The Power of Rail: Urban Chicago

November 10, 2009 26 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Urban Chicago gives Jacksonville a visual glimpse of what inner core neighborhoods can resemble when a community makes a significant investment in rail-based infrastructure.

Chicago Rail Map (click on image to enlarge)

Chicago Neighborhoods (click on image to enlarge)


Chicago's Chinatown is home to a number of banks, Chinese restaurants, gift shops, grocery stores, Chinese medicine stores, as well as a number of services that cater to people interested in Chinese culture, including those speaking Chinese, especially the Cantonese dialect. It is a community hub for Chinese people in Chicagoland, a business center for Chinese in the Midwest, as well as a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.

Looking to escape the anti-Chinese violence that had broken out on the west coast, the first Chinese arrived in Chicago after 1869 when the First Transcontinental Railroad was completed. By the late 1800s, 25% of Chicago's approximately 600 Chinese residents settled along Clark Street between Van Buren and Harrison Avenues in Chicago's Loop. Faced with increasing rent prices, the Chinese living in this area began moving south to Armour Square in 1912. This exodus was led by the On Leong Merchants Association who, in 1912, had a building constructed along Cermak Avenue (then 22nd Street) that could house 15 stores, 30 apartments and the Association's headquarters. While the building's design was typical of the period, it also featured Chinese accents such as tile trim adorned with dragons.

In the 1920s, Chinese community leaders secured approximately 50 ten-year leases on properties in the newly developing Chinatown.

Chinatown is served by the north-south-running Red Line, the CTA's busiest transit route, which stops regularly at the Cermak-Chinatown station located in the heart of Chinatown near the corner of Cermak Road and Wentworth Avenue.,_Chicago

Little Italy

Little Italy is in the Near West Side community area of Chicago, Illinois. While there are several Italian American communities that thrive within the Chicago metropolitan area, Taylor Street, the port-of-call for Chicago's Italian American immigrants, inherited the title of Chicago's Little Italy. Taylor Street Archives The current boundaries of Taylor Street's Little Italy are Western Avenue on the west and Morgan Street (the University of Illinois at Chicago) on the east---bracketed by Harrison Street on the north and Roosevelt Road; i.e., 12th Street, on the south. The more popular and vibrant end of Taylor Street's Little Italy encompasses the 12 block stretch between Ashland Avenue on the west (the Illinois Medical District) and the University of Illinois at Chicago on the east. It continues to be a neighborhood of strong Italian influence.

Taylor Street's Little Italy was part of a larger community:--Chicago's Near West Side. Dominant among the immigrant communities that comprised the Near West Side during the mass migration of Europeans at the turn of the century, were Italians, Greeks and Jews. While other ethnic groups vacated the neighborhood, beginning with the early part of the twentieth century, only the Italian American enclave remained as a vibrant community. Greek Town and Maxwell Street business establishments continue to flourish and serve as a reminder of the ethnic mix that had made up the Near West Side community. Other ethnicities have always been present in the area known as "Little Italy." Nonetheless, the neighborhood was given its name due to the strong influence of Italians and Italian culture on the neighborhood throughout the 19th and 20th century.

Though the Italian population declined throughout the late 20th century, many Italian restaurants and groceries remain in the formerly prominent Taylor Street corridor. The neighborhood also hosts the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame as well as the historic Roman Catholic churches Our Lady of Pompeii, Notre Dame de Chicago, and Holy Family .,_Chicago

University Village

University Village is a renamed near west Chicago community consisting of newly constructed residential and retail properties. The University Village/Little Italy community cherishes its rich past as one of the first neighborhoods of Chicago. The community is home to mixed-income residents from ethnically diverse socio-economic backgrounds as a result of immigration, urban renewal, gentrification and the growth of the resident student and faculty population of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

University Village, Chicago, consists of major new residential developments over old known Chicago neighborhoods. One such development is the Ivy Hall development, over the area once known as the Maxwell Street neighborhood. This development took one of the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago and made it into a middle- to upper-class income area.,_Chicago

West Loop

West Loop Gate / West Loop

Often called just "the West Loop," West Loop Gate makes up the north central area of the Near West Side, west of Chicago's Loop. It is bordered by the Kennedy Expressway to the east, Grand Avenue on the north, the Eisenhower Expressway to the south, and Ashland Avenue to the west. The neighborhood also extends to the Chicago River south of Madison Street.

