What distinguishes the city of Chicago

American Cities: The Example of Chicago

Structure:

1. The American city
1.1 Structure and characteristics of the US city
1.2 Loss of functionality in the Central Business District
1.3 Development of slums and ghettos
1.4 Suburbanization
1.5 Rise of American Cities

2. The American city of Chicago
2.1 Introduction
2.2 The geographical location
2.3 The development of Chicago
2.3.1 The early rise of the city 1770-1850
2.3.2 The economic impetus from 1850 to 1870
2.3.3 From the Great Fire to the Great Depression of 1870-
2.3.4 "Plan of Chicago", Great Depression and World War II 1900
2.3.5 Processes of decentralization and revitalization 1945-1970
2.3.6 The development since 1970
2.4 The "Loop"
2.5 Urban Renewal Policy in Chicago
2.6 Main Street renovation: State Street, Chicago

3rd conclusion
3.1 Current situations in Chicago
3.2 Conclusion: Chicago

4. Bibliography

1. The American city

1.1 Structure and characteristics of the US city

In North America there is a differentiation of settlements into cities, towns and villages.

The North American city is characterized by two special features. On the one hand through a checkerboard-like orthogonal street network and on the other hand through a high-rise or skyscraper development. These skyscrapers can mostly be found in the city centers and, more recently, in individual suburban centers. The orthogonal road network can be traced back to America's quadratic land survey system. In this surveying system, the land is divided into square mile-sized sections, so-called sections. Each of these sections is in turn divided into 12 building blocks with sides of 100 meters each. In most cities, the building blocks are divided into two by narrow back alleys.

But there are also cities in America that deviate from this “checkerboard pattern”. One example is the capital Washington D. C., which is particularly characterized by diagonal avenues at the intersection of which the Capitol and the White House are located.

The American urban system also poses some problems. A problem in many American cities is the area occupied by stationary traffic. The reasons for this are the road network, the high degree of motorization and mobility of the population and the concentration of skyscrapers in the central business districts. Due to the concentration of skyscrapers in the city center, there is a high number of employees in offices as well as visitors to shops and restaurants in a relatively small space. This creates a huge parking problem. Attempts have been made to counteract this problem in the past few decades by creating new locations for offices and retailers. These are mostly located on expressways in the outskirts and suburbs of cities. This so-called relief or emptying of inner cities is called decentralization (cf. HEINEBERG 2001, pp. 248-250).

1.2 Loss of functionality in the Central Business District

A feature of US urban development is the loss of functionality of the central business districts. This is caused by the aging of the buildings in the city center, by a strong suburbanization of the population and by the emergence of edge cities. Another problem arises from the significant vacancy rates in the newly built skyscrapers. Since there is more and more jobs being relocated from the CBD to the outer city centers, the excess supply of office space in the city center is increasing vacancy rates.

The loss of function of the CBD is to be stopped by a series of measures that are intended to increase the attractiveness of the CBD. This is to be achieved, for example, by building modern congress centers, exclusive residential complexes and large sports arenas. In a further step, new access roads and pedestrian zones will be built. In this way, the outdated grid-shaped traffic network is to be redesigned (cf. HEINEBERG 2001, p. 251).

1.3 Development of slums and ghettos

Another feature of the American city is the formation of ghettos and slums. There is a spatial concentration of ethnic minorities in ghettos. This creates racial segregation. In America, the black population mostly lives in ghettos. Slums have a concentration of residents of the lower class and are characterized by the structural deterioration of the buildings. This arises from a lack of investment in the building. In addition, there is a high crime rate in slums.

The ghetto and slum formation in American cities continues and represents a major problem. The cause is the peculiarity of the American real estate investment, which does not make any investments due to the low returns of the lower class districts. The enormous immigration of different nationalities, the poverty of underprivileged groups and the housing segregation are also to be named as causes. So the low-income and unemployed population has to move to the old building areas of the core cities, which are approved by the middle class. This process is called “filtering down” (cf. HEINEBERG 2001, pp. 251-253).

1.4 Suburbanization

The suburbanization process and the forms of settlement that evolve from it are one of the most important characteristics of the American urban landscape.

There is a tendency to live in the suburbs in American society. This goes back to the first half of the 19th century and leads to a continuing shift of population from the centers of the agglomerations to the suburbs. This process was promoted primarily by the state housing policy, which preferred new buildings instead of renovating old buildings. Likewise, the tax policy, which made it possible to deduct mortgage interest from income, contributed to the intensification of the process. Private motorization also plays an important role, as does the willingness of taxpayers to finance the motorway network in the conurbations.

