RedEye 'Hoods


The rebirth of the Southport corridor

The rebirth of the Southport corridor

Photos from around the Southport corridor (John Lendman photos for RedEye)

By John Lendman

A few blocks west of the sports bar party scene of Clark Street, a sleepy neighborhood is going through a rapid growth spurt.

A stroll down Southport Avenue north of Addison Street may have you second-guessing whether there was a housing crisis at all. Multimillion-dollar homes now pepper the tree-lined streets, where the average home price is $570,000–about a 40-percent increase in five years, according to census data and the New York Times.

Jeff Proctor, a real estate agent for At Properties, said he’s found 6,000-square foot, single-family homes near Blaine Elementary School off Grace Street selling in the $2.5 million range.

“Once you start hitting that ticket price, the whole area starts to explode,” Proctor said. “You can tell there’s a desire to be in that specific location.”

This hot real estate zone definitely didn’t exist ten years ago, said Brad Lippitz, a local real estate agent who has been selling in the Lakeview market for more than 20 years.

“A huge influx of new construction and development has taken the neighborhood by storm,” he said, adding that the vintage rehabs, graystones and condo rentals have been slowly following suit. There’s been about a nine-percent rent increase, according to census data. 

Lippitz’s and Proctor’s clients tell them they’re drawn to the small town feel of having high-performing neighborhood schools, (an A+ rating from CPS in 2010) diverse restaurants, boutiques and entertainment amenities in walking distance, he said.

For Dennis Dillingham, that’s what drew him and his wife from East Lakeview four years ago, he said.

Dillingham, 34, and his wife wanted to live in a neighborhood with good schools, proximity to the Southport Brown Line stop, but one that’s also a stone’s throw from Wrigley Field’s festive atmosphere.

“Although Wrigley Field can be a bit of nuisance during Cubs games, it does kind of add a festive feel to the area during the summer,” he said. “It’s one of the few areas that we found that truly feels like a neighborhood.”

But not all of West Wrigleyville has been a gentrification fairy tale.

It’s one of the only Chicago neighborhoods that didn’t see a population decline in the latest census, but the Southport corridor has had its ups and downs, Lakeview Chamber of Commerce Director Heather Way said.

The closings of the Brown Line “L” stop in 2007 and the Waveland Avenue Jewel in 2008 (both for remodeling), stunted the commercial growth of the area, Way said.

“It was like this rolling negative impact of things that were beyond our control,” Way said.

But since they’ve both reopened, the commerce chamber and locals have learned to count their blessings.

The chamber has been hard at work studying local businesses and its impact on the neighborhood with the Lakeview Area Master Plan, which looks into extensive demographic and psychographic data, she said. The full study will be released March 15.

“[Southport] has a healthy mixture of independent businesses that reach a broad demographic,” Way said. “There’s something for men, women, kids, families–we seem to be trending in that direction.”

But sometimes rapid growth can lead to unobtainable housing prices, potentially driving out current residents.

“We would love to stay longer and upgrade the size of our home, but the prices are kind of driving a lot of people away,” said Dillingham, who owns a $350,000 condo. “Single-family homes and townhomes aren’t as cost-preferred as they once were.”

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