A former manufacturing corridor turned art-edgy neighborhood, the area consists primarily of warehouses that are still in use or have been converted to loft condominiums (loftominiums), restaurants, night clubs, art galleries, and some retail. It is also the home of Harpo Studios, owned by well known talk show host Oprah Winfrey, and the production site of her syndicated television show.,_Chicago


The Greektown section of Chicago is located roughly between Van Buren and Madison Streets, along Halsted Street, within the Near West Side community area of Chicago. It was popularized in the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," which was actually filmed mostly in Toronto. The neighborhood is known for its plethora of excellent Greek restaurants, including the famous Parthenon, and its 24 hour foodspots.,_Chicago

Wicker Park

Wicker Park is a Chicago neighborhood northwest of the Loop, south of Bucktown. Charles and Joel Wicker purchased 80 acres of land along Milwaukee Avenue in 1870 and laid out a subdivision with a mix of lot sizes surrounding a 4-acre park. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 spurred the first wave of development, as homeless Chicagoans looked to build new houses. Wicker Park proved especially popular with German and Swedish merchants, who built large mansions along the neighborhood's choicest streets--particularly on Hoyne and Pierce, just southwest of North & Damen, known then as Robey. At the end of the 19th century, the area was known as "the Polish Gold Coast" and Hoyne was known as "Beer Baron Row," as many of Chicago's wealthiest brewers built mansions there.

After World War II, many Poles moved to newer, less crowded housing further northwest, and Wicker Park became more ethnically diverse with a large influx of Puerto Rican immigrants. Split from the Lincoln Park neighborhood only by the Kennedy Expressway in the late 50's and 60's, it contained the second largest concentration of Puerto Ricans in Chicago. It was the original home to the largest Latino gang at the time, the Latin Kings. The Young Lords, a human rights movement, held sit-ins with L.A.D.O. at the Wicker Park Welfare Office and large non violent marches to city hall. Urban renewal projects were undertaken to combat "urban blight" in some parts of the neighborhood, but disinvestment continued at a rapid clip.

Efforts by community development groups like N.C.O. (Northwest Community Organization) to stabilize the community through new affordable-housing construction in the 1980s coincided with the arrival of artists attracted by the neighborhood's easy access to the Loop, cheap loft space in the abandoned factories, and distinctly urban feel.

Today, the neighborhood is best known for its numerous commercial and entertainment establishments and being a convenient place to live for downtown workers due to its proximity to public transportation and the loop. Gentrification has made the area much more attractive to college educated, white collar workers, although it faced considerable resistance from the working class Puerto Rican community it displaced. Crime has decreased and many new homes have been built as well as older homes being restored. This has led to increased business activity, with many new bars, restaurants, and stores opening to serve these individuals. Property values have gone up, increasing the wealth of property owners and making the neighborhood attractive to real estate investors.,_Chicago

Ukrainian Village

Ukrainian Village is south of Wicker Park. Settlement of the neighborhood was largely spurred by the 1895 construction of an elevated train line along Paulina Ave (1700 W); the "L" was decomissioned in 1964 but still partly exists to shuttle trains through the CTA rail system. In past decades, it has been a safe, middle-class neighborhood, populated by older citizens of Eastern European ethnicity, bordered (and affected) on many sides by more dangerous areas. It was insulated somewhat from surrounding socioeconomic change by large industrial areas on its south and west borders and by the staying power of the Orthodox and Ukrainian Catholic congregations. Although Ukrainian village continues to be the center of Chicago's large Ukrainian community, the gentrification of West Town is rapidly changing the demographic.,_Chicago

Logan Square

Logan Square is a community area located on the northwest side of the City of Chicago. The name, used here to describe the city-designated community area defined by U.S. census tracts, also applies to one of a number of smaller, more loosely defined residential neighborhoods within the Logan Square community. The Logan Square neighborhood is centered on the public square that serves as its namesake. Logan Square proper houses the 3-way intersection of Milwaukee Avenue, Logan Boulevard and Kedzie Boulevard.

The community area of Logan Square is, in general, bounded by the Metra/Milwaukee District North Line railroad on the west, the North Branch of the Chicago River on the east, Diversey Avenue on the north, and Armitage on the south. The area is characterized by the prominent historical boulevards and large bungalow-style homes.

The neighborhood is home to a diverse population including Latinos (primarily Mexican and Puerto Rican, with some Cuban), African-Americans and a number of ethnicities from Eastern Europe, (mostly Poles). At one time, Logan Square boasted a large Norwegian-American population. With relatively inexpensive housing and rent available, this neighborhood is a favorite for students, artists, and working-class citizens. More elaborate, stylish, and expensive houses and mansions line historic Logan(2600 N) and Kedzie Boulevards.

The community area and neighborhood are named for General John A. Logan who served in the Civil War, and later in Congress.,_Chicago


Lake View — or Lakeview, as it is increasingly spelled — is a North Side neighborhood of the City of Chicago, Illinois, in the United States.

While actual territorial limits and colloquial names are not definite depending on local sources and usage, Lake View is unofficially divided into smaller neighborhood enclaves: Lakeview East, West Lakeview and Wrigleyville. Lakeview East (more commonly just Lakeview) forms the area popularly known as Boystown. It holds the distinction of comprising the first gay village to be officially recognized as such by a civic body in the United States. New Town is a formerly-used community name designating the area centered at the intersection of North Clark Street and West Diversey Parkway. The Northalsted Merchants Association is centered on the North Halsted Street strip between West Belmont Avenue and West Grace Street and is the dominant merchants association in Lake View.

