We have our wish list and decided what we want, which feels like a nice accomplishment. Don’t be fooled! The real research is yet to come. What neighborhoods would actually meet our basic parameters?
One of the first tasks is to look at a public transit map and identify which CTA train corridors would be convenient and of interest to us. We talked to friends and friends of friends who live in the city and had knowledge of the areas we were investigating. The spread of opinion was quite remarkable, but we got nevertheless a much better feel for the various areas. To test the opinions we received, we drove through the neighborhoods to collect our first impressions.
We quickly learned what to look for, and I am not talking about the community assets such as retail and other service. No, it’s things such as the care that is given to the houses and yards and the number of vacant buildings on any given block. Are those buildings secured or broken into? Have the neighbors formed and maintain an active block club or other community group that would indicate they are looking out for each other? How many vacant properties are on the block? What is the zoning? What are the current development plans and schedules? The various aldermen and the Department of Zoning and Planning have knowledge of the latter.
We also tapped into a number of online resources. Just typing the neighborhood name into Google led us to descriptions and historic background information. Other good online resources were the Chicago Neighborhood Map and the Chicago Reader Ward Map. The Chicago Tribune has a real estate section on their website that offers neighborhood statistics such an income levels and the ratio of owner occupied versus rental properties.
What is the crime rate and type of crimes in any areas of the city? This is easy research thanks to a couple of excellent websites. The Chicago Police Department CLEARMAP is a GIS based system that provides access to a large variety of crime statistics for various time frames. Every Block Chicago is another excellent resource. You can type in an address and have access to a whole range of statistics, including crime for an eight, three or one block radius, in a variety of time frames.
All right then, with all this research done, let’s look at some real estate listings to see what is on the market in those ‘hoods!