Some residential communities are so trendy their ZIP codes are well known and real estate agents are battle-scarred from bidding wars. Others, not so much. In the Chicago area, there are myriad neighborhoods, subdivisions and suburbs that are great places to live but don't have the cachet -- or price tags -- of their glitzier counterparts.
We asked real estate agents, builders and buyers for some recommendations: Here are just a few:
Bronzeville: As Nanette Hernandez planned to buy her first home, she imagined living in the South Loop. That's where her friends were, and she wanted to be near them and the clubs they visit on weekends. But she couldn't afford it, even with her brother sharing expenses.
Hernandez searched for something easier on her budget and discovered the Lakeview Club, a condo conversion in Bronzeville. She bought a two-bedroom, two-bath unit.
"I didn't know very much about Bronzeville, but it's right next to the South Loop," she said. "The building was reasonably priced. It had security; that was important to me. And I could have a dog."
The 240-unit Lakeview Club, developed by Northern Realty Group, consists of three towers in a 70-acre park. Prices start in the $140,000s.
"Now I'm hoping Bronzeville will become an extension of what the South Loop has become," she said.
"We have some of the most attractive turn-of-the-century buildings -- beautiful graystones and brownstones and mansions and courtyard buildings," said Ald. Toni Preckwinkle, whose 4th Ward includes Bronzeville. "A lot have been rehabbed, but some are still available."And the area is home to attractions that include a new beach at 39th Street, the Museum Campus and an annual four-day African Festival of the Arts.
The median price for a single-family home in Bronzeville was $404,000 in 2007, according to data from Re/Max Northern Illinois, up from $387,500 in 2006. Condos and townhouses in the neighborhood fetched a median price of $229,000 in 2007, compared with $235,000 in 2006, the date showed.
One new-construction project in Bronzeville is the 90-acre Oakwood Shores by Granite Development Corp. on Cottage Grove Avenue, a redevelopment of the former site of the Chicago Housing Authority's Madden Park Homes, Ida B. Wells Homes and Clarence Darrow Homes. When completed, it will include 3,000-plus condos, town homes and single-family homes and rental units. Prices of the market-rate for-sale units start at $179,900.
Tri-Taylor: Carmen Gallucci is the fourth generation of his family to live in Little Italy on the Near West Side, starting when his great-grandparents arrived from Sicily. His son, who walks to class at the University of Illinois-Chicago, is the fifth generation.
"It's a great neighborhood," said Gallucci, broker/owner of Gallucci Realty on Taylor Street. "It's always felt like a small town even though you're in the big city."
Undergoing transformation in the area are 135-plus acres, formerly the site of the CHA's ABLA Homes, as a mixed-income community of Roosevelt Square. The plan includes 2,450 residences -- town homes, duplexes, condos and unattached homes -- for sale and rental at market, affordable and subsidized rates.
Affordable condos start at $149,000 for a one-bedroom, and the market rate ones are priced from $285,000. The six-phase project, now in phase two, is scheduled for completion in 2015.
Roosevelt Square "allows firemen and teachers who can't afford a half-million-dollar home to come in or the person who doesn't make a lot of money to not be forced out of the neighborhood," Galluci said.
The development includes Fosco Park, with a 57,000-square-foot community center, indoor pool, water park, gymnasium, day-care facilities and softball field. Nearby are the Illinois Medical District, Italian Sports Hall of Fame and several historic churches.
Existing housing stock is mostly turn-of-the-20th Century -- two-flats, four-flats and six-flats, some built as single-family homes that have gone through various conversions to apartments and back again.
Last year, the median price of a single-family home in the Tri-Taylor area was $414,000, up from $355,000 in 2006, according to Re/Max Northern Illinois. The median price of condos and townhouses was $284,900 in 2007, up from $279,000 in 2006. .
Greenbrier: This Arlington Heights subdivision is an enclave of 600 single-family homes and a 150-unit condo conversion that borders Palatine. Built in the 1960s, the homes are mostly ranches and split-levels.
"It's a very nice, stable neighborhood in a great area," said Sheila Brunetti of Re/Max Suburban in Arlington Heights. "New families are moving in, but some of the original owners are there as well. "
Mary Fredericks grew up in Greenbrier and came back as a newlywed four years ago. She and her husband, Chuck, bought an updated version of the model her parents owned.
"We don't have any kids, but if you did, the elementary school is right there in the subdivision," she said. "There's a great pool, and lots of playground things and tennis courts and ball fields."
Single-family homes there can be found under $400,000, considerably lower than those in other parts of Arlington Heights, said Brunetti."It costs less money to re-do those houses than to sell and try to buy what they want," she said.
A single-family home in Arlington Heights has a median price of $412,500 last year, with condos and townhouses at $180,500, Re/Max data shows.
Shorewood: Once a resort and fishing village near Interstates 55 and 80 on the DuPage River, Shorewood hasn't strayed far from its aquatic roots. The original cottages, updated and winterized, are clustered along what locals call the Beach Area and have been joined by new subdivisions.
You can spend a $1 million or more on a custom home, but you can also find single-family homes that back up to the river for about $400,000 and duplexes for $300,000, said Debbie Olson, broker/owner of Radcliffe Realty in Shorewood.
One of the newest developments is Edgewater, a community of 320 ranch and two-story single-family homes that begin in the mid-$200,000s.
The median price for a single-family home in the area last year was $276,500, according to Re/Max Northern Illinois. Townhouses and condos were a median $179,000.
In progress is a 240-acre municipal project that includes a town center, river walk, trail system and recreational facilities, said Nancy Roman, the village's director of economic development.
"Shorewood doesn't have a historic downtown like other communities do," she said. "The current administration here is adamant about creating a sense of place."
That's important for Rod and Renee Tonelli, who moved to Shorewood four years ago. They wanted a family-oriented community for their daughters, Emma, 9, and Olivia, 7. Shorewood's environment, with its massive oaks and the river, and new shopping centers and schools, were a good fit.
"Shorewood is a good place to raise a family -- good people, good schools and good open space," said Rod Tonelli, who as a land planner also likes the easy highway access. "It's one of the jewels of the suburbs."
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