Relocation: Help from Chicagoans!

Old Sep 24th, 2002, 12:05 PM
  #1  
Terri
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Relocation: Help from Chicagoans!

Hi,

My husband and I are relocating to the Chicago area in December…brrr!! Gotta bundle up, we know, but are really looking forward to the move from Washington, DC. We will be visiting in October to check out neighborhoods/apartments and are looking for suggestions for our search.

My husband will be working at Northwestern, so Evanston is a possibility. However, a work friend of mine thought Evanston might be a little too suburban for us and suggested the Lincoln Park area. Would love to get some suggestions from Chicagoans out there!

We are 36 years old, no children. Husband will be working at Northwestern as research scientist; I will be working part-time and taking classes at Northwestern in the summer to get a teaching certificate. We like neighborhoods that are reasonably quiet, tree-lined, but would like to be able to conveniently walk to and have in our neighborhood some of these things -- movies, ethnic restaurants, bookstores, antique shops, whole foods/organic grocery/farmer’s markets, second-hand furniture shops, coffee shops, bakeries, etc. (not the mega-store variety, but local-type spots.) We have a car, so would like parking to be readily accessible. Also, we have a dog and will look for dog-friendly garden-style apartments (am not into high rises) or areas with dog parks. We bike, hike, and windsurf, so something reasonably close to these activities would also be a plus. We are not into posh and trendy as much as comfortable, community-oriented type neighborhoods. Something reasonably close to and accessible to all that the city has to offer is also desirable. We hope to find a one-bedroom in the $1200-$1500 range.

Thanks for any help you can give!
 
Old Sep 24th, 2002, 12:38 PM
  #2  
Pat
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Actually, Terri - you just described Evanston!! Evanston is not a typical "suburb" at all. It is the first suburb north of Chicago on the lake; most condo/apartment dwellers there are younger; has a few organic grocery stores and quite possibly the best farmers market on Saturday mornings from May thru the end of October near the downtown area. It is a very liberal town. I think you'd really like it - try looking in the southeast portion - you'll have tree-lined streets, be close to the lake and a few parks. There are many apartment buildings east of Chicago Avenue.
(And it's really not that cold!)
 
Old Sep 24th, 2002, 12:52 PM
  #3  
Lexma90
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I would agree that Evanston doesn't really fit most people's definition of suburban, and you can certainly find places there that are walking distance of stores, etc. Because of the university, there are lots of restuarants, stores, etc. I wouldn't say that Evanston is liberal (and I wouldn't say that NU is liberal, either), but it's not bad.

Lincoln Park has all that, too, in terms of stores, walking, nightlife, etc., but parking is usually a big, big hassle - you'd have to find a place with parking, which not every place has. Also, commuting to Evanston wouldn't be the greatest from Lincoln Park. If you drive, the traffic is heavy, though not terrible because it's not a long drive. I don't know the bus routes, so I can't advise you there. I know there's no express el trail (there's an express el from Evanston to the Loop), and the Metra commuter train doesn't run to Lincoln Park either.

Biking, hiking and wind-surfing are not high on the list of things that are convenient in Chicago or Evanston, but your accessibility will be better than Evanston.

Consider Evanston! I formerly lived in Evanston, then Lincoln Park, and recently went back for a visit. Evanston is a beautiful city. (Though Lincoln Park's a lot of fun too, just maybe not the best for your current desires.)
 
Old Sep 24th, 2002, 01:02 PM
  #4  
alex
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I agree with Pat (except about the cold). I love living in the city but if I was going to consider moving to the suburbs, Evanston would be the first place I would look (I find it very city-like). In addition to the amenities that Pat listed, it also has many great restaurants (like Trio which now has the former sous chef from the French Laundry) and a nice arts scene. We have gone to both Light Opera Works and Next Theatre shows and enjoyed both very much. There is good transportation (both the Metra and the el) and a nice beach at Northwestern.

Lincoln Park would also be a good option especially considering the easy access to the el for transportation to Northwestern. I guess I would recommend walking around the neighborhoods and seeing what feels right for you. Maybe, in the meantime, check out websites like the Chicago Reader's (www.chireader.com), chicagotribune.com, or citysearch.com for more information about neighborhoods and happenings around Chicago, plus you can check the housing classifieds to get a head start.
 
Old Sep 24th, 2002, 01:13 PM
  #5  
Racy
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The Evanston Express train (elevated) stops at Fullerton (Lincoln Park) and Belmont (Lakeview -- just north of there) so you could do it. The driving commute would get old, fast, because Lake Shore Drive ends well south of Evanston.

If you're willing to live in an area that's not completely whilte, middle-class individuals, I would also recommend Rogers Park, just south of the Evanston boarder. I understand there are a lot of places that allow dogs, and access to the lake is decent for pooch-walking.

Oh -- in Chicago, Garden-style apartment means a raised basement, so you'd be partially below ground. Usually dark, sometimes damp.

You probably want parking, wherever you go. Even in Evanston, most of these areas (Lincoln Park and Lakeview, especially) you can drive for a loooong time before finding an empty spot.

