If you don't like the weather in Chicago, wait five minutes. (Har har.) We could say the same about many Chicago neighborhoods. The Windy City is changing fast, especially its close-in precincts with good bones and adequate transit connections to the Loop. If you're looking to buy somewhere new, make sure you're not operating on pre-recession assumptions about desirability and marketability. Our friends at MoneyCrashers.com give these four hot districts their due….
1. Logan Square
Longtime North Side residents have seen Logan Square's transformation firsthand. Chicago expats: We're not joking. The bones—the old churches, the stately shotgun walk-ups, and, of course, the gracious parkways (and Palmer Square Park)—remain in place, but this formerly downtrodden area is nearly unrecognizable from the turn of the millennium. The only drawback is the distance to the lake, but you get what you pay for. And, if you buy soon, you'll pay a lot less than your successors.
2. Near North
Near North isn't exactly new news, but there has rarely been a better time to buy into the high-end residential development creeping up Clybourn and Halsted. With some of the city's best restaurants at its doorstep, ample supermarket coverage, and a quick commute to the Loop, Near North offers human-scale Chicago living at its best. Plus, The Second City and Lincoln Park are within walking distance in nice weather.
3. West Loop
This frothy neighborhood is suffering a classic supply-demand imbalance right now. Techies looking for close-in, loft-style condo spaces are snapping up converted West Loop warehouse properties left and right, but local developers are struggling to overcome longtime residents' fear of heights. Only a handful of residential towers poke through the neighborhood's historical six- to eight-story canopy, so this isn't the ideal area for city views. (A notable exception is the 39-story Skybridge, the tallest condo tower west of I-94.)
Still, the steady westward march of locally owned boutiques and excellent, unpretentious restaurants is a sight for sore eyes. Plus, with property values appreciating 15% to 30% year over year, the West Loop is ripe for short- to medium-term investment.
4. South Loop
Where can one find city and lake views without a seven-figure price tag, you ask? South Loop, we reply.
South Loop is spitting-distance (or walking, biking, and/or quick Ubering, if you prefer) from Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum. It's on Grant Park's doorstep. It's not far from, and indeed positively spilling into, Chinatown and Bronzeville. Above the fourth or fifth story, its views are positively unobstructed (thanks to the aforementioned park). It's a couple El stops from the South Side stadiums. It's... need we go on?
The quintessential South Loop condo property is The Grant, the 54-story glass edifice at the corner of Grant Park. There, the average condo will set you back a cool three-quarter million—a steal if you can swing the down payment. If not, there are plenty of refurbs (and more reasonable new construction) in Printers Row and Dearborn Park.
Not every Windy City neighborhood is suitable for real estate investment at the moment, of course, but every month brings promising stirrings in new corners of the city. Check back next year and you're sure to learn something new. (So are we—that's why we put these lists together.)
Are you looking to buy this year? Tell us where you set your sights!
Andy Mullen is a frequent traveler who enjoys digging into topics such as real estate, personal finance, and lifestyle.