Lake View is most recognized nationwide as home to Wrigley Field and its Chicago Cubs. Neighboring the field is one of the most famous gay villages in North America. Held on the last Sunday of each June, the Chicago Pride Parade, one of the largest gay pride parades in the nation, takes place in Lake View. The community area has also been host to several other major events: In 2006 it played host to an international sports and cultural festival, Gay Games VII, with its closing ceremonies held at Wrigley Field and headlined by Cyndi Lauper.,_Chicago


Formerly a working-class neighborhood, Wrigleyville is the neighborhood directly surrounding Wrigley Field along North Clark and West Addison streets. Actual boundaries are undefined, with some sources citing Wrigleyville as spilling into adjacent enclaves such as Lakeview East and North Halsted. Wrigleyville features low-rise brick buildings and houses, some with rooftop bleachers colloquially called Wrigley Rooftops where people can purchase seats to watch baseball games without having to pay Major League Baseball ticket prices. Proprietors are able to do so under special agreements with the Chicago Cubs organization.

While the bars and restaurants in Lakeview East (especially along North Halsted Street) usually feature gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender culture, Wrigleyville bars and restaurants (particularly on North Clark Street) feature the sports culture with sports-oriented themes, and some mix the LBGT and sports themes.,_Chicago

Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park is a 1,200 acre (4.9 km˛, 1.875 mi˛) park along Chicago, Illinois' lakefront facing Lake Michigan.

The park stretches from North Avenue (1600 N) on the south to Foster (5200 N), just north of the Lake Shore Drive terminus at North Hollywood Avenue. It is Chicago's largest public park. Its recreational facilities include 15 baseball areas, 6 basketball courts, 2 softball courts, 35 tennis courts, 163 volley ball courts, field houses, and a golf course. It includes a number of harbours with boating facilities, as well as public beaches. There are landscaped gardens, a zoo, the Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and a theater on the lake with regular outdoor performances during the summer.

Old Town

Old Town is a neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois, bounded by Armitage Avenue on the north, Larrabee Street on the west, Division Street on the south and Clark Street on the east. It sits inside the community areas of Lincoln Park and the Near North Side, and is part of Chicago's 43rd ward. The area of Old Town north of North Avenue is part of the Lincoln Park Community Area, which includes the Old Town Triangle Historic District bordered by the former Ogden Avenue right-of-way, Clark Street and North Avenue. The area of Old Town south of North Avenue is considered part of the Near North Community Area.

Old Town is today considered an affluent and historic neighborhood, home to many of Chicago's older, Victorian-era buildings.In the 1950s,the majority of this area was an enclave to the first Puerto Ricans to emigrate to Chicago.They referred to this area as part of "La Clark" until commercialization decorated late 1960s shop signs with the name of Old Town. The neighborhood is home to St. Michael's Church, originally a Bavarian-built church, and one of 7 to survive the path of the Great Chicago Fire. St. Michael's, Holy Name Cathedral, Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph's catered also to Latinos with Spanish speaking masses.

The neighborhood is also home to the famed The Second City improvisational comedy troupe. Many of the streets and alleys, particularly in the Old Town Triangle section, predate the Great Chicago Fire and do not all adhere to a typical Chicago grid pattern.,_Chicago

River North

River North is a neighborhood in the Near North Side community area of Chicago, Illinois. It is bound by Michigan Avenue to the east, Chicago Avenue to the north, and the Chicago River to the south and west. This neighborhood, home of The River North Gallery District, has the largest concentration of art galleries in the United States outside of Manhattan. Along with hundreds of art galleries, the area holds many bars, dance clubs, popular restaurants, and entertainment venues.

According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, the River North area has been experiencing explosive population growth. An estimated 25,000 new residents, occupying some 10,000 new condominiums, have moved into the neighborhood since 2000. If these estimates hold true, the Near North neighborhoods population is nearing 100,000 residents at 97,811, a 34.3% increase from 2000.,_Chicago


Streeterville is a neighborhood in Chicago, north of the Chicago River. It is bounded by the river on the south, Michigan Avenue on the west, and Lake Michigan on the north and east.

Streeterville houses some of Chicago's tallest skyscrapers and most upscale stores, hotels, restaurants and theaters, as well as Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, School of Continuing Studies, Kellogg School of Management's downtown campus and School of Law. The Magnificent Mile portion of Michigan Avenue is part of Streeterville, as is the number one tourist attraction in Chicago, Navy Pier. In 2007, construction started on Chicago's new tallest skyscraper, the Chicago Spire. It is located in the extreme southeastern corner of the neighborhood, next to Lake Shore Drive, and is currently on hold, showing no progress on its construction except a 110' diameter hole for its foundation and construction fencing around the site.,_Chicago

Photos by Ennis Davis