There are a number of brokerage services (free to you -- one is The Apartment People) who can show you a large number of apartments in one day, which is good if you're only around for a weekend or so -- they'll screen out buildings that don't meet your needs, adn drive you around.

Teh reader (chireader.com) is by FAR your best bet for rental units. I don't think the Evanston paper is online (weekly ot twice weekly).

Really, Evanston isn't a suburb in that it's full of strip malls and there's nowhere to walk to. It's pretty urban. Hey, I lived above a gang-banging crack dealer -- doesn't get much more urban that that (but I was also paying MUCH less than $1200 for a 2-bedroom apartment, and it WAS 10 years ago...)

HTH,
Racy
 
Old Sep 24th, 2002, 01:37 PM
  #6  
Terri
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Pat --
Thanks for the response. Will definitely check out Evanston. When you say that most apartment dwellers are younger, are you saying that most will be college-age kids? Are there other types of rental housing in Evanston(like townhouses, etc.) that might be in our price range where we would have a little more privacy or be around people our age?

Lexma and Racy -- Thanks for all the transporation info! In a more dense area, like I assume Lincoln Park will be, we would most likely use our D.C. practice of finding a good parking spot on Sunday night, use public transporation to work, and use the car only on the weekends! That's why we like walking neighborhoods!

When I say garden-style apartment, I definitely mean apartments with just one to two floors, definitely not basement-type.

Alex -- Thanks for the website info....will check it out immediately.

Racy, Thanks for the tip on Rogers Park....we are certainly not averse to living somewhere that's not all-white middle class.....we like diversity -- my husband is Russian!

You've all given me lots of food for thought.......it's much appreciated!
 
Old Sep 24th, 2002, 02:03 PM
  #7  
Pat
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Terri: No...not college aged kids...the farther away from Northwestern you look, the less likely you'll have that age group in your area. I meant people in their 30's and up. When my husband & l lived there - in the 1980's and early 1990's, most of the buildings were apartments. Evanston is converting the old apartment buildings into condos and building new ones in the southeast section. The unit owners looking to buy are not college students.
The other thing that is somewhat unique to Chicagoland, is that the leases for a majority of apartments are either October 1st or April 1st. Just thought I'd give you a heads up in that area.
I still lean towards Evanston as a place for you to live.
(P.S. Large Russian communities in Glenview and Skokie which are near Evanston.)
 
Old Sep 24th, 2002, 02:05 PM
  #8  
Racy
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Terri -- there's actually a substantial Russian population (and Jewish) in parts of Rogers Park (it's also building a sizeable gay population).

If you stay away from the immediate campus area, there won't be as many college students. North toward Central or south by Main or South Bouldvard will be less student-infested.

HTH,
Racy
 
Old Sep 24th, 2002, 03:12 PM
  #9  
marilyn
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I just re-read your initial description, and I'd have to join the group urging you to look in Evanston first. It will be SOOO much more convenient in terms of commuting to work and class. Yes, there is an expres train that you can get at Fullerton or Belmont, but it runs only limited hours, and large parts of Lincoln Park are not really el-friendly.

I'd recommend specifically southeast Evanston, east of Chicago Avenue and sount of Dempster, as having everything you described, without being either as crowded or as expensive as Lincoln Park. The Evanston lakefront is far more accesible than in Chicago, and el and metra connections to downtown are great, but you live closer to your work. Lots of great funky stores, second-hand furniture, diverse population, etc. You could probably find a two-bedroom in your price range. I think what you are calling a "garden apartment" we would call "vintage," ie, not a highrise. You wil find a good stock of three- and six-flats as well as large courtyard-style buildings. Parking wil be much less of an issue than in Lincoln Park.
 
Old Sep 24th, 2002, 05:44 PM
  #10  
Ang
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I agree with the other posters for the most part. I love Evanston and if we ever decide to go for a single family home rather than a condo (what we have now) that is where we would go! Evanston has lots of things in walking distance but if you are looking for excitement (fun bars or local pubs) or great shopping you would have to come into the city for that. The commute on Evanston Express (purple line) El from Lincoln Park (Fullerton stop) would be about 20 min, not bad at all. When you say small apartment buildings as opposed to high rises, these are called walk ups or 3 flats in Chicago. Someone was right a "garden" apartment in Chicago is the basement and is partially below street level. I really liek the Lincol Park area though if you want entertainment that is walkable not just shops and restaurants (when I say entertainment think wwalking distance to Wrigley Field Cubs, local sports bars, and shopping of the apparel kind as opposed to antiques) If you have a car, many apartments in Lincoln Park have parking, it jsut cost extra, like $150.month for a spot. Tooloing around to finf street parking is very tough, even more so on weekends when everyone is home from work! Welcome to Chicago! Both Evanston itself and Lincoln Park are great neighborhoods in theor own right. You are right however, its going to be reaaaaaalllly cold. I know becasuee I moved here from Kentucky 3 years ago and you never really get used to it, you just grin and bear it!
 
