Some advice on moving to Chicago from WI
August 29, 2016 1:23 PM   Subscribe

Thinking about moving from Wisconsin to Chicago this year. The grad program I am in allows me quite a bit of flexibility for location so long as I am back monthly for lab stuff. My interests are in 1) living in a reasonably interesting and pleasant part of the city, accessible to cool stuff, without breaking the bank, and 2) picking up some part time work that will help cover the increased cost of living and also pad my bank account a bit (complication: I need flexibility so that I can, with quite a lot of advance notice, occasionally miss a week or so). Looking at Hyde Park and Lakeview. Would love some advice.

I initially started looking at Hyde Park, and it still seems like a strong option. As far as I can tell, respectable studio apartments with most utilities included can be had for about $750-800. Does that seem about right?

My impression of HP from brief time there was UChicago, architecture, bookstores, coffee shops, parks, pedestrian, pleasant, etc. A bit more digging bears some of these parts out but maybe not all. Different things I've read online paint different pictures of HP, some as a wonderful place, others, if not negative, at least portraying it as being kind of lifeless. I am not personally one for, e.g., bar hopping, but descriptions that say that there are, like, 2 bars in the entire neighborhood do, in combination with what seems like a conspicuous lack of high praise for the coffee and food, suggest that it's not exactly a super happening place to live. I know it's nearly impossible to characterize a place in a MeFi answer, but I would be curious what people's impression of my impression is.

Lakeview has come to my attention as an interesting alternative. Easier access to downtown, great location, and a notch cheaper than Lincoln Park, River North, Old Town, etc. Perhaps $75/month more in rent than HP, but not terrible. I don't have a great sense for what LV is like. Some places sort of paint it as an annoying cluster of rowdy-ish 20- and 30-somethings bar hopping 5 days a week. Which sounds ok, not great. Other descriptions make it out to be more trendy-but-not-overly-gentrified-and-expensive. Which sounds cool. Ready access to the lakefront in both neighborhoods is a huge plus for me, so I haven't really been looking at stuff way to the west, though I hear some of it is very cool.

So, I dunno. Which is a better place to move if one wants to live in a modest but respectable studio, work productively on some academic projects while also pulling in money from a side job, and also enjoy some of the benefits of living in Chicago?

I'm interested, in having that answered, also in getting a better sense of which is likely to be the more promising place to pick up somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 hours/week at a side job (coffee shop, restaurant, etc).

Last thing: how tedious/impossible would bringing my car to either place be?

I should add that I'm going to get an air bnb next week to take a day or two to get a better feel for things, and hopefully to look at housing options, but this is to try to make that more productive.
posted by pdq to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've currently live in Hyde Park as an undergrad at UChicago (I've been here for four years and am actually leaving soon)(And actually am originally from WI!). I can't speak too much to Lakeview. I would say, it would be very difficult if not impossible to get a studio for $750-800 in a part of Hyde Park you'd want to live in. I would say that is east of Drexel, south of 51st and north of 61st though if you live below the midway you will be very far from the grocery stores and everything else you may want to do in Hyde Park so I would really recommend restricting a search to north of the midway. More realistically a studio is ~$1000 though you may be able to get a better rate if you come in an off time (between quarters). So September is not the greatest time because the new school year is starting soon.

I would say if you are looking to enjoy the benefits of Chicago, Hyde Park is not where you want to live. It is ~7 miles from the loop and its not really feasible to do that via car because parking downtown is quite expensive (~$6 an hour in the loop), though you could definitely visit other areas via car pretty easily, think Wicker Park and West loop ect. Just saying if you want to get to the Art Institute you'd need to take CTA or an uber. CTA from HP usually involves getting a bus (the 55) to a train line so its generally not very fast (think about 40 minutes to get anywhere you want to go downtown and longer and another transfer if you want to go further north). There are a few buses that go directly downtown but those are only going to be useful if you live close by (the 6 bus is an example).

You won't have any problems having a car in HP. There is enough parking and when I've had a car I could park outside my building.

On top of that, while HP is getting more nice things, it really is a place only people that are associated with the university live. There isn't really much else around here besides the university.

