Defining Chicago's Neighborhoods

Defining Chicago's Neighborhoods

I'm working on a post about Chicago's hottest neighborhoods but before I do that I realized that I better provide some background information on what exactly are the Chicago neighborhoods since this concept is very confusing and ripe with misinformation and really bad terminology. The whole thing is such a mess that it took me months to make sense out of it all when I first got into the real estate business and I finally created some tools to help me keep it all straight. I'm going to share those tools with you.

Let's start with the word "neighborhood" itself, which is used way too loosely in Chicago. In reality the city is officially divided up into 77 community areas and these are precisely defined as aggregations of census tracts, which themselves are defined by the US Census Bureau. This whole system was created by The Social Science Research Committee of The University of Chicago in the late 1920s and has been used ever since for a variety of planning projects. Every part of the city belongs to one such community area and each community area has been given a name and an area number - e.g. Lake View #6, Lincoln Park #7, Logan Square #22. The area numbers correspond to the first (leftmost) 2 digits of a 4 or 6 digit version of the census tract numbers.

I've created a Web page that lists out the 77 community areas with their names, numbers, and a small map showing where these community areas are in the city. Some of these community areas have links to pages with more information on them, including larger and more detailed maps of that particular community area. And if you click on that small map it will take you to a much larger, color version with the community area names. You can click on the larger map again to blow it up to it's largest size.

We really shouldn't call these community areas neighborhoods because we need that term to reference another Chicago construct - smaller geographical areas that are NOT precisely defined. And that's where things get really complicated. As the British say "it's a bit of a dog's breakfast".

There are often several neighborhoods within a community area but sometimes the neighborhoods cross over community area boundaries and sometimes a neighborhood will share a name with a community area - the neighborhood of Humboldt Park is a good example. And not every part of Chicago has a neighborhood name, though realtors are always looking to create new neighborhood names like West Bucktown. And sometimes these neighborhoods overlap - e.g. Greek Town and The West Loop.

So in an effort to make sense out of the neighborhoods I created this handy dandy Google map. Admittedly it's not complete but that's simply because it concentrates on areas where we tend to work and in some cases I couldn't in good conscious draw boundaries for the neighborhood.

You can click on a colored map area to find out the name of the neighborhood. And note the link to the full size version of this map just below it. That full size version also has an alphabetical list of neighborhoods on the left side that you can click on to find the neighborhood.


View Chicago Neighborhoods in a larger map

The reason I created my own maps is because many of the maps that are out there are either not detailed enough or not big enough or (and this drives me crazy) they show a mixture of neighborhoods and community areas. Consequently many of the community areas are missing from the map.

I hope you find these resources helpful in navigating the city.

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