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colin

Chicago - Western Suburbs

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Today was my first day on my Chicago trip. I went for a long drive with my UP eye from MDW to Aurora, up to Elgin, and over to my hotel in Northbrook. A few observations on towns:

Midway Airport area: I drove down 55th Street all the way to I-55 and I guess this is one of, if not the, Polish neighborhood. It was interesting to see things like store signs and billboards written in Polish And I think it's cool that there's an ethnic community like this here that hasn't been completely assimilated.

Hinsdale: I turned onto 47th Street and buzzed through Hinsdale. These are absolutely the biggest houses I've ever seen. Larger than River Oaks in Houston, Beverly Hills, or the mansions in the Phoenix area. Why do you need that much house?

Lisle: When I entered Lisle, I got the feeling that there is a character in a movie or TV show from Lisle. Maybe I'm wrong though. Any ideas?

Naperville: What a cool town! The Downtown area had a lot of chain stores, but it was just so vibrant. The Riverwalk was certainly something to be envied, and there is some condo construction on the fringes that will certainly make it all the better. The houses in the historic district were amazing as well. I love the architecture.

Aurora: This was my destination as a Wayne's World pilgrimage. A little depressing. Poor, lots of abandoned buildings and storefronts, not a lot of activity Downtown. There a couple of condo/loft projects going up along the river that look promising, and there was a really cool, old warehouse district just south of Downtown that holds a lot of promise.

Saint Charles: I stopped at a park here along the river and walked around. It's a beautiful town, but I hate to imagine that people actually commute into the city from here.

Elgin: Much larger than I imagined it would be. In fact, it seemed basically like Aurora but much healthier economically. An enormous residential project is going in Downtown right by the casino, although the Downtown itself already seemed pretty healthy. High-rise apartments are on the west bank of the river, and there's even a brewpub (not the best beer, but still a brewpub).

Hoffman Estates: Maybe it was just because I was on the main drag, but it seems like sprawl city.

Schaumburg: I didn't notice any real central core except for an office area at Golf Road and I-290. I only went through this northern part though, so maybe I missed it.

General Observation: Every little town along my journey had at least two bars in its Downtown area. I think that says something about the Midwest right there.

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General Observation: Every little town along my journey had at least two bars in its Downtown area. I think that says something about the Midwest right there.

..and that would be??

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yeah, what exacly are you trying to say? Everyone in the midwest is a drunk?

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Sorry, but I'm not going to digress into an argument involving regional stereotypes. I was hoping for a relevant, more topical response.

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Sorry, but I'm not going to digress into an argument involving regional stereotypes. I was hoping for a relevant, more topical response.

Then YOU shouldn't have started the stereotyping discussion, and posted something relevant and topical. Unless you can find a study somewhere that states that there are more bars/capita in towns of <1000 in the Midwest vs. the same sized towns in the desert Southwest (or other parts of the country), then I think you should drop the subject and move on to something else.

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Today was my first day on my Chicago trip. I went for a long drive with my UP eye from MDW to Aurora, up to Elgin, and over to my hotel in Northbrook

That is certainly taking the long way to Northbrook from Midway.

Midway Airport area: I drove down 55th Street all the way to I-55 and I guess this is one of, if not the, Polish neighborhood. It was interesting to see things like store signs and billboards written in Polish And I think it's cool that there's an ethnic community like this here that hasn't been completely assimilated

Here is a photo thread I did of part of this area - Garfield Ridge neighborhood. The area around Midway is full of different ethnic/immigrant groups - Polish, Mexican, African-American etc. Though, thge reason the neighborhood you drove through still had a significant amount of polish language stores/signage was because the flow of polish immigrants is quite steady, therefore there are many foreign born. But give them about one or two generations, and they are fully assimilated

Hinsdale: I turned onto 47th Street and buzzed through Hinsdale. These are absolutely the biggest houses I've ever seen. Larger than River Oaks in Houston, Beverly Hills, or the mansions in the Phoenix area. Why do you need that much house?

