Saturday, October 6, 2007

Chicago... my future home--but where?

Where to live? It’s a question that many applicants think about in deciding where to apply for business school. Whether you’re very familiar with Chicago or have never visited, housing is always a hot topic among applicants and incoming students.

At first, many incoming GSB students are under the impression that housing is simply a choice between Hyde Park and the north side (usually either downtown or Lincoln Park). While a good portion of students do choose to live either very close to campus or in the popular north side locations, some decide to tap into one of Chicago’s many other interesting neighborhoods. After all, Chicago is known as a city of diverse, rich neighborhoods, so it makes sense that the student body has equally varied tastes when it comes to housing.

Here are a few “other” neighborhoods in which GSBers live that you may not have initially thought of:

South Loop: Want proximity to school outside of Hyde Park? How about closeness to both downtown and the exciting nightlife of Gold Coast? If so, then the South Loop may be a great option for you. Not many years ago, this neighborhood just south of Grant Park was an abandoned area of railroad tracks and warehouses. Since then, it has been revitalized by a frenzy of construction: mainly high-rise and mid-rise condominium buildings with all of the amenities. Many GSB students with families have chosen to invest in buying condos in this neighborhood, while others who prefer to lease have settled in rental buildings or sublet from condo owners.

Student Ade Ifelayo said of his neighborhood: “It’s a central, or ‘compromise’ location between Hyde Park, Downtown and the Northside areas. It has easy access to public transportation—on both El and Metra lines. Driving is even better, as it’s against the flow of traffic both commutes.”

Although it still has the feel of a young, new neighborhood, the South Loop is full of everything you’d want in everyday life—from grocery stores and a huge Target, to bars and restaurants, including Ade’s favorite brunch spot, Yolk. (“It’s the best!”)

Wicker Park / Bucktown: These neighborhoods are just west of the Loop, are more affordable than some of the more central locations in the city, and offer a delightful combination of charming shops, restaurants and cafes. This area is also much more parking friendly than the rest of the city can be, which is important because public transportation to the Harper Center can be time-consuming from here. In other words, you’ll probably want a car if you make this your home.

According to second year student Christen Cuculich:

“The people in Bucktown are a little less homogenous than other areas of the city, partially due to the big arts scene in the area. There are no high-rise buildings, few chain restaurants, and you can easily walk to tons of great restaurants, coffee shops, bars, grocery stores, boutiques, music venues, the blue line, dry cleaners, and just about everything you could imagine. Beyond being home to some of the best restaurants and shopping in Chicago, Bucktown is also an ideal area for animal lovers. There are a lot of pet-friendly apartments and condos and there are multiple dog parks.”

Lakeview: This neighborhood is adjacent to the northeast part of Lincoln Park and can best be described as a comfortable, moderately-priced and easily-navigable option for your time in b-school. Families and young folks alike choose to make this their home, resulting in an interesting mix of parks, gyms, pubs and Lake Michigan.

Dru Rossbacher chose Lakeview “for its proximity to the lake, to public transportation and to a myriad of good restaurants and bars” and accessibility to everything from supermarkets to various good places to do yoga. There’s always a lot going on at night, from local bars to trendier clubs—and the chance to attend a Cubs game in nearby Wrigleyville. Dru notes that “it is considered to be one of the safest neighborhoods in the city, so I have never felt unsafe returning home from a night out.” Parking can be a problem, however, since rented spaces tend to be quite expensive and street parking is limited and can take a while, especially in the bad weeks of winter.

Hopefully, you’re beginning to realize that Chicago is a great city offering its residents a variety of living choices depending on what matters to you most. If you come to the GSB, everyone will have an opinion on where is the best place to live—just remember that, whatever it is that you want, Chicago has it.

Want to discuss this topic some more? Head on over to the Chicago GSB Discussion Forums