What they knew about Austin was what most people learn from the news: the crime, the poverty. But then the couple visited a historic and leafy enclave that's on the border of Oak Park and for years has been home to some of the city's most prominent politicians and department heads. It's known unofficially as Austin Village.

"It's the kind of place you don't believe until you see it," said Hallock, 68, who completed the purchase of the building earlier this month. "One of our biggest concerns is that we like to entertain and we wonder whether our friends will visit us.

" For decades, what's made Austin Village unique is that despite the larger community's hardships, it has been able to attract a middle- and upper-middle-class group of residents and maintain a modest interracial mix.

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