“It’s a great neighborhood,” a testament to Clybourne Park said by former resident, Kevin Taylor. Kevin was a small man, about 5’8”, grey haired and with a black bowler hat. He wears navy blue slacks, a red button up-shirt with a blazer over it. He walks with a slump in his step as though something is wrong but he doesn’t quite know what. He hadn’t lived in Clybourne Park for five years, moving out in July of 2011, during a period many refer to as heavy gentrification.
In 2016 Kevin came from Englewood Chicago, the location of his current home, back to Clybourne Park, to retrieve a box of personal items, he thinks were left at his old house. On his way he stopped by where a favorite place of his, a basketball court, used to be (right, top*) which he found, to his surprise was replaced with a park (right, bottom*). The basketball court he remembered he described with hard gravel floors, nets on about half of the rims, and always someone on the bench ready for conversation.
The park he found was about the opposite of the one he had left. Although his only comment was “I mean, does any of that really matter? ” considering he no longer lived there, he did remain quiet for the next few minutes and when pried further on the topic he refused to talk. He simply sat down on the grass of the new park and looked around. He watched the young children playing frisbee and eating lunch in the park. Kevin sat there on that green bench, and watched as families one by one, looked up to the sky, saw it was clouding over and began to leave.
Even after all the families left and the rain poured down, he remained, just sitting there, pondering over the immense changes of the neighborhood since his time living there, As he would explain later. He sat there reminiscing the birth of his first child, in the hospital just two blocks over, him proposing to his wife Lena in the park only a half a mile away, and going to Gelman’s Grocer, every morning for coffee and eggs. The reasons for Kevin and his family of five for leaving Clybourne park were somewhat complicated but he claimed that it had started in 2008.
A family moved in just across the block, and tore down the house to be replaced with a new, larger house, despite Kevin and his wife’s requests not to. Recalling this Kevin said “We were just being friendly. ” but at some point the conversation took a turn and Kevin was “called a racist,” for not wanting the area to be gentrified. The house was built and one by one houses in that area were replaced with larger nicer houses, much as Kevin had explained to the family moving in. The demands on houses in that area slowly got higher but Kevin and Lena had not fully paid mortgage, so they were unable to sell.
Eventually the demand got so high that just one month of being late on their mortgage was enough for the landlord to evict them and suddenly they were out a house. Kevin reflected on this time by saying that the landlord just showed up one morning and said he needed the mortgage now. After Kevin explained that that was impossible, the landlord gave them 30 days to leave. The family, discouraged, then moved to Englewood, where they found affordable houses, but not houses to their liking. Kevin claimed it was a troubled area and a “tough place to grow up”, when asked to elaborate he said “drugs are trouble, violence is trouble.
He walked to his old house as he said this but when he arrived he stopped in his tracks to realise that his his old house had been knocked down and had been replaced with a condo (above). They were blue and red with a fresh new paint job, and small balconies on every floor. There was a backyard with a swimming pool in it. He said the house was almost unrecognisable, thinking there must be a mistake, that he must have the address wrong. But after a few minutes of studying it he realised that it was in fact the house he had raised his children in.
He walked around pointing to areas saying there was the kitchen, there was the big tree in the lawn, there was our backyard… he trailed off as his voice got weaker. The look on his eyes was one of complete and utter astonishment. It seemed impossible to him that his little house, that he was kicked out of, was knocked down and replaced with this, extraordinarily luxurious condo. He could not comprehend how much the area had changed in just a few years but as he walked away his only remaining words were “no way,” “no way.