Living Within Chicago

Which Chicago Neighborhood (Down Town is community-area-32) should we live in? Want Urban Village environment, or East Village style. There are 77 "CommunityArea-s", broken down further into 228 "neighborhoods".

  • here's a list of some neighborhoods, for comparison. The North-West area sounds generally dicey. The richest areas have median income $60-65k (to scale your thinking). The North side (and near-North ) looks most promising (aside from the central Downtown/Loop area).

  • here's a map showing "walkability" of neighborhoods, with Mass Transit lines laid over. The North side (and near-North and Loop) look pretty good in that sense, too.

  • a friend-of-friend says:

    • I suggest looking into Evans Ton. While it is technically a suburb, it is directly adjacent to the northern most neighborhood in Chicago, has access to all Public Transit, feels like a (very clean) part of the city, and has pretty good schools from what I understand. Northwestern is located there, which gives it a pretty young, intelligent population. It's the Berkeley or Brooklyn of Chicago in many ways.

    • As far as more urban, family-friendly areas, Roscoe Village is centrally located on the north side and many young, hipper families reside there. Likewise, Lake View (which is where I live) is right on the lake, central north Chicago location, has amazing schools, and is a very open-minded neighborhood (Boystown is here). There's a trade-off, in that you have to put up with baseball season (Wrigley is smack in the middle of Lakeview), but having so many independent businesses and diverse people around makes it worth it. Nettelhorst Elementary seriously makes me want to have babies: (GreatSchools gives it a 6.)

    • Wicker Park is also a popular option for the hipster crowd, and it's gentrified enough to be inviting to families. One of the issues with that (north-west) side of Chicago (which includes Wicker Park, Ukrainian Village, Little Village, Bucktown, and Humbodlt Park) is that, despite all the new indie businesses, it is still very gang-ridden and dangerous. By far more so than comparable neighborhoods in SF, LA, and NYC. These neighborhoods def. have more of the artsy vibe I like to live around, but I feel that I've reached the point where I'll take even Cubs fans over drive-bys.

    • You also may want to look into Andersonville. It has a small-town vibe in the middle of the city. Very family-friendly, lots of indie businesses, and many amazing Swedish eateries.

    • On the yuppier side, there's Hyde Park (Barack's house is there) and Lincoln Park (um, Pete Wentz lives there), and it'll cost you a pretty penny to live around these neighborhoods. Plus, there really isn't much diversity, as you can imagine.

    • (re West Ridge) It has its merits - Devon Street, for one! Devon is an all-Indian corridor that makes that whole part of town smell yummy. When my husband and I first moved to the city we lived in Rogers Park, which right next to West Ridge (also called WestRogers Park), but along the lakes. The architecture up there is fantastic, but the transit option can be problematic depending on which part of the neighborhood you are in. I fell in love with Rogers Park because of the amazing architecture, great prices, and the miles (seriously, miles) of Loyola beach that no one seems to use. We moved south to Lake View because of all the gun-toting 13 year olds. I'm not sure if the gangs are as prevalent in WestRogers Park, but I do know a bunch of people that grew up around there and loved it for the diversity and neighborhood feel. That said, the 49th Ward Alderman totally sucks. You may want to look slightly south to the Ravenswood/Lincoln Square areas.

What's the school situation? Probably the good schools would be all filled up for the year: would they take pity on a new "immigrant", if they were impressed by The Boys?

  • this will be a major factor in picking the Neighborhood to live in.

  • here's the Great Schools Net list of "great" Middle School-s, public and private. (I tweaked the url to get the top-17 schools, which are those rated 9 or 10. Note the handy map in the right column.)

    • here's a comparison of the schools they rate as 9 or 10.

      • the schools that seem like too much of a Monoculture (over 50% any one group) are: Edgebrook; Lenart; Mc Dade; maybe Skinner.

      • wow Class Size is rather high on most of them.

      • Blaine School: PK-8, 774 students, Lake View: a Fine Arts Magnet and World Language (Spanish) center. short-list open to students living in attendance area. If space is available, applicants living outside the attendance area may attend. Contact school for more information. There's a map showing the boundaries they use. I spoke to the principal and established

        • 100% of students take Spanish. They are considering offering French as an after-school program (they already offer Chinese that way).

