ChicagoFilter: Car-less in Chicago, looking for an apartment
February 13, 2007 9:50 AM   Subscribe

ChicagoFilter: Car-less in Chicago, looking for an apartment

Please help me find an apartment/neighborhood to look at that has these qualities going for it!

Walking distance to:
1. An El Stop (preferably on the Red or Brown lines)
2. A decent gym (with good free weights)
3. A good grocery and/or market and/or butcher
4. Nightlife
5. (optional) a bookstore

posted by AceRock to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Uptown has all that, and there are still some great apts at great prices. Actually, I don't know about the gym part. There is a gym, on Montrose in the 800 or 900 block just next door to the Jewel, but I don't know anything about it.
posted by sulaine at 10:04 AM on February 13, 2007

Here's an ad for a studio That block is fine, although it is close to the corner Hazel and Wilson, which I like to avoid.
posted by sulaine at 10:12 AM on February 13, 2007

I think that nightlife is more limited in Uptown than it is in other parts of the city. Also, depending on how "urban" an area you are comfortable with, you might not feel comfortable in Uptown.

You should check out Craigslist and the Chicago Reader classified and the various Google Maps implementations of them, and maybe some CTA maps. Try to figure out when the Reader posts new classifieds online or distributes the paper version, and start calling the news places on there then - those are the best deals. Make sure to visit the neighborhood.

Your criteria are very broad - most of the neighborhoods on the near north side and near northwest sides are going to meet your criteria, as long as they are kind of near an el stop. It's very easy to live in Chicago without a car.

Good luck.
posted by jcwagner at 10:25 AM on February 13, 2007

I lived in the near north/Gold Coast/Old Town area for 4.5 years happily, without a car, and near the amenities you describe. Between the Red Line and the 22 bus line (N Clark), I could get anywhere I needed to quickly, and could walk to nightlife/entertainment/bookstores/gyms.

I miss it a lot sometimes. Life without a car is life without a lot of incidental car expenses.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:31 AM on February 13, 2007

I live in the presidential towers.

pros: low deposit, large apartments, great maintenance, a health club actually worth that name, security, central. the El is close and so is the loop. supermarket, newspaper, restaurants and a sports bar are in the building.

cons: it's near union station. no night life.

personally, I am sick and tired of living downtown. but if a hotel-like building with everything right there is what you like, it's tough to do better in chicago.
posted by krautland at 10:55 AM on February 13, 2007

hint: the old version of yahoo maps you can look at grocery stores and EL transportation in the area. (though not buses). might be worth printing it out and highlighting things in an area. don't discount the frequent buses. if the EL is having a bad week (brown line construction coming up), it's wonderful to have a second close option.

I don't have a car, and the areas I'm considering next include:

near sheridan red line (irving park/montrose east plus is 135/136 express to downtown - wrigleyville or buena park)
near paulina brown line & 11 lincoln bus (there's whole foods in the area)
near division blue line (wicker park or east village)
I've also know people that've been happy with andersonville (cheetah gym).
currently in eastlakeview - walk to the train, but good buses/restaurants & some highrise options if you want a gym in-house.
posted by ejaned8 at 11:05 AM on February 13, 2007

Wow thanks for the quick responses and great advice guys! Really appreciate it (and keep em coming!)

Here's a tip for anyone else in a similar situation to mine: Google Maps now shows El stations! Cross referencing with (which for some reason doesn't show the el stations yet) has given me some good prospects. Also this site has been helpful.
posted by AceRock at 11:30 AM on February 13, 2007

Uptown isn't bad, although when people talk about the night life there, they really mean a little north of there in Andersonville and Edgewater, both of which meet your criteria.

Other options near the red line: North Lakeview and Buena Park come to mind. If you really want a good deal on rent, look south too, particularly near Comiskey (sorry, I cannot bring myself to call it U.S. Cellular Field).

On the brown line, Lincoln Square is great. But also look a little east of there in Ravenswood (I'm thinking of the areas around the Wilson and Montrose stops). Albany Park isn't bad either.

