Looking for a place in Lake View? Don’t bring your car.

diversey flickr user paul morganIs Chicago’s Lake View neighborhood poised to be the quintessential urban walkable community? With services like iGo, Zipcar, Lyft and other car-share startups, young people are finding it hard to justify owning a car in the city. Who can blame them when parking tickets range from $50 to $180 on top of city registration fees and zoned parking passes, not to mention the ever-lurking meter maid.

Lake View is Chicago’s second largest community area, but the most dense, with roughly 95,000 people living in about three square miles.

Neighborhoods like Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine, or OTR as the locals call it, are experimenting with less parking and its effects on community building. This article tells the story.

Cincinnati’s mayor is passing an ordinance which impacts parking, zoning, and in a much larger sense, density. The word is out that density and the resulting face-to-face interaction is real, and needed, and helps spark ideas and form collaborations. Many believe that in the future, where you live is going to be more important than it ever has before. Density and walkability are two of the largest factors impacting our consumption of natural resources and ecological footprint. These are things that younger generations care about. Chicago’s Lake View community has  one of the highest populations of 18-34 year olds in the country.

How old are the properties in Lake View? That depends on where you go. You can find whole streets of 1890s Italianates, greystones and various other walk-ups. Almost 20,000 houses in Lake View were built before 1939. For comparison, the area has seen more than 5,000 homes built in a decade only once in the last 70 years. It is safe to say that most of Lake View’s building stock is of the older variety – back when they used to build the character in.

Lake View is the neighborhood of choice for Chicago’s college students so there are a lot of small two and three bedroom multi-unit buildings along main streets that they occupy. To balance that out there are a fair number of single family homes on interior streets and town houses within a few blocks of the lake. Over the last year the number of single-family homes listed has dropped by 23%. Average sale price for single family homes has come up almost 5% over the past year. Condo units, of which there are many in highrises along the lakefront, have seen a 10% increase in new listing over the past year with an increase of 40% in closings in the past year. Average and median sale prices for condos have been nearly unchanged in the last year. Those who wish to keep their car and live in Lake View do best living along the lake with Lake Shore Drive providing easy access to downtown.

belmont stop

The neighborhood is well connected to the ‘L’ with a brown line stop at Diversey, a red/brown line stop at Belmont and a red line stop at Addison. The Clark bus and the Ashland bus run north-south through the middle of Lake View and make it even easier to navigate the city without a car. Bordered by the Uptown neighborhood to the north, Lincoln Square to the northwest, North Center to the west and Lincoln Park to the south, the nightlife options are nearly endless.

And we can’t be a preservation blog in Chicago talking about the Lake View neighborhood without mentioning one of the biggest projects happening in the whole city.

wrigley flicr user dgphilliWrigley Field is due for a facelift! As the Restore Wrigley website details, the owners agreed to do a sensitive restoration of the ballpark. The main objectives are to clean up the locker rooms, improve food preparation spaces and provide more restrooms. It will be interesting to watch the project unfold and to see the second oldest ballpark in the country get some new life breathed into it.

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Can Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood make a rebound?

The Chicago Transit Authority is investing in a $203 Million reconstruction of the Wilson Red Line Station in the Uptown neighborhood. The arch above the clock over this entrance will be rebuilt after being down for approximately 50 years.  Image courtesy of the CTA's website about the project: http://www.transitchicago.com/assets/1/planning/Wilson_Rendering_2012_looking_northwest_at_Wilson_and_Bway.jpg

The Wilson Red Line station circa 1923.

There has been a lot of talk about Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood over the past few years. This article from a few months back gives claim that the area has been up-and-coming for years now. However, the question everyone is still asking is “Is it going to happen?”.

The Chicago Transit Authority is investing $203 Million in the reconstruction of the Wilson Red Line Station in the Uptown neighborhood. Many are very optimistic about what this will mean for the neighborhood. The station is just a block north of a Target, the new beacon of gentrification, that went in a couple of years ago.

A rendering of what the station reconstruction will look like with a current view of the station inset.  Image source: http://www.transitchicago.com/wilson/

A rendering of what the station reconstruction will look like with a current view of the station inset.
Image source.

Mayor Emanuel  has expressed his interest in seeing the Uptown neighborhood revived since shortly after his election.

The Uptown Theatre is obviously a major piece of the puzzle to rebuilding the neighborhood. At the turn of the 20th century the intersection of Lawrence and Broadway was on the edge of a growing Chicago. By the 1920s the area had become a major theatre and retail district with a variety of building types. The Green Mill is a remaining example of a building type that existed to accommodated concert goers after the show. The economy of Uptown was strong and supported tens of thousands of customers both day and night. The neighborhoods surrounding the intersection of Lawrence and Broadway contain a mix of small 3 or 4-flats, large apartment buildings, single family homes and mansions. A lot of the larger buildings have been subdivided throughout the various economic downturns since the 1920s. However, a lot of the well-built housing stock from that time remains. This rehab project is particularly exciting – a pool from the 1930s!

A close-up of the Uptown Theatre's terra cotta-clad grand entrance.   Photo courtesy of flickr user Anne Rossley.

A close-up of the Uptown Theatre’s terra cotta-clad grand entrance.
Photo courtesy of flickr user Anne Rossley.

The Uptown Theatre has been closed since 1981 but still has strong support from locals. In 2008 JAM Productions purchased the building and seemed to put a fresh light at the end of the tunnel towards restoration. Landmarks Illinois put the Uptown on their 2010 ’10 Most Endangered’ list in an attempt to rally support under the new owner. That energy has not yet come to fruition, although Ald. James Cappleman (46th) has been quoted recently in an article that included the Uptown Theatre along with the Aragon Ballroom and Riveria Theatre as restoration cases and pieces of the puzzle to reviving the neighborhood.

It seems as though the entire city is behind a revitalization of the Uptown neighborhood. Some are skeptical that it will happen, others are optimistic.  A shooting at 6pm on Wilson Avenue last night makes it hard to make the case that this neighborhood is safe and livable.

One article makes the summation that Mayor Emanuel is going to solve Uptown’s problems with music. Although that is not a terrible idea, since Uptown is one of the most diverse areas of Chicago, the plan doesn’t solve gang issues. Controlling gang retaliation is not something that the Chicago Police Department have proven to have a firm grasp on. It doesn’t matter how many cards are stacked in the built environment’s favor, if people don’t feel safe in the area they won’t come.