Neighborhood Spotlight: Old Town

Modern Old Town alludes to the Victorian era, with its Italianate and Queen Anne architectural style and masonry. But, not too long ago, the area was home to multiple Native American tribes. These people, from whom Chicago gets its name, add to the rich history of both Old Town and Chi Town. Flash forward more than a hundred years, and a new comedy enterprise joins the neighborhood. The organization is called Second City (celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009), and a bevy of Chicagoans have found success via the improvisational club. From Bill Murray to Tina Fey, Old Town has seen its share of celebrities. In terms of boundaries, the neighborhood is not intimately defined: Some individuals defend that Old Town extends as far as one can hear the bells from St. Michael’s Church. Such a statement reaffirms the importance of such an historic structure – the cathedral is one of only seven buildings that survived the Great Chicago Fire.

Evolving Factors:
Construction activity has exploded in Old Town. Chicago legislatures have issued a demolition permit to JAB Real Estate for a planned six-story, mixed-use development on North Avenue. The $16 million project at 227-233 W. North Ave. will feature 60 apartments, 2,000 sf of retail and 20 parking stalls, according to Curbed. JAB wants to raze the existing 3-story building on the site, which contains retail and 24 apartments. The JAB development joins a growing Old Town pipeline, a majority of which is centered near North Avenue. Sedgwick Properties is building a 69-unit apartment building at 301 West North Ave. The group also acquired the lot at 1325 N. Wells St. in November for $4.5 million. Chicago Development Partners have approval to build a boutique hotel on the site of O'Brien's Restaurant & Bar, which will close for more than a year. New York company Jenel Management paid $8.55 million earlier this year for the 2- and 3-story buildings in the 1400 block of Wells, which included the former home of French restaurant Bistrot Margo. Not to mention, Father & Son Plaza at North and Larrabee is being marketed as a mixed-use redevelopment.

The neighborhood boasts three ‘L’ stops – Sedgewick is Brown Line while North/Clybourn and Clark/Division are red. Additionally, multiple buses run through Old Town, including the 9, 22, 36, 37, 70, 72 and 156 lines, and numerous Divvy bikes litter the area. All of this means that transportation to anywhere in the city is not only cheap but plentiful.

Based on 2016 demographic estimates from The Nielsen Company, Old Town contains a population of 12,300 Chicagoans. Women comprise a slight majority of the neighborhood (54 percent) compared with men (46 percent). The area houses a younger crowd, given that almost half (46 percent) of residents are between the ages of 25 and 44 and the median age for both genders is 35. A high proportion of individuals have high school diplomas and bachelor’s degrees (96 and 73 percent respectively). The average household size for Old Town is 1.7 people, and the average household income is $120,434. Nearly 92 percent of the community is employed. The rental and ownership market in Old Town is essentially split in half — 50.2 percent of people rent.

Retail & Dining:
The area has Fleet Street, an athletic store geared toward runners. Another reason that Old Town is becoming extra attractive for developers is dining in the area. Staples like Old Town Social, Old Town Pour House, Topo Gigio, Fireplace Inn and Declan’s Irish Pub remain icons in the historic Victorian corridor. Steakbar, equal parts industrial and nostalgic, offers classic cuts and cocktails. New sports bar, complete with long-awaited chicken wings and eponymous memorabilia, Rabbit Hole opened in September. Antique style, matched with quality comestibles, make these eateries favorites for residents.

Make sure to keep this neighborhood on your radar.

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Old Town