I can't speak to prices in Lakeview but it will be easier to get to other parts of Chicago from there and there will be more nice things like a variety of restaurants there. Hyde Park really doesn't have that many food options, in part because the only people that eat at these places are people that live in HP. I may travel to Lakeview for a restaurant like the Chicago Diner but no one is coming to HP for food if that tells you anything.

This was long but basically, while I like Hyde Park and really can't hate on it like many people that live here can, I wouldn't recommend it if you don't have an affiliation with UChicago that makes it convenient to be here. Lakeview is the better option.
posted by aquablue582 at 2:16 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just one more thing, if price is really important, I would lean towards recommending Hyde Park. You'd be giving up some convenience but its still a nice place to live.
posted by aquablue582 at 2:30 PM on August 29, 2016

Other neighborhoods to look into (Lakeview would be tough to get that price I think, I paid $800-$900 for a room with 3-5 people back in 2009 and rents have gone up considerably since then)
-Ukranian Village
-Logan Square
posted by sandmanwv at 2:40 PM on August 29, 2016

I've been in Chicago for 8 years, living on the Northwest side (mostly Logan Square). Lakeview will definitely have a lot of food, nightlife, and side-job options; it's one of the densest neighborhoods in town. If you give Wrigleyville a wide berth, you can find quieter residential blocks, but the rowdy-ish 20 and 30-somethings are definitely gonna be out in full force on the main drags on the weekends.

It's gonna be really tough to find a studio in that price range in Lakeview, though: you'd probably have better luck continuing further north along the Red Line to Uptown, Edgewater, and Rogers Park if you want to find a studio for around $800/month. You'd still get the easy access to the lake and transit in those neighborhoods, and you'd probably have an easier time finding somewhere to park, too (I've never owned a car in the city so I'm not the best authority on this). Spend some time traveling up the red line between Belmont and Howard when you're in town and get a feel for the areas around those stops.

If you want other neighborhoods to check out, Albany Park has nice outdoor space and housing options in your price range, and it's close to a lot of restaurants and shops in Lincoln Square.
posted by torridly at 2:44 PM on August 29, 2016

I'm also from Wisconsin, and now I live in Chicago. I wouldn't live in either of those neighborhoods; I've had friends & family who lived in both places (and I lived in Lakeview for a few months), and their experiences echo the stereotypes you describe. I would neeeeeeeever live in Lakeview again. In three months my shoes were vomited on by a stranger twice. TWICE. (Sure, it was Cubs season, but...come on.) Hyde Park is far away from everything and hard to get to on transit. Also, parking in either of those neighborhoods is hell. Nope nope nope.

Pretty much everyone I know lives in Lincoln Square/Ravenswood, Andersonville, Rogers Park, or Edgewater. You should be able to find a studio in your price range in any of those neighborhoods, and parking is not too bad depending on your block. Lots of coffee shops and restaurants and bars, and they're way more chill than in Lakeview and way more...uh, extant than in HP.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 5:12 PM on August 29, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for the info so far. Quick question about pricing: most people are saying those places are out of my range. I trust MeFi more than random internet sites, but am wondering what I'm missing. I see plenty of listings like this in Lakeview, and similar one for a bit less in Hyde Park. Is it that they're in horrible buildings and I just can't tell? Or am I getting lucky these last 36 hours? Or are the listings basically scams?
posted by pdq at 5:43 PM on August 29, 2016

My guess is folks assumed $800 was a hard limit...The one you linked to is over that, and doesn't appear to have utilities included. (Never underestimate the cost of utilities. I lived in a 600-sq-ft apartment once that cost upwards of $200 a month to heat in the winter. It was the worst.)

