Chicago's Lincoln Square: An underrated oasis for young families

Chicago's Lincoln Square: An underrated oasis for young families

When Jen and Michael Davidson started looking to move from their 850-square-foot Old Town high-rise apartment last year, Lincoln Square was the furthest thing from their minds.

After all, the far North Side neighborhood known for its eclectic mix of restaurants and shops isn’t very accessible to downtown, and the hip factor is missing for many young couples entering the Chicago real estate market.

'Totally underrated'

The Davidsons were searching for a single-family home with enough yard space for a future family and their chocolate Labrador retriever. Their budget: $550,000.

After several open houses in Lakeview, Bucktown and Wicker Park, the couple realized they needed to widen their search.

"I had a friend of a friend who had moved up to Lincoln Square, and I thought maybe we should give it a chance," Jen Davidson said. "We found so many homes in our budget, and made offers on two of them."

The Davidsons closed in January on their $480,000 three-bedroom home on Bell Avenue, just a few blocks from the bustling and charming square.

"We know this isn’t the trendiest place in the city, but we feel like we got a really great deal and so much more space than neighborhoods south of here," Jen says. "We love the Square, and have found some really great places to eat. I think this neighborhood is totally underrated."

Up and coming?

Whether Lincoln Square will ever be the next Wicker Park is debatable.

A healthy mix of businesses and public amenities make it appealing for young families, but it still lacks a scene that attracts singles.

“The types and mix of shops and restaurants, as well as parks, library, etc., are very appealing to couples and young families, but less so for young singles who are looking for more ‘edgy’ types of places, such as what you see in areas like Wicker Park," says Nancy Perlman, a highly rated real estate agent with Baird & Warner in Chicago. "For example, there are not a lot of clubs, bars or hip clothing stores,"

A bit of a haul

Accessibility may be another factor holding the neighborhood back. The CTA’s Brown Line El train stops at both Western and Damon avenues, with trips into the Loop lasting about an hour door to door. For drivers, commuting downtown will take even longer in rush-hour traffic.

"Young people that I work with typically are looking for a 15- to 20-minute commute or even preferably within bike riding or walking distance to their work," Perlman says.

Home sales steady

Still, despite the lack of nightlife and longer rides to work, real estate transactions are brisk.

"I believe that there are a lot of buyers looking to move in (to Lincoln Square)," Perlman says. "I had a listing for a two bedroom, one bathroom condo in Lincoln Square recently that went under contract in five days."

What’s more, 208 units have sold within the past six months with an average time on the market of 52 days, according to Multiple Listing Service figures. Those figures might not make Lincoln Square the hottest neighborhood in the city, but young families are taking notice of the housing stock and the value.

"The quality of life for families in Lincoln Square is very good, and most families who live there plan to stay there to raise their families rather than move to the suburbs," Perlman says.

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