There is plenty to love about Chicago. Our public lakefront is one of a kind. Millenium Park is a jewel. We have world class theater, museums, music, sports and shopping.
But Chicago is also known as a city of neighborhoods. I’m fortunate enough to live in one of the better ones. Not the wealthiest. Not the prettiest. But one of the most livable neighborhoods, in my opinion.
I live in the Irving Park neighborhood near the border with Albany Park on the Northwest Side of the city. It’s not the tony Old Irving Park with it’s historic old frame homes and fence-free front yards. My area stays a bit truer to its working class roots. Bungalows and two-flats are prevalent, though the smaller homes are systematically being replaced by larger, single-family homes. Sadly, most of the double lots have been divided and built up as well. Regardless, our neighborhood remains affordable. Rents have gone up, but they are still cheaper than most of the surrounding area.
Here are some of the other things I love about my neighborhood:
- Diversity. We are situated just south of Albany Park, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city. We have a large Latino population with roots that span the Americas (the Ecuadorian and Guatemalan parades both go down Montrose Avenue). Koreatown is just up the street. The Bulgarian and Latvian Cultural Centers are both housed here. We have two mosques, several small protestant churches, and two large Catholic churches just outside the borders.
- Accessibility. With a Metra stop, stations for both the blue and brown ‘L’ trains, and bus routes running on nearly every major street, public transportation is easily accessible. And since we’re right off the Kennedy (at the junction), it’s easy to drive here as well – and my street is un-zoned so you can even park when you get here! If you don’t like either of those options you can ride your bike of course. Or you can always just walk.
- Small-town feel. As I mentioned above, people actually walk here. You can get anything you want in walking distance. Want a haircut? You won’t have to walk more than two blocks. Need milk? Also, two blocks. Q-tips? Okay, maybe three blocks. You might have to walk a little farther if you need something specific, but most everything is right here. And though we have more than our share of chain pharmacies and 7-Elevens, the smaller businesses (hair salons, corner stores, small restaurants and bakeries) make the area feel quaint – as does our neighborhood green space, Independence Park. Once you live here for a while you find that the small size has its benefits, not the least of which is that you really get to know the people.
- Food. Irving Park is the opposite of a ‘food desert’. Food… we have it all. Grocery stores? We have several large ones (Tony’s, Cermak) and countless smaller ones. Restaurants? If I want a taco there are no less than 20 taquerias within a mile of my house. There are several options for Filipino, Chinese, Thai, and standard American fare. If you walk a little farther you can find German or Korean food. Don’t want to walk much? Go to nearly any corner in the morning for tamales and atole. Don’t want to walk anywhere?? A paletero or elotero is likely to pass by if the weather is nice.
These are just a few things I love about where I live. I can say that I love my city despite it’s recent reputation because I love my neighborhood. I love living here. My quality of life is pretty good.
Needless to say I would be telling a completely different story if I lived in one of the neighborhoods that has been left behind.
Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment! Or feel free to email me at email@example.com
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