Like, you could definitely find *a* studio for under $800 in either of those neighborhoods, but it's likely to be a hole and far from the L. If $800 is really more like $900 or $950 with utilities, though, you'll have a lot more options.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 5:48 PM on August 29, 2016

Response by poster: Ah yeah, hadn't noticed no utilities with that one. I am definitely counting on most utilities being covered in those prices, which most places seem to. I said I was figuring ~$75 more for Lakeview than HP but that was kind of buried in a wall of text. My budget is kind of loose but $900 would, I think, be the ceiling, and would much prefer $800. I'd need the extra work to make it comfortable at that price, which is part of why availability of work options would figure into my choice. /threadsit
posted by pdq at 5:57 PM on August 29, 2016

I've been in Lakeview for 11 years (10 previous in Logan Square), living between Diversey and Irving Park and between Broadway and Lake Shore Drive, and I highly recommend it. The closer you are to the lake, the better, if you ask me. If you're a cyclist/jogger/walker, the lakefront path is something like 18 miles long and is one of the best things about the city—you can wander off of it for a break and be in a bird or wildflower sanctuary; there's a golf course, tennis courts, soccer fields, a skate park, and a couple harbors—and that's just the relatively short section that I walk. Stepping off the path and walking right along the lake is even better.

In the other direction, just a couple blocks in to the west, it's all good food, shopping, bars, and, I think, a fairly relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Halsted, another block or two west of Broadway, is the bar scene, but it's not all young people, that's for sure. It's fun, I think, and I'm certainly not young. My experience of Lakeview in the 11 years I've lived here: if I'm walking down the street and smile at someone, they nearly always smile back, and it actually feels friendly, not weird. That's a perfectly subjective description, but it's something I dig about the place.

Public transit is never a problem in this 'hood. Express buses to downtown are great; there is a seemingly limitless supply of cabs/ubers/buses, and the red line runs a couple more blocks in, totally walkable from anywhere in the 'hood for most able-bodied sorts.

I've gotten most of my apartments through The Apartment People on Broadway, and I've loved them all, especially the one I'm in now.

Having said all that, Hawthorne is a really cool street; some good architecture, relatively quiet, tight parking, and super accessible to all the daytime/nightlife stuff and Boystown, and easy access to the lake and the lakefront path. If that apartment is something you're into, that's a great location. But The Apt People will have many more listings, and they'll limit your search to what you can afford; plus, they're free, so I'd advise you to look into them. Good luck!
posted by heyho at 6:48 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, and parking in Lakeview? There are cars everywhere, so people do it, but it's a mixed bag as to how easy it'll be. You'll find parking, but on a bad night, you might end up parking several blocks away. Lots of streets are zoned, which can make it trickier; be sure you can recognize the zoned-street signs and remain vigilant, and you'll be okay. Parking garages exist but are expensive, like $25 night. Still though, I have friends with cars, and they park on a regular basis, so I know it's doable.
posted by heyho at 6:58 PM on August 29, 2016

Kass management has decent prices on rentals, they are all over and and know they work in that area studios.

Remember anything negative about Hyde Park is going to be true in the reverse: your commute there is going to be a big pain. Hyde Park is just not accessible in the same way as other locations. If your brave, and not super concerned about crime, there are apartments in the Kenwood area near the mega churches that aren't to far away where you could get a 1 bed for 900. Nautilus has some nice spaces for rent. The south Shore studios aren't worth it from them though.

Ultimately most of chicago is a balance between income and crime tolerance. There are plenty of places to rent in your price range, but finding one in an area your comfortable in is hard. I rent a two bed I'm your price range in a primarily Hispanic area of the city (see pilsen, little village, Humboldt park all which would have rentals in your price range). I feel just fime here but I know people who wouldn't live here. Generally these areas have older construction so there are oddities about the units (some dont have heat in every room for example).
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:20 PM on August 29, 2016

Lived in Hyde Park for grad school, moved away a year ago. If your goal is to get outside of the university bubble, I wouldn't move to Hyde Park. It really is a pain to get anywhere from there, 30min to the loop if you live on the right bus line, 1 hour and at least one transfer minimum to anywhere else. And while the things in Hyde Park are ok enough if you need to be there, it's not that great compared to the rest of the city.

In terms of budget, I was paying $1000 for a largeish 1 bedroom, so 800 for a studio doesn't seem impossible, but it'd definitely be tight, both money and space wise. Not sure about prices in the rest of the city.