Yes, Hinsdale is a bastion of lower upper wealth and home to many executives. It has also been the image of residential teardowns in Chicagoland. The effects of success...poor them. :D

Lisle: When I entered Lisle, I got the feeling that there is a character in a movie or TV show from Lisle. Maybe I'm wrong though. Any ideas?

Pretty much anywhere suburbia. Nothing terribly notable about Lisle, in my opinion.

Naperville: What a cool town! The Downtown area had a lot of chain stores, but it was just so vibrant. The Riverwalk was certainly something to be envied, and there is some condo construction on the fringes that will certainly make it all the better. The houses in the historic district were amazing as well. I love the architecture.

Yeah, the immediate downtown and adjacent residential neighborhoods are pretty nice, but the other 90% of the municipality is typical 1960-2000 suburbia.

Aurora: This was my destination as a Wayne's World pilgrimage. A little depressing. Poor, lots of abandoned buildings and storefronts, not a lot of activity Downtown. There a couple of condo/loft projects going up along the river that look promising, and there was a really cool, old warehouse district just south of Downtown that holds a lot of promise.

Has great potential because the downtown is much more substantial then Naperville and has the fox River. But the City suffers from negative perceptions because there is majority of Hispanics living near the downtown.

Saint Charles: I stopped at a park here along the river and walked around. It's a beautiful town, but I hate to imagine that people actually commute into the city from here.

Such a commute shouldn't really be that suprising. In a metro of 9 million, people commute very far. But probably most living in St. Charles work in Naperville, Schaumburg, Aurora, or Joliet.

Elgin: Much larger than I imagined it would be. In fact, it seemed basically like Aurora but much healthier economically. An enormous residential project is going in Downtown right by the casino, although the Downtown itself already seemed pretty healthy. High-rise apartments are on the west bank of the river, and there's even a brewpub (not the best beer, but still a brewpub).

Having a much better time reviving itself and overcoming the perceptions of the relatively high Hispanic population. In a much better position to attract middle income workers because of it proximity (about 15 miles) to the high job population in Schaumburg/Rolling Meadows/Arlington Heights along the I-90 corridor.

Hoffman Estates: Maybe it was just because I was on the main drag, but it seems like sprawl city.

I used to work for Hoffman Estates and the place isn't much more than a collection of subdivisions and shopping centers - all post 1960.

Schaumburg: I didn't notice any real central core except for an office area at Golf Road and I-290. I only went through this northern part though, so maybe I missed it.

Nope..you didn't miss it...it doesn't exist. The area around the Golf Rd./I-290 interchange (the Woodfield corridor) is pretty "downtown" Schaumburg, in a functional sense.

General Observation: Every little town along my journey had at least two bars in its Downtown area. I think that says something about the Midwest right there.

Well, I don't know about that. Most of the municipalities around here don't allow simple 'bars'. They generally have to be part of a restaurant.

By the way, I live and work in Chicagoland.

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Lucky. I love Chicagoland to bits, I want to go back...soon! I'm glad you had a good time checking out the western 'burbs, I haven't been out there. If you get out there again, Oak Park is my favorite part of Chicagoland.

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I did get out to Oak Park on Monday, also to Elmhurst and Oak Brook (to get a picture of "Hamburger University").

Of course, I loved the architecture in Oak Park, and the Downtown area is something to envied, especially its integration with the El station, but, like other suburbs in the Chicago area, I didn't like how sanitized everything was. I actually drove there through the "bad" neighborhood along Chicago Avenue from Wicker Park and it just suddenly and dramatically changed from a poor black area to a rich white area. Something about that just seems wrong to me.

Elmhurst actually seemed worse in that respect, and the amount of chains in the Downtown area bothered me a little (Chipotle and Starbucks seemed to be the hot spots).

I loved Evanston though and spent my last morning there. Lots of new condos going up, which is just awesome and it seemed to be much more diverse economically and ethnically than other surburbs. If I moved to Chicago, I'd probably try to live in Evanston (if I could afford it). I generally gravitate toward college towns though.

