhood through residential developments. In August, work began on a 58-unit apartment complex on 79th Street, which was also funded by INVEST South/West. If you’re looking for a neighborhood with lots of pride and opportunity, look no further than Auburn Gresham. “If you want to move somewhere that has a lot of activity and community, it’s a great place,” Montro added.