The desire to move away from inner-city life towards a suburban lifestyle, which includes the integration of rural elements in the new place of residence, is growing ever greater. The design of the house and the size of the property are just as important as striving for the greatest possible socio-economic and racial-ethnic uniformity. Until the early post-war period, land use in the suburbs was characterized by a predominance of residential functions and an absence of industry and commerce.

Since the 1960s, however, many suburbs have become independent locations for modern industry as well as the tertiary sector. A key feature of suburban settlements today is increasing ethnic diversity.

The liberalization of immigration legislation in 1965 resulted in a permanent increase in the number of immigrants, especially from Latin America and Asia, in the decades that followed. The immigrants, also known as ethnic minorities, settled particularly in the American core cities. In the suburban area, their share is still well below that of the “white” population. However, in recent years there has been a tendency to gradually decrease this difference. It can be observed that immigrants no longer settle only in the core cities, as was the case in the past, but rather in equal parts in the urban sector and the core city. Together with the migration movements from the core city to the periphery, the minority population in the suburban sector increased by 74.8% between 1990 and 2000. The number of “whites” increased by 11.1% over the same period. Ultimately, it can be said that more and more people are drawn to the suburban areas of the cities.

It should be noted, however, that the slowly dissolving contrast between the mainly minority population in the core cities and the white population in the suburban area shows regional differences. For example, the ethical contrast between the core cities and the suburban area is much more pronounced in Chicago than in Los Angeles.

Another important aspect is whether suburbanization leads to increased ethnic integration and the emergence of mixed-ethnic neighborhoods. The result is that, despite the trend towards suburbanization among ethnic minorities, ethnic segregation is still extremely effective and integration in most American cities is out of the question. In the period from 1990 to 2000, the segregation between the white and Afro-American population decreased somewhat, but the suburbanization processes alone will not be able to solve this problem (cf. THIEME & LAUX 2005, pp. 40-51).

1.5 Rise of American Cities

In the 1980s, the term “Global City” was mentioned in the USA. This term describes cities that have the functions of world cities. The three largest cities in the USA are New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, each of which rose to become a cosmopolitan city in a different economic and political phase. Location advantages or political decisions play an important role here. Five phases of American development are decisive for the enormous growth of the three cities. Firstly, the phases from the establishment of the colonies up to 1820, secondly the phase of early industrialization from 1820 to the Depression of the 1870s, thirdly the phase of the heyday of industrialization in the 1870s up to the great immigration wave of the 1920s, and fourthly the phase of the stock market crash from 1929 to the 1970s and fifth the phase of global restructuring since the 1970s. The third phase plays an important role in Chicago's rise (cf. HAHN 2004, pp. 12-15).

2. The American city of Chicago

2.1 Introduction

The city of Chicago is located on western Lake Michigan. Thanks to its excellent traffic situation in the American Midwest, it could develop into a classic economic metropolis in the 19th century. There is a great deal of national and international immigration, which is leading to enormous population growth. The large number of different population groups are associated with immense segregation processes. Ongoing suburbanization processes lead to functional relocations and social contrasts in residential areas.

The current settlement structure is the result of a process that took place over a century and a half. The use of modern technical possibilities and innovations enables the first high-rise construction in Chicago, which still characterizes the city of Chicago today (cf. LAFRENZ 2001, p. 438).

2.2 The geographical location

Chicago will initially become the largest transportation hub in the interior of the United States through the waterway and later through the expansion of the rail network. The reasons for this are the proximity of many land transport routes near the southern tip of Lake Michigan, the place at the narrow watershed at which the rivers to the east and south coast of the USA separate, the place in the middle of the high-yielding agriculture of the Midwest USA and the location close to important resources, such as the iron ore deposits of Wisconsin, the coal seams of Illinois and the large forests in the north (cf. LAFRENZ 2001, p. 439).

2.3 The development of Chicago

2.3.1 The early rise of the city 1770-1850

In the 18th century there was a fur trading post on the site of what is now Chicago. In 1803, Fort Dearborn was built as the westernmost military post in the United States. In 1829 a settlement was built around the fork of the Chicago River, which was the nucleus of today's city. The money from the sale of the land will finance the construction of the Grand Erie Canal and the construction of the Illinois & Michigan Canal. The settlement is schematically adapted to the original checkerboard pattern of the survey. In 1836 the settlement already had around 4,000 inhabitants and was thus granted city rights. After many European immigrants came to Chicago in the 1840s, the population rose to around 30,000 in 1850 (cf. LAFRENZ 2001, pp. 441-443).