Old Sep 24th, 2002, 06:03 PM
  #11  
marilyn
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I'd have to say that thinking it is 20 minutes from Fullerton to Northwestern on the el must mean you actually believe those estimates they post on the signs. There is no way this is a realistic estimate of the time it would usually take, more like double that, and of course you have to get to the Fullerton el stop to start with/
 
Old Sep 24th, 2002, 06:46 PM
  #12  
patg
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The Evanston Review is one of the Pioneer Press newspapers, available online at
http://www.pioneerlocal.com/cgi-bin/ppo-newsstand

Don't overlook the Evanston tourism (or chamber of commerce) website. Northwestern U would also be a good place to contact regarding area housing.

Avoid the area around Evanston high school and the southwest corner. The Central Avenue area is very nice. The Chicago Avenue corridor is well-located and has a lot of new construction.
 
Old Sep 24th, 2002, 07:15 PM
  #13  
Ang
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If you take the Purple Line Evanston express from Fullerton to Evanston iit is about 20-25 and there is only one stop in between at Belmont. If on the other hand you take the Red Line from Fullerton to Evanston it would take close to 45 min. They run on basically the same track but the red line makes all the stops, the Express doesn't. I admit the Express train only runs on weedays until I think 7 pm and does not run on sundays. During those times you would drive or take the longer non-express red line. As far as getting to Fullerton stop. It is right in the center of Lincoln Park at Depaul University and there are some GREAT apartments right around it in a 5-10 min walk. That's actually one of the hottest and nicest areas. Again, I like Evanston too and its a great walking community as well jsut not much going on as far as nightlife and much further from downtown. Depends on what your priorities aare.
 
Old Sep 24th, 2002, 08:19 PM
  #14  
marilyn
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The Purple line basically only runs during the rush hour on weekdays, like until 9 or 10 am leaving Evanston and then it resumes about 4 pm at Fullerton. Service is very limited, and I would still argue that 20 minutes is an optimistic estimate of the amount of time it will take to get to Davis or Foster in Evanston. I didn't mean that getting to the Fullerton stop would be tough, just that it adds to the travel time estimate.
 
Old Sep 25th, 2002, 11:42 AM
  #15  
Terri
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Wow...was away from my computer for a bit....it's great to get the additional information.

Looks like we will check out both Evanston and Lincoln Park, but I must admit the idea of having an easy commute may make Evanston the winner. (Also, we're boring...not into the nightlife scene so much....we save all our bar energy for visits from our single friends.)

Thanks again, all, for the websites and fpr giving me tips on the apartment vocabulary...after checking out the apartment search website someone suggested, I've found that vintage, 3-flat, is exactly what I had in mind.

One more question, and then I'll leave you folks alone...I had mentioned that we like hiking, biking and water sports. My husband has already resigned himself to selling his river kayak before we move...but do you think there will be places around Chicago for windsurfing? Also, maybe a silly question since we're talking midwest here, but does anyone know of decent hiking within a 2-3 hour drive of Evanston area? I assume biking is going to be fine....we were told the trail from Evanston to downtown along the lake is really nice.

Thanks again for all your input.
 
Old Sep 25th, 2002, 11:58 AM
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alex
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I typed Chicagoland hiking trails into Yahoo and came up with this website: www.thebackpacker.com and one of the first articles was on hiking and biking in the Chicagoland area. That may be helpful. I have actually seen people kayaking in the Chicago river and there are many rivers in the suburbs such as the Fox River where people kayak. People definitely sea kayak in Lake Michigan but I do not know about windsurfing.
 
Old Sep 26th, 2002, 06:46 AM
  #17  
Boo
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Hi.

Before you make a committment be sure to check the Lakeview neighborhood. It is just north of Lincoln Park, has the same amenities (including walking distance to Wrigley Field (if you're masochists)) and it is slightly cheaper than L.P.

You're welcome.
 
Old Sep 26th, 2002, 09:12 AM
  #18  
marilyn
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Well, if you are boring and not into nightlife, want a short commute, and favor outdoor activities, Evanston is definitely the place, since it has all your original requests and much better access to the lake. People definitely use kayaks in the Chicago area, including in rivers (Fox, Des Plaines, maybe the north branch of the Chicago River), lagoons (Skokie lagoons), and smaller area lakes as well as Lake Michigan. There are sailing beaches at both Evanston and one suburb north in Wilmette, and I have at least one friend who has been known to windsurf. This is pretty seasonal, though.

If you are willing to go out 3 hours, there are plenty of places to hike: Galena area, Starved Rock, Devil's Lake near Baraboo in Wisconsin, all very scenic and about 2-3 hours. Bong Recreation area, no more than 50-60 minutes north on 94, is less picturesque, but has camping, hiking, and a small lake.
 
Old Sep 26th, 2002, 11:16 AM
  #19  
Terri
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Yes, I did say we are boring -- when it comes to going out to bar -- so no offense taken. Altho the more I'm reading about Chicago, seems that some of the blues clubs might work for us from time to time.

We'll be looking for a place in October, so I'll let you all know what we decided since you were all such a great source of info.
 
Old Sep 29th, 2002, 06:44 AM
  #20  
x
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"2-3 hours" for hiking can take you to the Kettle Moraine area of Wisconsin (There's a southern and a northern) Both beautiful areas and very worth exploring. Hope you enjoy your new life as Midwesterners!
 

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