        • they do some sort of tracking of students, which seems to run across-core-subjects, where they accelerate the program for some students. They need time to evaluate a student for that track, so they probably wouldn't be willing to start out kids there (though maybe I could push it). The teachers evaluate the student (based on class performance, not standardized tests), and they make sure the student wants to move: if all that looks good, they can move the student during the year, not wait for some time-boundary.

      • Decatur Classical: K-12 (?), 266 students, West Ridge: an accelerated academic program emphasizing traditional liberal arts short-list presently Decatur does not have an opening for a student entering the fourth grade but may have an opening for a student entering the sixth grade. So they couldn't go to the same school, and would have to have the single best score of all the competing last-minute students to get that one slot.

      • Ebinger Elementary: PK-8, 642 students, Edison Park

      • Edgebrook Elementary: K-8, 394 students, Forest Glen

      • Edison Elementary (Regional Gifted Center): K-8, 274 students, Albany Park

      • Hawthorne Scholastic Academy: K-8, 553 students, Lake View: short-list accept students citywide through a random lottery, which has already been conducted

      • Jackson A Elementary (Language Academy) - nope

      • Keller Elementary (Gifted Magnet): 1-8, 223 students, Oak Lawn suburb southwest - nope

      • La Salle Elementary (Language Academy): K-12, 571 students, Lincoln Park: short-list accept students citywide through a random lottery, which has already been conducted. The principal wrote: However, we are a magnet school with a lottery. Applications are received in the fall for the following year. At this point of time, our enrollment is completed.

      • Lenart Elementary (Regional Gifted Center) - nope

      • Lincoln Elementary: K-12, 640 students, Lincoln Park: short-list open to students living in attendance area. If space is available, applicants living outside the attendance area may attend. Contact school for more information... also offers the IB Prep Program for academically advanced students in grades 6-8. This requires testing for admissions but there are currently not any open seats in the IB program at Lincoln. The principal wrote: Our K-5 program teachers teach at grade level. Since we are a neighborhood school CPS requires that our students/families reside within a prescribed attendance area; see our school website for the Lincoln School attendance boundaries ( According to CPS policy, since we are a neighborhood public school, we must accept all students that reside within our attendance area and make room for them all. Lincoln School offers the International Baccalaureate Prep program for students in grades 6-8. This is a magnet gifted program open to all children within the city regardless of where they reside in Chicago. The selection process is competitive based on academics/testing and the selection and testing process is conducted by the CPS Office of Academic Enhancement. So, they will take us for the general program, but Number One Son couldn't get into the IB-Prep program this year, and it would be really hard the following year because the only open slots for 7th grade would be from students leaving after 6th grade, and he's be competing with every 7th grader in the city wanting to get into that program.

      • Mc DadeElementaryClassical - nope

      • Norwood ParkElementary: PK-8, 358 students, Norwood Park

      • Oriole ParkElementary: PK-8, 607 students, Oriole Park (within Norwood Park)

      • Sheridan Elementary (Math And Science Academy) - nope

      • Skinner Elementary - nope

      • YoungMagnetHigh School (grades 7-12), nope for now

  • there are also magnet schools: this is actually a more generalized category, which includes the TAG/gifted schools. The non-gifted magnet schools seem to run purely on a lottery system, and have 1 focus such as: math and science; literature/writing; performing arts; world language; technology. The schools that have over 75% for both math and english (I believe that refers to % testing at grade level) are:

  • there are also Charter School-s, but do not seem terribly attractive.

  • the University Of Chicago Lab School (UCLS) is in Hyde Park and costs roughly $21k. (They say they are sold out for next year.)

Big discovery about test-in schools: they get totally filled in the spring-time process, so if you move in after that, you seem to be stuck going to a neighborhood school for the 1st year!

Let's revisit Neighborhood-s that have either been recommended or have promising schools.

Looking at apartment rents

  • hrm if you want 4+ bedrooms you don't have many choices.

Actually, reverse-commute to HoffmanEstates sounds too painful, so will aim for Living In Chicago Suburbs.

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