One more thing... if you would like access to a car, but want to remain carless, you might also coordinate your search to match neighborhoods with iGo cars and Zipcar cars.
posted by j-dawg at 11:42 AM on February 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

South Loop has all of those things (gym, Jewel, and El stop at State and Roosevelt, nightlife everywhere) except the bookstore. The Harold Washington Library is better than a store, anyway.
posted by Kwantsar at 11:52 AM on February 13, 2007

Hey check on HotPads... they display all rental listings on a map and give area information so you get a good feel of the location. They also display public transportation stops so you can see how close a property is to an El stop when you are searching
posted by CAnneDC at 12:14 PM on February 13, 2007

I'm getting ready to move out of an apartment near the corner of Milwaukee and Western. I've been really happy with it, but I do have a car, so I haven't had to rely on the market that's right down the street. I know several of my neighbors are carless though, so if you are cool with the Blue Line (right around the corner!) then you might want to check out the area.

- We've got a Cheetah Gym at North & Damen(ish)
- Nightlife coming out of your ears
- Bookstore: there are some small places and the big Borders at the corner of North & Clybourn (I've walked there this winter, but it's on the bus line or the train line too). There's also the B&N at Clybourn and Webster.
- Grocers: One of my new favorite things are the two small markets (Goddess & the Grocer on Damen and Olivia's Market on Wabansia) I just love these little places. I always find something tasty in there.

There's also a great new library within walking distance on Milwaukee.

If you're looking for a cool place for a 4/1 occupancy let me know.
posted by FlamingBore at 12:34 PM on February 13, 2007

The best way to find a great apartment in Chicago is to walk around and look for signs in windows.

Hop on the el, get off at a stop that appeals to you, and walk around in a radius that is acceptably close to the station. Don't be afraid to hop on a bus or two either - they're not as bad as you've been lead to believe. When you come across a hand lettered sign, call the number and make an appointment to see the place. The best and most affordable apartments are, very often, not advertised. It's all word of mouth and street traffic.

My landlord here in Andersonville has never used anything more than a tiny little sign on the lobby door. When people leave (he works on a month to month arrangement, so there are no leases) the apartments are filled in a few days.

With the snow piling up outside, this approach to apartment hunting might be a bit difficult to manage. Still, I think it's the best way to go. Even if you don't find a place, you'll have explored some interesting neighborhoods and gotten a better feel for the city.
posted by aladfar at 12:52 PM on February 13, 2007

Watch it with the brown line - they're redoing all the stops, and stops are being closed for a year at a time. Addison & Montrose are closed until December, and I'm guessing that Paulina and Irving Park or Damen will be the next to go. Really screws the pooch when you live right near one stop.

Besides that, if you're not looking for cheap places to live, somewhere around the Paulina or Southport el stops on the brown line will work. There's a Whole Foods at Ashland and School with a gym right across the street, a Jewel at Addison and Southport, and a Trader Joes at Lincoln and Grace (a bit far, but doable). Plenty of nightlife and restaurants. Just expensive-ish rent.
posted by bibbit at 1:04 PM on February 13, 2007

I live in Roscoe Village, near Addison and Western, and I don't drive -- never have. Why it's totally awesome for a non-driver:

1. El stop(s): The Brown Line stop at Addison is closed for about a year, but there's also a stop a couple blocks south at Paulina, so it ain't no big deal. There's also the Western (N-S) and Belmont busses (E-W) that run all night long.

2. Decent gym: There's a Chicago Park District facility at Addison and California; some 24-hour fitness places on Lincoln, near Belmont, and a YMCA also in the area.

3. Good grocery: OK, so seriously, this is why I live in Roscoe Village, because it's smack dab in the middle of a grocery-store goldmine, which you will not find it anywhere else in the city. I'm walking distance from a Jewel, Dominick's, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. But more importantly, my hood has the Paulina Meat Market and West Lakeview Liquors. Dude, if you're a griller, you're in luck.

4. Nightlife: I guess it depends what yr into, but my most favorite bar in the world is The Hungry Brain. You can also catch a decent show at The Beat Kitchen.

5. Bookstores: I order everything online. I know, I suck.
posted by pfafflin at 1:10 PM on February 13, 2007

AceRock, I haven't read through this thread yet, so forgive me if any of this is redundant.

