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In the last few years, Chicago's MAC Property Management, which has little interest in courting poor tenants, has purchased apartment buildings and given them stylish new names: Armour Towers at 640 East Armour, for example, became Six40. MAC also operates the Del Monte, Bellerive, Park Central, 3408 Gillham, Yankee Manor, Gillham House, Raleigh Arms, Hamilton and Brownhardt buildings, which are scattered down the block between the properties viewed as trouble spots. The company's Web site describes Hyde Park to potential renters as "a neighborhood that offers ease, style — and the ultimate in city living." MAC's most dangerous property, the Hamilton, was connected to six incidents in 2009, almost all of them related to stealing.
Peter Cassel, MAC Property Management director of community development: "We started buying back in 2006. We have a specialty in 1920s apartment hotels, and that neighborhood has some great examples. The Hamilton, for instance — that's a classic old building. It used to be a methadone clinic, and we bought it and brought back the classic presentation and put in contemporary apartments. People really like living in these buildings. Especially if they can get a great new kitchen and high-quality fixtures."
Rodney Knott came back to his hometown in 2002, after years of doing computer work in major cities around the country. He first settled on the corner of Armour and Holmes; he now lives a couple of blocks outside of Hyde Park but maintains close ties with the neighborhood association. He also is the executive director of an organization called ReEngage, which is focused on reuniting families in the urban core.
Knott: "If the complexion of the neighborhood hadn't changed, would there be an outcry now? I don't know. There were those who saw an opportunity to build a neighborhood, but I don't think they were aware of what an urban neighborhood entails, the challenges that need to be addressed. And one of those challenges is an apathy toward crime. Some things are allowed to happen because folks turn their back on it. There's been an influx of people not accustomed to turning their back."
Chris Harper, 28, grew up in Raytown and bought a home in Hyde Park two years ago. He's an attorney for Shook, Hardy & Bacon and is one of the more active members of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association.
Harper: "I wanted to buy here because one, the location. It's a pretty pivotal part of midtown. It's unique architecturally and culturally in the city. There's a neighborhood mentality here in the ownership of the neighborhood. I joined the neighborhood association because I fell in love with Hyde Park and wanted to get involved and meet people active in the community."
Cassel: "What we've done is reach out to local employers and institutions in this area. We looked at Hospital Hill and talked directly to people who worked there about looking at Hyde Park as a place to live. We talked with folks who work downtown and want to live closer. Then we reached out to a whole range of institutions to the south, from UMKC to the Kansas City Art Institute and the business school and all those service workers on the Country Club Plaza. We reached out to all those employers who have people living and working in this city, many of whom don't want to buy a house yet and who hadn't seen a product like ours in Hyde Park before."