Find me a home, where the ...squirrels? roam
April 19, 2008 12:44 PM   Subscribe

[Chicagolandfilter] I'm looking to move within the NW suburbs of Chicago. I want somewhere that has a small town or urban feel, like Barrington's downtown, but without the insane housing prices. (We will be renting.)

My fiance works in Inverness/Palatine and needs to keep his commute to 30-40 minutes at a maximum (he's the guy who needs to rescue the servers at 2 am). I currently work in Hoffman Estates, but I'm really hoping to leave the job in the next few months and work in downtown Chicago.

I used to live on the east side of Milwaukee, and I am experiencing total culture shock here, what with the vast amount of urban sprawl and traffic gridlock. I miss being able to walk/bus to the grocer or bookstore, and I miss independently owned shops. I really, really like Barrington, but there's no way we can afford it. Our rent has to be under $1500, and we'd prefer a single-family house or a townhouse/duplex with a yard.

So, my requirements are (in order of importance):

1. Proximity to fiance's work in Inverness/Palatine area
2. Rental costs under $1500 for a 2 br. single family/duplex/townhome
3. Neighborhood feel with grid-pattern streets, sidewalks, older houses a +. NOT THIS.
4. Public transportation, preferably a train station
5. Independently owned shops and a Main Street
posted by desjardins to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Algonquin meets criteria 1, 3 & 5. I don't know too much about housing costs, but my brother and sister-in-law moved there because they couldn't afford much else in the closer-in suburbs.

Mefimail me if you would like to get in touch with my sister-in-law, who is a realtor.

And here is a real long shot, but I'll throw it out there: You might consider the far southwest burbs, now that the tollway extension has lowered the north-south trip between I-80 and I-90 to around 45-60 minutes, instead of 90 minutes. Places like Lockport and Lemont meet all your criteria.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 1:03 PM on April 19, 2008

Another thought - does it have to be a suburb? You might look at the Jefferson Park and Norwood Park neighborhoods in the city.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 1:10 PM on April 19, 2008

Maybe somewhere in the northwest of Chicago itself?

I happened to be in Jefferson Park the other day so it was the first place I thought of, but anywhere in that general area might work. You'd be right off the Blue line so getting downtown and other parts of the city would be really easy, plus right of 90 so getting to Palatine would be easy (presumably... google maps looks like that, would that drive be terrible?).

It would be easy to find a place within walking distance of shops, and it won't look like urban sprawl. A quick search for "Jefferson Park" on Craigslist shows that you could get something very nice for your budget, although it might take some searching to find a single-family home to rent.

On preview, SuperSquirrel beat me to it.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 1:14 PM on April 19, 2008

Response by poster: Believe me, I'd love to live in the city, but it's been vetoed because my fiance thinks westbound traffic will be insane in the mornings.
posted by desjardins at 1:16 PM on April 19, 2008

Believe me, I'd love to live in the city, but it's been vetoed because my fiance thinks westbound traffic will be insane in the mornings.

In my experience, traffic on the Kennedy is insane in both directions, at any time of day/night, so your fiance has a point, to a point. :-)

But Jeff. Pk and Norwood Pk. are so close to the airport, that you'd contend with the Kennedy for maybe 3 miles or so. Once you get past the exit for O'Hare, you are on I-90 and the traffic westbound in the morning will be fine.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 1:23 PM on April 19, 2008

Algonquin is cool, also check out Dundee, Elgin and S. Elgin. Elgin has a new library.

I used to live in the area and I commuted to Palatine no problem. Everyone else was going the other way so it was a breeze. You can take the train from Elgin, stations downtown and on the west side on Big Timber Road. Think there's a station in Algonquin too.

I had the same shock moving to that area from New England. Milwaukee has lots of neat neighborhoods, yeah. I'd say Dundee (E & W) has the closest to what you're looking for. It's picturesque, shops and restaurants downtown, and a mall nearby. Algonquin's downtown is a bit smaller. Elgin's downtown is okay but it's more populated so more crime. S. Elgin is cool too, I have relatives who live there. They have an awesome 4th of July parade and a fun riverfest every year. Any of those towns on the Fox River are pretty good choices.

Feel free to MeMail me also (btw I moved back to New England, I couldn't stand the Midwest and urban sprawl anymore).
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 1:29 PM on April 19, 2008

I have no idea how affordable it is these days, but I grew up in Arlington Heights and man has the "downtown" area gotten nice in recent years I've gone back and visited....

