Tuesday, January 02, 2007

An Insider's 'Sidewalk' Guide To Chicago's Lincoln Park--Part 1

This is the first in a continuing series of blog essays focusing on the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. I happen to reside in this historic lakefront community and while a good portion of my real estate business is also conducted here, the purpose of this project is to simply provide an insider's 'sidewalk' perspective of this ever evolving Chicago 'North Side' demographic. Each essay will focus on a specific neighborhood theme. For instance, Lincoln Park has several 'mini-neighborhoods' within its boundries including Lincoln Park West, DePaul and Wrightwood Neighbors to name a few--each unique in its own way and with its own personal story.

The spotlight may shine one week on a particular Theatre district (there are over 200 live venues nightly throughout the city) or perhaps even on this insider's choice of favorite Chicago Blues clubs, cafes and eateries (of which Lincoln Park has dozens!). On your next visit you may find yourself strolling along one of the many neighborhood Garden Walks or even peeking into the closets of a Louis Sullivan Open House or the archives of the DePaul University library. There's an almost endless array of material germane to this historic and hip Chicago neighborhood but economy of time and space dictates that I focus on one small corner at a time. So let me begin with a 'pie slice' area I refer to as...

'North of North'

North Avenue is the southern most boundry of Lincoln Park and contrary to its name, actually runs from east to west away from the lakefront. I define 'North of North' as the several block shopping district originating on North Avenue between Halsted Street and Sheffield Avenue with Clybourn Avenue slicing through both streets on the diagonal, blanketing the adjoining neighborhood areas in a northwest direction to Southport Avenue. It is here you will find the busiest retail shopping district in Near North Chicago outside of Michigan Avenue's renowned Magnificent Mile and just steps to some of the most beautiful and desirable residential streets in the city.

With the likes of Borders Books, Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn as retail 'anchors,' this once industrial annex of the city is now home to over 100 national and local stores--from 'medium box' (Best Buy and Circuit City to name a few), to boutique (Citizen K-9, Kozy's Cycle Shop and Chicago Fly Fishing {believe it or not!} ). Twenty years ago this 'corridor' was home to only scrap yards and steel fabricators. Today, thanks to prudent community efforts and wise Chicago city planning, 'North of North' is, in this writers opinion, an archetype of urban landscape architecture for the millennium.

The housing stock of choice along the actual Clybourn Corridor is a mixture of live/work loft and condominiums above sidewalk level businesses. However, a quick jog down any side street will quickly reveal a blend of turn of the century (1890's) Victorian rowhomes, mulit-million dollar new construction city mansions and renovated single family homes nestled in postcard fashion amongst the hundred year oak trees and gas lamp styled street lights.

Weaving through and along this brick contemporary urban fabric are both the Brown Line and Red Line El tracks, iron bound reminders of a previous Chicago era but a cultural transportation mainstay to this day. Be it a CEO or Administrative Assistant, these Elevated platforms are the early morning destination of choice for speedy downtown commuters after a quick local cafe stop for the prerequisite coffee and bagel 'to go.'

Every eight blocks is a mile in Chicago, a city laid out on a virtual grid by its original planners. Landlocked to the east by Lake Michigan and due to the topography of the shoreline, there are only north, south and west addresses in Lincoln Park. Any dwelling too far eastward would definitely fall into the category of 'House Boat' but if this is where one chooses to hang his hat then 'North of North' is but a few blocks to the west--and as you may have already surmised, we Chicagoans are a very direction-minded lot!

So this concludes our first early winter walk-about of one particular 'corner' of Lincoln Park. The sidewalks are clear and the climate is fair this first week of January, 2007--at least as of this writing. But there is a saying that comes to mind with any discusion of Chicago weather...just wait 10 minutes!

photo by hawthornterrace

posted by geno petro


  1. Geno- Chicago has always facinated me. I love how you laid this out, and can't wait to visit someday. Thank you.

  2. Mariana, Thank you. According to the news you're under 50 feet of snow as we speak so thaks for taking the time!