What Chicago neighborhood should we move to?
June 16, 2008 8:16 AM   Subscribe

Which neighborhoods in Chicago should we consider moving to?

My fiancee and I are planning to move our family from Raleigh to Chicago next summer. We're going up there in a couple of weeks to scout out some likely neighborhoods/suburbs and get a feel for the city. What areas should we look at?


We have three kids, so schools and parks are something we're looking at. We're right around the median income, so nothing crazy expensive. Bonus points if there's a nearby Whole Foods, as she works for them. We'd prefer an area with some character (bookstores, theaters, museums) if possible.

Also, is there anything we absolutely have to do or see while we're there? We'll be in town July 1-3, if that matters.
posted by EarBucket to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Oak Park. No question. I have a house here, the schools are great, super kid friendly, and it is cheaper to buy here then in the city. I am between two el lines and can get to my job downtown fast. I love it here.
posted by Ponderance at 8:21 AM on June 16, 2008

You might want to check out this previous question, it has some good discussions of the various neighborhoods and their pros and cons.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:35 AM on June 16, 2008

I like Lakeview East, which has lots of restaurants and everything else you need. Also, I enjoy very much living near the lake. During the summer, I bike along the lake's paths often. I am about 15 minutes away from downtown. In fact... you MUST rent a bike and bike along the lake!
posted by xammerboy at 8:47 AM on June 16, 2008

If you are really around the median income in Chicago, you are going to be in for a shock when you see the housing costs around here. They are not at all bad compared to the coasts, but they are a lot higher than those in Raleigh. $50k or so income, unfortunately, will not get you very far in this housing market, even though prices are down and it is a buyer's market.

What can you spend on rent, or what can you afford if you are going to buy (and remember that this is not a market where the jumbo loan limits are higher)? Figuring those numbers out is going to help you decide where to live a lot more than relying on neighborhood amenities and schools to make the initial decisions about where to look.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 8:58 AM on June 16, 2008

My sister and her family live in a townhouse in the Hamlin Park neighborhood (bought six years ago for probably half of what townhouses in the neighborhood are now selling for). It's an easy commute to her office in the medical district and a slightly less easy commute to the Loop for her husband. They have a car, but walk to the grocery usually (the Whole Foods is walking distance--mostly--they don't really shop there, but it has a parking garage). There are a couple nice parks in easy strolling distance, a local coffee shop, the Roscoe restaurant district is also an easy walk from their place with both kid-friendly and kid-averse dining options. They will be sending their kid to private (probably parochial) school, so I don't know anything about the schools in their hood. Their experience is comparable to friends with kids who live in Wicker Park and in Evanston (although the commute from Evanston to downtown is a pain).

I'm in Lakeview. Our condo (roughly the same size as their townhouse, but without the yard or garage) cost about $400 this year. There is a magnate cluster community elementary in my neighborhood, and lots of families with children but I find that the actually "out and about" experience in the neighborhood is less kid-oriented (which, frankly, is part of the reason I live there and not in Hamlin Park or Roscoe Village). By which I mean: you don't get a pass or sympathy when you try to park your double-stroller in the outdoor seating of a cafe or the common hallway in your condo; restaurants don't have booster chairs/high chairs/kids menus or a cheerful accommodation of reducing menu items to kid-friendly parts. There are a few cafes I'll take my nephew in my neighborhood, but there are more I'd take him to in his own. We go on the bus just fine. Parks abound in the city. Kids under the age of 12 may ride their bikes on the sidewalks; it is illegal for anyone else to ride a bike on the sidewalk (with good reason).

Both of us live in the 60657 zip code, where the average individual gross income in 2004 was $75,900. As this (pdf) income map of Chicago neighborhoods (plots 5&6 on the map) shows, that's the upper end of the income/neighborhood distribution in the city.

