Tribune article I thought captured some key essence of the n’hood.
Having lived in wicker park for too many years and working in a high profile business on Milwaukee avenue in the middle if the gentrification wave of 1995 to 2000 I remember the old wicker park well. the crazy, lovely, urban mix that strolls there now and strolled around in the 90’s when nirvana played at Dreamers at 1516 milwaukee (now Nicks) gives this area energy beyond the area of Halsted and armitage. Halsted is all grown up now and wicker is the new center of gravity for what’s clean, modern, fun. New retail Mecca–you have found your crowd.
But beyond the nightlife there is a great stock of homes here. Brick. Greystones. Wide. Long. Tall. Etc.
The worker cabins thrown up pre-fire don’t dominate here.
The larger more grandiose building take over hoyne and pierce and evergreen. There are great angled pockets with made by Milwaukee avenues geometry. The el gives you the Audio harmony to fill you with the big shoulder feeling that a Chicagoan knows.
Just sit at the fountain in the park itself at night and listen to the roar – as you dangle your feet in the fountains and watch people play hoops.
Once the bars hit in 92′ there was a mix of class and race streaming through. That has not changed. Everyone fits in here if you can pay the rent.
And if anyone bitches about gentrification I say stop! Stop and enjoy this progress. This deep fabric of people an retail and house and condo. It literally has grown new skin each year with gem condo developments and freaklike boutiques adding on wrinkles as it grows older.
Can you tell I loved and love the n’hood(among others).
This n’hood shows you what Chicago can do if let run.
A area more leashed and controlled sputtered under a heavy control of affordable set asides and anti capitalistic n’hood engineering. Wicker park never did sputter thanks to pro-developer thinking of Jesse Granato (who had his negatives) and other positive forces that allowed pro developement types build fast and well in the mid to late 90’s.
By day, Wicker Park foot traffic moves at a fast clip, especially during rush hour.
By night it moves faster…. And arrives by cab.
Enough of my intro to the area…
– Phil Buoscio
Here us the tribune article I wanted to share:
At night, the only hurry is getting to a table at one of the 30-plus restaurants or entertainment hot spots found in this historic area bordered by the Chicago River to the east and Western Avenue to the west, with Division Street and Bloomingdale Avenue forming its south and north boundaries.
The rush to and from work for Wicker Parkers is simplified by two CTA Blue Line stations, seven bus lines and the convergence of three of the city’s major streets (North, Milwaukee and Damen Avenues) plus an entrance to Interstate Highways 90/94 at Division. The Loop is accessible in 10 minutes, O’Hare in 30.
Approaching Wicker Park from downtown, I took North Avenue. The Flat Iron Arts Center came into view long before I arrived at Milwaukee and Damen. If the six-corner intersection formed by the neighborhood’s three main arteries is the center of Wicker Park, then the three-story Flat Iron is certainly its symbol.
Built in 1913 by Holabird & Roche, a firm more famous for architectural projects in the Loop, the Flat Iron building has been through nearly as many incarnations as the neighborhood.
Today it houses more art galleries than offices; working studios, if you will, of those who decided to stay in the neighborhood despite inroads of gentrification. What hasn’t changed in all these years is the high energy found outside its front door. It is this quasi-chaotic atmosphere of traffic and crowded sidewalks that gives Wicker Park its palpable buzz.
The newest immigrants to Wicker Park are diverse by occupation, mixed by levels of education and ethnicity, single or married, but almost always young. As were the Germans then Poles, Puerto Ricans then Mexicans that settled the “suburb within the city” throughout the 20th Century.
Historic homes from the German beer barons of the 1890s are still occupied on Hoyne and Pierce, just southwest of North and Damen. Some cottages and bungalows remain on the side streets, but it is the mid-rise developments and townhouses that lure today’s home buyers.
With a demographic that skews younger—population mid-20s to mid-30s is the majority according to Paula Barrington, executive director of the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce—this neighborhood hops all day and way into the night.
