For decades, Uptown has been a neighborhood on Chicago’s north side that has had higher crime and violence than its neighboring areas. This helped keep rents low compared to the greater north side, but has also made it an area that renters have historically shunned. However, over the past ten years, this has been changing. The neighborhood is greatly improved due in part to large investments in the area. Prospective renters are asking for apartments in the area, and rents have been increasing as a result.
Uptown became part of Chicago around 1900. After several railways were built through the area, the city annexed Uptown and soon extended the L through it (Wilson Station – https://chicago.curbed.com/2017/10/23/16520086/uptown-transportation-wilson-cta). Once the extension was completed, the area saw a large population boom.
During the 1920’s and 30’s, the area was home to the Entertainment District. The presence of theaters and shopping made it a desirable place to call home, and evidence of this period of time still exists today, as many of the older properties show some off the vintage architecture. It was also around this time that Charlie Chaplain opened Essanay Studios (now St. Augustine College) in the area; famous establishments like The Green Mill, Uptown Theaters, Rivera, and Aragon Ballroom, were built as well. All these structures and business are still present today, and the Uptown Theater is even undergoing a renovation at present.
When the great depression hit, the area went through hard times along with much of the nation. Residents found jobs and opportunities hard to come by. While this economic upheaval did lead to a thriving community of immigrants in the area, it also led to an increase in crime and a general lack of care with regard to many of Uptown’s beautiful buildings. This meant that once-luxurious buildings like the Lawrence Hotel became ghosts of their former selves.
The area was ignored by the City of Chicago for a long time. Over this time the area developed a bad reputation for crime, and many renters and homeowners stayed away.
This stayed trued until the turn of the millennium. At that time the area started to see investment. A new Target was constructed, the Aldi was rehabbed, the Wilton Station was rehabbed, The Lawrence House (Hotel) returned to its former glory. This work and many other projects attracted new business. Coffee shops opened up all over, as well as a diverse selection of restaurants and even a climbing gym.
All of these changes, along with the presence of the Lake, Montrose Harbor, and Lake Shore Drive, have caused Uptown to become a desirable area once again. Apartment-seekers can still find apartments for rents below what are available in Lincoln Park or Lakeview, even thought those neighborhoods are only a few red lines stops away.
Today, Uptown is a destination for residents and visitors. It still has its original history to show off, but now it also offers its own modern personality. For a visit or a place to call home, Uptown should no longer be ignored.