The Green Zone Litmus Test

Since this blog started out about house-hunting and it lives in the Real Estate section of ChicagoNow, I figured I should still occasionally write about Realty, property and related Chicago Neighborhood Map (credit: DreamTown Reality)topics.

What is the Green Zone?

In certain local Real Estate Circles, the term Green Zone refers a subset of neighborhoods that are set apart from the rest of the Chicago neighborhoods. These GreenZone Hoods tend be be the more popular neighborhoods that college graduates, new transplants and DINKS tend to gravitate toward.  The areas have established amenities, high property values, and low crime. The Green Zone term was a reference to Baghdad. Just like how folks refer to the south and west sides as Chiraq now.

But what exactly makes a neighborhood part of the Green Zone and where does this GZ fall on the map of Chicago?  It is like porn, you know it when you see it, but it is hard to define.

High concentration of Trixies and Chads? Check.
Starbucks? Check.
Lululemon? Check.
Trendy restaurants? Check.
Close to El? Check.*

* Not TOO close as in to hear it in your bedroom and not too far as in not too far to walk in in-climate weather.

By informal Consensus, the following neighborhoods are considered GZ by the majority of the current real estate pundits:

Lincoln Park
Bucktown/Wicker Park
Lakeview
Southport
Roscoe Village
Andersonville
Ravenswood
Lincoln Square
South Loop
West Loop
Streeterville
Gold Coast
River North
Millennium Park/Loop

So looking at the neighborhoods from the above list, I asked myself what do these very diverse neighborhoods have in common?  I came up with 5 categories that each one scores relatively high in.  So I give you the GZ Litmus Test.  If you can score high in four of the following five, the neighborhood is Green Zone.  [I'll leave defining a neighborhood and sub-hoods, e.g. Lincoln Square and North Center are more or less covered by Ravenswood, to another forum].

The GZ Litmus Test

Relatively Low Crime:  This should be obvious but I'll emphasize that there's probably no such place a crime free zone.  For GZ def purposes, No noticeable gang presence and very little graffiti.  The level of Violent Crime should approach zero.  See Gary Lucido's post on this.

Schools:  public schools are decent enough to send kids if private/parochial is not an option.

Walk-ability:  Proximity to amenities is again subjective but I'll say if you have a decent sized park near by and a mix of restaurant types to frequent without repeating one during the week.  Independent coffee shops, boutiques and local alternatives to big box stores goes a long way.  Dog Parks.

Access to public transportation:  whether you use it or not, the ability to get around town. Availability of cabs should factor in here.

Desired Housing Stock:  This is a little tricky so I'll go by way of example.  Downtown has luxury high rises, Lincoln Park has Vintage buildings, River North and Wicker Park have converted lofts.  Others on' list have new construction with great amenities.  Conversely, hoods within the Bungalow Belt are probably never going to be.

So if you step through this, Old Irving Park fits, but Albany Park doesn't.  For now. Some hoods are on the cusp like Ukrainian Village and Logan Square. West Town isn't GZ just yet, but it is definitely getting there. Some neighborhoods will never get there.
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