By day, moms with children secured inside jogging strollers make their way to Wicker Park, the four-acre park named for the family that donated the land, which in turn gave the area its name.
“We love to take walks,” Mandy Vincent says of her daily constitutional around the neighborhood with son Evan. Vincent, a stay-at-home mom, and her husband, Travis, lived in a condo in Wicker Park for 10 years before deciding on buying a single-family home. “We didn’t want to leave the neighborhood,” she said. “This house is on a one-way street, which we like. We looked at a lot of homes elsewhere but decided to stay.
“When we take visitors out, we stay in the neighborhood because everything is here, especially restaurants. It is so great not having to get a cab or to drive. If we get a babysitter for the night, we can walk home if we are needed.”
The Vincents were aware of Wicker Park’s reputation for being on the cutting edge of fashion, music, art and entertainment when they moved to the neighborhood.
When asked about trendy shopping at all price points, Barrington clicks off Zella Brown home accessories store at the high end and several thrift shops at the other with upscale Store B in between. . Clothing boutique Habit, which carries primarily Chicago designers, is in Wicker Park, and Malabar, and Michelle Tan Design are near its boundary with Bucktown.
Diverse fashion sense, part punk and grunge with a bohemian attitude, also is evident in the artist community with a hard core of working artists that didn’t leave for Logan Square or Pilsen. Many have studios in the Flat Iron building, which is open to the public.
At night, music lovers line up at Subterranean, Estelle’s or Nick’s Beer Garden. There’s Davenport’s Piano Bar and the Violet Hour for cocktails in a nightclub atmosphere. Dancers find the beat at Debonair Social Club, Aberdeen and Ohm. Hungry? Find a favorite like Club Lucky, Feast or Francesca’s Forno.
There’s a good mix of homes, more condos and a good amount of apartments as many rent and stay, according to David Wolf of @ properties. “Out-of-towners move to Wicker Park usually after looking at Lincoln Park. “It may be No. 2 or 3 [on their list], until they see it,” Wolf says.
Those relocating to Chicago often compare Wicker Park to SoHo and parts of the Village in New York, he explained. “It is a real neighborhood, an old Chicago neighborhood, the “L” line, 100-year-old buildings, and a live and vital artist scene.
“The majority are condo buyers and Wicker Park has a good inventory for single families,” Wolf said.
“Buyers have choices. Many lean toward new construction with higher-end features, a desirable floor plan, maybe a spare room as they may be there longer. It used to be two years in [and sell], and now it is 5 five years.
“The buzz around Wicker Park is that it is upwardly mobile, a trendy neighborhood,” he said.
Those trends include live theater at Chopin Theater, Gorilla Tango Theater in adjacent Bucktown and a Community Arts Center at St. Paul Norwegian Lutheran Church.
Taryn Bickley lived in Roscoe Village before moving to Wicker Park with her fiance, Brian LaFlamme. Before Roscoe Village, there was Lakeview, Detroit, even a stint in London.
“This neighborhood is vibrant with lots going on,” Bickley said. The two bought a three-bedroom condo in a new building. The view from the island in the kitchen through the window wall along Paulina is her favorite part of the house.
Since moving in three months ago, Bickley has picked up a lot of habits that she didn’t have before. “Like walking in the morning to a neighborhood bakery for my latte. There are tons of restaurants, bars, music. So many places both high-end and hole-in-the-wall. We discovered we don’t have to go anywhere.”
Asked if she thought she was becoming provincial about her life in Wicker Park, she replied “Maybe.”
Barrington says that’s the attitude of a lot of people in the neighborhood. You get settled and discover your favorite places.
In an offbeat neighborhood like Wicker Park, the storefronts of those favorites might not reflect the wares inside.
That might mean getting your morning breakfast muffin at Alliance or eating dinner at Earwax Cafe, where service comes with an attitude that is exclusively Wicker Park.