I love Chicago. There are so many not-miss things, too many to list here.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:00 AM on June 16, 2008

Unfortunately, some of the better neighborhoods in Chicago proper for having your kids attend a more decent Chicago Public School are farther away from the action (downtown). We're also farther away from the EL lines, though, which is a bit of a downer for me. Love Peterson School, Solomon School and Sauganash School up here on the northside (it's where we live) and we think our neighborhood is VERY family-friendly while remaining diverse and (relatively) affordable. But compared to Raleigh, this is expensive. For an example of that, see this listing of a modest home on a fantastic street in this neighborhood. Close to $400k for 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. Yeow-ch. Trendier hoods like Lincoln Square are WAY more expensive than this but their schools are worse so most of those kids attend private (costly) schools.
posted by jeanmari at 10:02 AM on June 16, 2008

While you are in town, you can go to The Taste of Chicago, and see the Independence Day Fireworks on the lakefront (which actually occur on the 3rd).

Due to the Taste, your travels around the Grant Park area will be somewhat restricted due to street closings. Allow plenty of extra time to get to the museums, if you go.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:23 AM on June 16, 2008

This previous thread talked a bit about some suburbs.

Metromix, wikipedia neighborhoods of Chicago can be useful for a brief summary of neighborhoods. Citydata has some threads on moving to Chicago. The posts aren't as good as here, can be worth a quick browse for ideas. Everyblock crime is a good resource (previously chicagocrime) and it also has real estate listings for neighborhoods/zipcodes (from trulia.com). Yelp can be useful for seeing how close businesses are.
posted by ejaned8 at 12:18 PM on June 16, 2008

East Lakeview (also 60657) is the best, mainly the area between Diversey and Addison and between Halsted and the lake (further west is also nice, but also further from the lake). It's more expensive than some Chicago neighborhoods but especially now, there are deals to be had. Good schools - Nettlehorst elementary on Broadway and Aldine and Hawthorne Academy magnet school nearby. There's a Whole Foods and two other supermarkets, restaurants and every convenience you need, and maybe the best transportation options in Chicago, with the express bus downtown and the Brown, Purple express, and Red lines on Belmont.

Lincoln Square is also great and might provide more house-like options in the same price range. If you're willing to go a bit more suburban, you might consider Edgebrook. It's a lovely neighborhood, has some great houses for reasonable prices, and Edgebrook schools are considered some of the best in the city. Evanston, where Northwestern University is, is terrific but pricier.

Chicago is a fantastic town - good luck and enjoy!
posted by walla at 12:59 PM on June 16, 2008

If you're in the median income you might consider Skokie. It's not a bad commute to downtown Chicago (about an hour on the train) and the schools are great-- college prep and rigorous. It's more of a family-feel than ultra-urban, with all of the culture and urban-ness at arm's reach. It's a pretty Jewish community, to speak in broad strokes, and though I'm not Jewish, I really enjoyed living in that culture. Strong family networks, great bagels... and lots more, of course. Check out Oakton and Lincoln, near the library. Very cute homes, if a bit cozy. I'd live in Skokie any day.

After re-reading your question, Skokie, Skokie, Skokie. And there's a Whole Foods nearby in Evanston. Actually, Evanston is great, too, except it's a lot more expensive.
posted by orangemiles at 6:03 AM on June 17, 2008

I'll second Oak Park for your circumstances. We've been living there since December (having moved from out-of-state), and while it doesn't suit us very well (childfree couple), it has going for you:

- Excellent schools
- Service from two L lines (Blue and Green) running directly into downtown
- A Whole Foods right on the western border (technically in the next town over, but barely so)
- Safe, with a very low violent crime rate, with the caveat that the next towns over to the south (Berwyn and Cicero) and the part of Chicago to the east (Austin) are somewhat sketchy.
posted by korpios at 11:06 AM on June 17, 2008

Thanks for the suggestions, everybody. We looked through a number of neighborhoods, and Oak Park looks absolutely perfect. Our decision will depend partly on what Whole Foods my fiancee can get a job at, but Oak Park's definitely at the top of our list at this point. Many thanks!
posted by EarBucket at 6:33 PM on July 4, 2008

If you find you can't afford Oak Park, look into Forest Park. Right next door, slightly less expensive, not as skeevy as Berwyn or Cicero.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:13 AM on July 5, 2008

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