In the neighborhood


"Is that Jimmy's?" asked Leong Tan, MD'58, as he looked out the tour-bus window at the more-than-50-year-old Hyde Park watering hole. Now there's a Starbucks next door, noted Tan's classmate Robert Weiler, MD'58, who sat with his wife across the aisle. Driving through the streets of Hyde Park, the 12 or so alumni on the Alumni Weekend UnCommon Tour (part of the UnCommon Core program organized by the University's Alumni Association) remembered those days when "the Tiki" sat at 53rd and Cornell (it closed in 2000) and were relieved that Harold's Chicken and Orly's were still up and running.

Amid nostalgic sighs, the group also observed the neighborhood's change. Sonya Malunda, assistant VP and director of community affairs, narrated the tour through Hyde Park and the surrounding neighborhoods of Kenwood and Woodlawn. Having lived in the shadow of the campus since 1984, Malunda has experienced its ups and downs and seen a lot of changes.

As the tour headed west, she pointed out the area just beyond Ellis, where over the last 20 years the University has expanded its "medical and science enterprise." And where the Ida B. Wells public-housing project once stood at 37th and Vincennes, she told the tour-goers, there now are mixed-income condos. "Years ago," said Malunda, this was a "haven for all sorts of negativity," but in recent years that community has become safer.

The entire South Side is in a period of rebirth, Malunda said, partly thanks to the University of Chicago's "civic involvement," which includes four University-run charter schools. The University of Chicago, she said, is of Chicago, not just of Hyde Park. With that title, she explained, "comes obligation to be of the city."


Photo: Assistant VP and Director of Community Affairs Sonya Malunda narrates a tour around campus and its neighboring communities.

Photo by Dan Dry.

June 9, 2008