Saturday, September 12, 2009

Rogers Park and how I feel about it

This is for Rudy, who asked a couple of questions about the place where I live.

Rogers Park, which is on the far northside and borders the next town, is one of the most racially integrated neighborhoods in Chicago and I moved here in 1995. I love being a 50-minute train ride from downtown. I also like the rents, the friends I've made here, the proximity to the lakefront and the little restaurants nearby. Rogers Park has some great neighborhood bars and cafes and it's definitely home for me.

In terms of safety, I find it a patchy neighborhood. I walk down one block and feel perfectly safe, but then I turn a corner and maybe I'm looking at an empty building where I wonder about the "tenants." It's practically Evanston in proximity, but this is still the city and it feels like it. I regularly get too much attention from men I might pass on the sidewalk just outside of our apartment building. It's annoying. But I also spent ten years in Rogers Park as a spinster living alone without once experiencing any crime at all. I walked among prostitutes and gang members without ever interacting with any of them. I left them alone and they left me alone. I think if you have either a little inner city savvy or complete naivete (for a long time I thought I'd never seen a prostitute), you'll be okay.

I don't know what the real estate prices are. I've never bought anything and have never even looked. All I know is that developers were swarming the place for years, but now those condos stand empty. I moved into my current apartment with my husband in April 2007. The buildings on either side of ours were in the process of being rehabbed. Our early months here were filled with the sounds of carpentry and masonry. Then sometime around Christmas 2007 it all stopped. Those buildings are still empty and in the winter I have to contact our alderman's office to get the owners to clear the sidewalks in front of them. It's annoying. There's also some illegal activity going on in the building that hasn't been boarded and sealed up.

Fortunately, Bob and I don't own this place, so we're not watching our property values fall. We just have a beautiful apartment with great rent, plus a covered parking space. Whenever we move, which won't be for several years I'd guess, we'll just tell our landlord we're leaving and go. He's the one who's stuck with a building with illegal activity going on nearby. (Actually, he's in the process of putting up a gate to try to keep it out.)

And we do have a beautiful apartment. It has amazing woodwork and molding, a lovely enclosed porch, two bedrooms and a very attentive landlord. Aniceto Villegas responds quickly to maintenance requests, chooses his tenants carefully and does some impressive landscaping. It's the first place I've lived with carefully planted and trimmed flowers, bushes and trees out front. It's very nice to come home to.

Bob likes to ride his bike along the lakefront, heading north into Evanston. Northwestern University has an excellent campus for exploring, with chestnut and walnut trees, and it only takes him about 20 minutes to get there. On Saturdays when there's a home game, he can hear the crowds roar and the band play as he cruises by.

I also love being so close to the Howard el station hub and the Gateway Plaza. That's where I go to the gym and do our grocery shopping. It couldn't be more convenient. I hardly ever drive. Being near the Howard station means I can take the red, purple or yellow train lines without having to wait to transfer between them. The same is true of a number of CTA and Pace bus lines. They all originate/end here. It's wonderful.

Rudy, why do you ask?