Per the Polish population, I noticed that the Ukranian area was the same way: actual Ukranians. Are the Italian and Greek areas similar to that, or have they been there long enough to assimilate into the greater collective culture?

Thanks for posting the link to the pics. Is there a name for that style of architecture? It seems to be pretty prevalent in the city. I especially like how the garages are generally separated from the house and accessed by an alley. It is a general Midwestern style or is it mostly isolated to the Chicago area?

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You want bad neighborhood? Try Chicago Avenue in Cicero. Got offered rocks and blow (cocaine and crack) at 3 in the afternoon there...in front of a rehab clinic. Hmm.

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I didn't like how sanitized everything was. I actually drove there through the "bad" neighborhood along Chicago Avenue from Wicker Park and it just suddenly and dramatically changed from a poor black area to a rich white area. Something about that just seems wrong to me.

Actually, I live in Oak Park. I also really like it. Though, that 'border' you experienced is more a product of stable middle/upper middle income mixed ethinc municipality (Oak Park) and an neighborhood of Chicago (Austin) that has had a rather unfortunate past 50 years. Really, the reason Oak Park was able to remain stable while Austin declined was a concerted effort on the part of the elected officials and citizens of Oak Park actively preventing the redlining, blockbusting, and fear induced real estate practices that hurt Austin and many other quality Chicago neighborhoods. Hell...Oak Park doesn't allow real estate "For Sale" signs on properties, which was one of the products of the inclusive housing efforts of the 1960 and 1970s.

Elmhurst actually seemed worse in that respect, and the amount of chains in the Downtown area bothered me a little (Chipotle and Starbucks seemed to be the hot spots).

Can't expect much more from a middle/upper middle income second ring suburb. Despite is cleanliness (this there something wrong with being 'clean'? :)), it is a very nice commuter suburb with actually a significant amount of its own office/industrial property on its north side (north of I-290).

I loved Evanston though and spent my last morning there. Lots of new condos going up, which is just awesome and it seemed to be much more diverse economically and ethnically than other surburbs. If I moved to Chicago, I'd probably try to live in Evanston (if I could afford it). I generally gravitate toward college towns though.

Yes, Evanston is very nice and about as 'suburban' as I am willing to live (much like Oak Park). Having the university, Lake Michigan frontage, and easy L/Metra access into Chicago is very nice (also much like Oak Park :D) Though, Evanston really isn't anymore or less diverse than similar early first ring suburbs.

Per the Polish population, I noticed that the Ukranian area was the same way: actual Ukranians. Are the Italian and Greek areas similar to that, or have they been there long enough to assimilate into the greater collective culture?

Not too many Italian/Greek immigrants in Chicagoland anymore, at least not as many as the Eastern Europeans.

Thanks for posting the link to the pics. Is there a name for that style of architecture? It seems to be pretty prevalent in the city. I especially like how the garages are generally separated from the house and accessed by an alley. It is a general Midwestern style or is it mostly isolated to the Chicago area?

Well...it's not an uncommon form in the areas of the edge of central cities and first ring suburbs where the land was subdivided prior to 1930, but wasn't actually developed until the 1950s. Therefore, you get the narrow/long one story houses that are essentially the same as the early 20th century bungalows in layout, but with stripped down detailing and facade articulation.

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yeah, what exacly are you trying to say? Everyone in the midwest is a drunk?

I would never argue in favor of a stereotype, however it is true as far as I know personally that Wisconsin and Chicago citizens drink more on average than many other places in the country. That does not mean they are drunks, just they consume more alcohol and have more relaxed attitudes about drinking as compared to most southern states, for example, where there is still some social/moral stigmatism attached to drinking. I personally like the numerous bars found in the two aforementioned areas, not becuase I am myself a heavy drinker, but because they add character to the communities, and usually serve a better quality beer than your typical American-made mass produced grocery store variety. That of course is changing all over the country, but it is hard to deny there are more bars when small towns of 500 up there have at least one where as in a southern state a small town of 500 usually will not have a bar, but certainly two churches. OK, so that is a stereotype as wll (and usually true), I'll shut up now.

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