I'm not going to suggest a certain neighborhood... they all are good and bad in equal respects. Cafes, restaurants, bars, bookstores, super markets - pretty much every part of town has these in spades.

Your deciding factors will come down to two things:

1. Price

Price is influenced by several factors:
-- Quality of the building and apartment (do you want a doorman and a high rise or will you take a dank basement apartment)
-- Size of the space (think studio vs. penthouse)
-- Location (think by the lake vs. out in the boonies)

2. Location in relation (heh) to wherever it is you're going to go every day.

I assume you work or go to school - you may want to live close to your daily destination, or at least a short CTA ride without too many transfers.

A great apartment in a cool neighborhood will loose its appeal after a few months if your commute carves two hours out of your life five days a week. (Trust me on this...)

-- In order to be reasonably successful with figuring out where you want to live you'll need to collect several sources and cross reference them together when you're considering a specific apartment.

First you'll need a map of Chicago, preferably one that lists the neighborhoods, bus routes and L stops. You can get an idea by looking at Google Maps and also the CTA website.

Second you'll need to know the exact location (address) of any apartment you're considering. Once you have the address you can cross reference the apartment with your map to figure out if it is in a good location.

Third a guidebook with detailed information about Chicago neighborhoods will come in much more handy than relying on people's half ass recommendations. Check out your local big box bookstore - you'll find plenty of guide books.

One caution: Living in a neighborhood with "good nightlife" is fine for some, but after a while you may get tired of the noise, trash, puke, drunks, and other issues associated with nightlife oriented areas. You'll probably be just as satisfied taking a cab to and from the bar, club, and restaurant heavy areas of town as you would living there...
posted by wfrgms at 1:35 PM on February 13, 2007

hijack (I know I suck): anyone know who to talk to about a kicking loft? same criteria mostly. hardwood floor, exposed brick, lots of space, that sort of thing. below 1400.
posted by krautland at 3:26 PM on February 13, 2007

Lincoln Square is the best neighborhood in Chicago. It's relatively inexpensive and has a very cute, European feel to it. Also, you could theoretically live there and never have to leave your neighborhood (except for work maybe). We've got a bowling, a movie theater, a public pool, a park, a library, bars, restaurants, bookstores, shopping of all types... in a highly condensed area. I highly recommend it.
posted by Jess the Mess at 8:39 PM on February 13, 2007

In addition to the Brown Line repairs, you might want to consider the work on the north side Red Line that's starting in April. There've been warnings that transit times could double for both the Red and Brown lines for two years. If you work downtown, you might want to check out express bus routes like the 146, or consider biking.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:19 AM on February 14, 2007

@krautland: There aren't really that many "raw" or "hard" lofts in Chicago. The best bet is to drive (or walk, if you have to) around neighborhoods where they might be and try to find them. You can also search for them in the Reader and Craiglist, but it will be hard. In my experience, agents or services are worthless for that. There is a building on Damen just south of Fullerton where they have been advertising a work/live space for a while, but it's more like $3000 or so for something like 3000 square feet. $1400 is a tough price point for that - you might want to find others to go in with you on that.
posted by jcwagner at 9:59 AM on February 14, 2007

hydrophonic wrote "In addition to the Brown Line repairs, you might want to consider the work on the north side Red Line that's starting in April. There've been warnings that transit times could double for both the Red and Brown lines for two years. If you work downtown, you might want to check out express bus routes like the 146, or consider biking."

If your commute includes Belmont-through-Fullerton, you definitely should look into alternatives. In addition to bus routes and biking (the latter is implausible in this weather, but folding bikes wouldn't be a bad way to go when the streets/sidewalks are clear), consider apartments near Metra stations; the Metra is much nicer than the El and can be cheaper with a monthly pass. The Metra routes and schedules aren't as flexible, but they're at the very least reliable (something that can't be said for the sorry state of El affairs).
posted by stance at 12:47 PM on February 14, 2007

you might want to check out (...) consider biking.

someone wants to see you dead. or paralyzed.
posted by krautland at 8:56 AM on February 15, 2007

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