If you can find a place for the price you're looking for, I think it fits all of your criteria.
posted by twiggy at 1:38 PM on April 19, 2008

Unfortunately the north and northwest burbs are exactly what you describe- expensive, sprawled and congested. Check out the Metra map, and check out the towns with stops in the area(s) you are considering. I know it's true along the Burlington line (western burbs), where there are at least a half dozen towns with many of your criteria.
posted by gjc at 2:00 PM on April 19, 2008

Check out McHenry County (Spring Grove, Fox Lake, Woodstock, Crystal Lake, et al). A little far from Palatine (25 miles) but definitely full of small town charm, much more so than the closer in places mentioned above (I think; YMMV). Can't get the Spring Grove site to load but you may have better luck:

A little closer to the job, also check out Long Grove, where they've made charm a business strategy. Really nice town.
posted by nax at 3:24 PM on April 19, 2008

I just sent you a MeMail.
posted by sugarfish at 4:53 PM on April 19, 2008

Seconding Woodstock. It's where they filmed Groundhog Day and the place just oozes charm. For a small town, they are pretty hopping. They is at least one fine pub, couple of nice restaurants, a farmer's market, a lovely theater, quite a bit of creativity going on there. It's also on the Metra Line for Palatine (UPNW). I think of it as that town from Gilmore Girls, but without the rapid-fire repartee.

Arlington Heights is a little less charming, but kind of small townish in the downtown area.
posted by jeanmari at 5:33 PM on April 19, 2008

Nthing Woodstock for all the reasons listed above. A friend moved there out of school in 2003 and rented a two-bedroom condo with a yard in the back for $800. Craigslist has a 2 bedroom house for $1,000 there right now, for example.

My friend's now-husband would stay over at her place while she lived there and he would commute to his job at Harper College, so the commute must not be that insane.
Good luck!
posted by princesspathos at 6:04 PM on April 19, 2008

I grew up in H.E. I completely understand your desperation to get out.

I always liked West Dundee. Without consulting a map, it'd be hard for me to estimate your fiance's travel time. Some parts of Elgin are quite charming, too.

Good luck!
posted by chippie at 6:07 PM on April 19, 2008

Libertyville. It's got a nice main street/downtown district with independently owned shops, not chains .. a nice farmers market in the summer, and great big wonderful parks. It's right off of 294 and there are easy ways to take some of the bigger back roads to Palatine. I don't know about the rental market there but when we were house hunting, there were lots of options in every price range from the lower-end to the very high end. It's even got a couple of real bookstores - not chains.

We live just south in Lincolnshire, which I love but I don't think there's any sort of rental market here at all and we don't have the charming downtown that Libertyville has.

Your fiance is right about the reverse commute traffic. Just don't.
posted by Kangaroo at 6:12 PM on April 19, 2008

Ha! I grew up in Libertyville. It's even more adorable now than it was when I was there. I remember the farmer's market as a charming part of my growing up-- every Thursday morning. One of the ladies there even supplied the peonies for my wedding. And the holiday activities, like the tree-lighting, or the high school football games... just a great town.

Drive around near Cook Memorial Library and find housing there-- near the high school to the west, or up to 4th Ave to the east. Mail me if you'd like the name of a realtor there.
posted by orangemiles at 7:47 PM on April 19, 2008

Your fiance is right about the reverse commute traffic.

Doubly so since they started the work on the Edens -- I live a mile inbound from the merge, at 8AM, I can see the Kennedy isn't moving in either direction.

However, Jeff Park is west of the Merge, so you avoid that mess. The reason Montrose is the breakpoint in Kennedy times is that's where most of the effect of the Merge start/end (depending on direction.)

What I don't know is what the NW tollway1 looks like outbound at that time of the morning

1) Sorry. Northwest Tollway, East-West Tollway. And, for that matter, Ravenswood, Howard, and O'Hare Ls. Grumble, wheeze, wave cane. Sheesh, you leave for a decade or two and they try and change *everything*.
posted by eriko at 8:03 PM on April 19, 2008

try riding the two main train lines from Union Station to the west / nw burbs. you'll see downtowns galore plus get a good idea of commute times, all for $5 if you go on a weekend! i like Itasca, personally. also try Burlington Northern from Ogilvie.
posted by MeetMegan at 8:31 AM on April 20, 2008

West Dundee is cute and has a nice bike trail and river walk. The main problem with it is there is no train. You'd have to drive to Elgin, I suppose to catch the train into the city. And to take 90 in during rush hour would be 1.5-2 hours I'm guessing. You'll probably have to head out to Randall Road to do any significant shopping since Spring Hill Mall has been steadily declining for years.

West Dundee also doesn't have as much in it's walking area as Barrington either. You could walk to a few restaurants and bars, a hardware store and some cute shops. You will still be driving to Jewel for groceries because 25, 72 and 31 are busy dangerous streets to be walking on. I think I saw rental signs recently. Take 72 West and head South on Third Street. It dead ends into a nice park. That area has small houses.

Woodstock is cute, and would be good for the train but leaves your husband with a commute.

Arlington Heights is expensive to buy in and my guess is the rental market for the kind of place you want would also be expensive, if it exists at all.

I have a friend who lives right across from the Palatine train station. It's a great location, we walk around town to go out to eat etc. but she owns and I'm guessing the place cost a pretty penny.

I hear your pain. I know someone nearby trying to get out of her 2 acre 5 bedroom house, but to buy something in a walkable town with a train nearby costs more than her huge house! Arlington Heights would be ideal if it was affordable.
posted by Bunglegirl at 11:16 AM on April 20, 2008

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