Lincoln Park is one of Chicago’s richest neighborhoods—and not just in terms of the wealth of its residents. This lakeside neighborhood is rich in history, cultural institutions, architectural heritage, and lifestyle opportunities.
But the neighborhood wasn’t always so desirable. As properties were subdivided and neglected after World War II, the area was sliding into disrepair and decay. Organized in 1953, the Lincoln Park Conservation Association slowly turned the neighborhood around. In the '70s and '80s, the vintage apartments and lively bar scene attracted thousands of young singles, but rising property values eventually pushed them out to neighboring areas like Lakeview and Wicker Park. Lincoln Park’s vintage greystones were converted to upscale condos, and some were torn down and replaced by high-end single-family homes. While the area around DePaul University still attracts a younger crowd, for the most part older couples and wealthy singles have replaced the twenty-somethings, and the neighborhood, though still fashionable, has become somewhat more sedate and family-centered.
Lincoln Park derives far more than just a name from the 1,200-acre park that stretches along Lake Michigan and forms its eastern border. In addition to The Lincoln Park Zoo and conservatory, the park is home to still more jewels in Chicago’s cultural crown—the Chicago History Museum, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and the Theater on the Lake.
Outdoor types find a lot to love in Lincoln Park as well—soccer and baseball fields, volleyball, basketball and tennis courts, a driving range and golf course, public beaches and harbors with boating facilities. And then there’s the sheer beauty of the landscaped acreage and the glorious lakefront—a well-used paradise for joggers and cyclists.
Exhausted from all that exercise? A stop at the Lincoln Park branch of the Chicago Public Library offers a welcome rest. And if you’re hungry, Lincoln Park is home to Chicago’s only year-round farmers market, which connects city dwellers to local farmers and sustainable agriculture.
The block bordered by Willow, Armitage, Burling and Orchard has been called the most expensive in Chicago—and one of the priciest in the country. Here Chicago’s wealthiest families have bought up multiple lots to create stunning in-town estates. But lesser mortals can find a home in Lincoln Park as well.
Since the decline in the housing market, homes are taking longer to sell but prices have held in the neighborhood’s upper range. Dozens of properties are still priced from four to eight million dollars, with super-high-end homes built in the last five years leading the way, and renovated mansions and vintage condos in lakefront buildings not far behind.
Recent sales in mid-2010 have ranged from a 6,500-square foot single-family home built in 1920, which sold for just under $3 million, to a 1-bedroom condo at $190,000.
Several CTA bus lines and the Red Line elevated trains move Lincoln Parkers throughout the city. Lake Shore Drive and the Kennedy Expressway (I-94) border the neighborhood to the east and west, but traffic can make getting to them a slow process at nearly any time of the day. Parking is at a premium, as permit-only areas and newly installed parking meters have further constrained the already tight supply of available spaces.
Shopping, Dining and Nightlife
Long known for its trendy boutiques and designer clothing stores on Clark, Halsted and Armitage, recent retail development has brought national retailers such as Pottery Barn and Banana Republic to the jammed area around North Avenue and Clybourn. A new Apple store is set to open in late 2010. Grocery shoppers, once limited to small neighborhood stores, now choose from Trader Joe’s and a huge Whole Foods Market.
For those who don’t like to cook, Lincoln Park restaurants are among the city’s best and most varied. From Charlie Trotter’s shrine to gastronomy to the Weiner’s Circle, famed for Chicago-style dogs and a generous serving of attitude, there’s something for everyone here, with a great dining experience on almost every corner.
The bar scene is still jumping in Lincoln Park, mostly on Webster near the campus of DePaul University, and on major streets like Clark and Lincoln Avenue. But more sophisticated fare is available as well, as new wine bars and cocktail lounges pop up across the neighborhood. A lively theater scene includes the world-class Steppenwolf and longtime favorite Victory Gardens. Music fans choose from acoustic favorites at Lincoln Hall, newly opened in the old Three-Penny Theater, and nationally-known acts from all genres at Park West, to name just a few of the neighborhood’s many venues.
Lincoln Park High School is one of Chicago’s best, and public elementary schools include highly rated magnet schools as well as neighborhood buildings. Two of Chicago’s most prestigious private schools are located in or near Lincoln Park, Francis W. Parker and The Latin School of Chicago, both of which serve grades K-12.