The University of Chicago is one of the South Side's biggest landlords, so when it starts acquiring land in a new area, people notice--even if the university was hoping to keep its purchases quiet by using a land trust to mask its identity.
In July and August, U. of C. made its first foray beyond its western border, which runs up against sprawling Washington Park, buying five parcels of commercial land along Garfield Boulevard for $6.1 million. It has agreements to buy five more parcels and is talking to owners about picking up another five. That would give the university about an additional four acres.
In the process, the university has angered 3rd Ward Ald. Pat Dowell, who sees it as a pre-Olympic land grab that could slow development in the struggling area. Washington Park would be front and center if Chicago wins the 2016 Games because a major stadium would be at the north end of the park.