2.3.2 The economic impetus from 1850 to 1870

With the construction of the "Illinois & Michigan Canal" and the construction of the railway network, Chicago becomes the largest railway junction in the world in 1850, connecting the east with the west of the USA. This leads to an increase in trade and industry, especially of agricultural products as well as wood and meat processing. Chicago has become the most important transportation and wholesale center in the Midwest since the 1860s. Furthermore, a school system is set up and the first university is founded.

The city continued to grow in the second half of the 19th century. In the core there are numerous shops and in the south of the city a residential area for the affluent population is forming. The city continues to grow with the introduction of a horse-drawn tram and parks, which are connected by large avenues (cf. LAFRENZ 2001, pp. 443-449).

2.3.3 From the Great Fire to the Great Depression 1870-1900

In the 1870s, enormous economic growth ensured increasing prosperity. After a major fire in 1871 killed 300 people and destroyed 18,000 buildings, all timber construction in the city was discontinued. The poorer part of the population is forced to move to the outskirts of the city. This creates a contrast between the stone city and the wooden suburbs. The first skyscrapers were built in 1885 due to the increasing demand for office space and the associated rising land prices in the city center. New industrial locations are also developing outside of the city. They need a lot of new workers, which for the most part consist of immigrants from different ethnic groups. These live west and south of the center in the overcrowded areas, in wooden houses with low rents. The middle class population is moving to ever more distant locations. Above all, the development of the automobile is driving suburban settlement further and further (cf. LAFRENZ 2001, pp. 449-457).

2.3.4 “Plan of Chicago”, Great Depression and World War II 1900-1945

In 1906 a so-called “Master Plan” was drawn up for Chicago. This covers an area of ​​95 km around the city center. The aim is to create a spatial system consisting of a hierarchy of streets, a sequence of squares and parks and a new city center around a monumental square. The existing checkerboard pattern is to be continued outwards and expanded by a system of radial and concentric boulevards and ring roads. This plan formed the basis of local traffic and landscape planning until the 1930s. Numerous parks are being laid out along the lakeshore, a bridge is being built over the Chicago River, numerous skyscrapers and shopping centers are being built, and the CBD can expand with the new areas that have been developed. Many new residential areas are also being created for the growing population. It was not until 1927 that the Great Depression, which hit Chicago industry very hard, caused building activity to decline. In particular, many African Americans are losing their jobs. But when the demand for war material rises in the Second World War, this gives heavy industry a considerable boost (cf. LAFRENZ 2001, pp. 458-464).

2.3.5 Processes of decentralization and revitalization 1945-1970

In the 1950s, the construction of a large network of expressways increased the outsourcing of services from the city center. This creates large transshipment points for goods traffic close to the expressways. The city is losing more and more jobs to the suburbs. The new suburbs no longer want to be incorporated in order not to be burdened with the increasing social burdens for growing segregation. The consequences of decentralization are particularly evident in the decrease in tax revenues in Chicago.

Thereupon the "downtown" is to be revitalized by trying to revitalize the city center and to make it more competitive compared to the outside areas. Structural redesigns and massive area renovations through new imposing high-rise buildings should make the city center more attractive. But the new interesting buildings and spacious residential complexes trigger a "gentrification". The black population finds itself exposed to segregation and isolation due to the increased demand for housing and the deterioration of cheap apartments. The poorer, mostly black population lives in densely populated city districts with high unemployment and high crime rates (cf. LAFRENZ 2001, pp. 464-469).

2.3.6 The development since 1970

The preferred locations of modern industrial companies are increasingly being formed on the axes along the new expressways.The new suburban business parks are characterized by tax breaks, their proximity to the highways and available building land. The old industrial areas in the downtown area are trying to be upgraded with the help of various programs, such as the construction of new, attractive high-rise buildings such as the Sears Tower (1973).

Chicago has been going through a demographic change since World War II. While Chicago had 5 million inhabitants in 1950, only 2.78 million people lived in the city in 1990. The population outside the city increases from 1970 and 1990 from 0.87 million to 4.57 million inhabitants. One reason for this is that in 1990 approximately 39% of the city's population were African American. The white population is increasingly drawn to the outskirts and the suburbs. To this day, the black population in Chicago mostly lives in the so-called "Black Belt". This consists of lined up ghettos with high unemployment and great poverty. Ethnic segregation is the key structural factor for the persistence of poverty among the black population (cf. LAFRENZ 2001, pp. 469-474).

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