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The Endless Debate:

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Neighborhood Boundaries in Chicago

Neighborhoods in Chicago have a history of changing names and boundaries. It’s just as true in the most affluent areas as it is in the bungalow belt. 

Cynics often blame realtors for stretching a neighborhood’s boundaries in a more favorable direction or giving it a fancy new name, but often residents themselves disagree about what to call where they live. 

Say, for example, you live on Chestnut, east of Michigan Avenue, in the shadow of the John Hancock Building. Would you call that area the Gold Coast? 

How about the buildings on Lake Shore Drive south of Oak Street Beach?  Are they also on the Gold Coast? 

And if you lived on Pearson, facing the backside of the Museum of Contemporary Art—would you call  your neighborhood the Gold Coast or Streeterville?

The differences between the Gold Coast real estate and Streeterville real estate weren’t always so hard to pin down.  In the early 1880s, legendary Chicago millionaire Potter Palmer built the first mansion on Lake Shore Drive and the city’s wealthiest citizens followed in his footsteps. Today the Gold Coast is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Streeterville is right up there with the Gold Coast in terms of the most affluent neighborhoods in the United States, but it’s not a historic district.  In the early 1880s, when millionaires were lining the newly formed Lake Shore Drive with their mansions, Streeterville was still a marshy sandbar.  

Today most area residents agree on the general outlines of the two areas. The Gold Coast’s boundaries run south from North Ave to Oak Street, and west from Lake Shore Drive to Clark Street. Most will also accept Streeterville’s boundaries as Oak Street to the River and Lake Shore Drive to Michigan Avenue.  They’ll probably even agree on designating the entire hospital district as Streetervile. 

Where it gets complicated is along the fault line--Oak Street. But, even if the boundaries of these two equally luxurious areas are uncertain, people who live south of Oak Street and east of Michigan Avenue can be sure of one thing: they live in one of Chicago’s loveliest neighborhoods. Lets not even start talking about Wicker Park, Buck Town and Logan Square. To find out more about Real estate in "your Neighborhood" Call Ted Guarnero at 312-810-6693.

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