Another thing to think about is how you plan on getting back to WI. If you're driving, living on the north side might save you ~30min, especially if you ever have to leave/arrive around rush hour.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 8:30 PM on August 29, 2016

I lived in Hyde Park while working for U of C. It's a nice neighborhood for a lot of reasons (it really is pretty, the lakefront path is way better on the south side than the north side in terms of crowding and, I think, prettiness and gorgeous views because of the skyline, there are little neighborhood shops you can go to that are a nice change from always going to MegaShop, Chinatown is convenient, the Hyde Park bubble is pretty tame though surrounded by less-tame). But if you are not associated with U of C, I would advise you to think twice about it. It's a long commute if you're going to school on the north side, and especially if you are hanging with other people in your program going out to eat in the evenings and stuff, you are going to get really tired of it suddenly being 10 pm and you still have the red line and the 55 bus ahead of you before you can get home. Red line + 55 is even worse in the winter because waiting for that bus on top of the Dan Ryan just sucks when it's cold and windy. (If you're driving it'll be less bad, 30 mins and a nice shot down LSD, but then, you'll be dealing with parking. So it's kind of six of one, half a dozen of the other.) You'll probably still wind up driving to the northside to run to Target or PetSmart (if applicable). And you will get *real* tired of people acting like, "OH MY GOD, the south side!! but what about the criiiiiiiime [by which they mean black people]" OTOH, if you're a baseball fan, it's way more convenient and pleasant to go to Sox Park (the new name shall never be used in polite company or outside of a snide remark) and casually take in a game without being continually beset by vomiting dudebros.

(Oh, speaking of vomiting dudebros -- before you pick a northside neighborhood, google TBoX. Ugh, TBoX.)

I loved HP and would consider living there again maybe even if I wasn't associated with the University, but you sacrifice a lot of the convenience of the city there, so keep that in mind.
posted by sldownard at 11:15 PM on August 29, 2016

Lincoln Square is on the Brown Line and has a nice mix of single-family homes, apartments and condo buildings. Also wide sidewalks with trees on both sides of the streets. It's home to a big library, a big park with public swimming pool, the Old Town School of Music, pubs, restaurants and a new Mariano's. You don't need a residential permit to park on the street.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:48 AM on August 30, 2016

Come up north! I lived in Chicago for 12 years, most of it in Edgewater and Andersonville with a few years in Logan Square in between. Edgewater is lovely - it really does feel like a little town within the city. Clark Street, the main drag, has lots of restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and shops, but it doesn't get super bro-y and packed on the weekends. It used to be known as a LGBT community, and it still has lots of LGBT couples, but also lots of folks of all ages, single, couples, and families. You can walk to the lake in 10 minutes and it's about a 30 minute train ride to the Loop on the Red Line.

Parking isn't super easy, but it would be way easier than Lakeview. A studio in your price range is totally doable - just be wary of any listing on N. Sheridan. It abuts the lake (yay!) but also has lots of older shabby buildings that aren't super well-maintained. And as others have said, be sure to keep utilities in mind as you do your research. It's become uncommon for all utilities to be included in the price for rent; usually you'll have to pay heat and electric (the landlord usually pays water). Depending on the size of your place, I'd budget $100/month year-round for both just to be safe.
posted by anotheraccount at 5:49 AM on August 30, 2016

Hyde Park's "isolation" can be overemphasized – there's been an upswing in restaurants and things to do, and the character is definitely a plus. There's also a very fast Metra line to downtown that nobody seems to mention as a transit option. But meeting people and especially finding part-time work will indeed be harder than in the more central neighborhoods. If you might only spend a short time living here, it'll be tougher to get the full Chicago experience when living in HP.

Lakeview (a broadly defined neighborhood) is an easy place to find apartments, but all the annoyances mentioned and more go along with living there. Consider this another endorsement for the ideas to look a little further north, and even a bit more west.

Look at the neighborhoods along the Brown Line north of Belmont - you'll get that line as your main transit option (one of the more pleasant) but also will have of a neighborhood experience than you will in the vomit vortex of Sheffield-Broadway-Diversey-Addison. They'd be good places to get to know the city, until you get acclimated enough to know where else to live.

If you think you'll be bringing a car, keep in mind that major arterial streets have no overnight parking during the winter and don't forget the delightful annual City Sticker fee to simply own a car here (on top of the exorbitant state license plate fee every year). You might consider waiting to bring the car until you know how easy it is to get by without one where you wind up living.
posted by fiveoclockrock at 3:03 PM on August 30, 2016

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