Chicago: That Neighborhood Feel

Let’s call this post “a tale of two neighborhoods.”

One is Andersonville. It’s a north side neighborhood. Its borders run roughly from Broadway on the east to Ashland on the west, and from Foster to Peterson/Ridge at its north end.

In terms of geography, it’s an unremarkable neighborhood – no close CTA stop or Metra stop, no rivers or remarkable parks, and one main bus (the perpetually crowded and slow 22 Clark) running down Clark Street, its main thoroughfare.

Photo credit: Patrick Erwin

Photo credit: Patrick Erwin

The second is my current hood: the West Loop. Or as I like to call it, WeLo.

(It sounds clever, right? Also, I’m a lazy typist and that’s way fewer letters.)

WeLo has a close proximity to the Loop. It’s got one main bus route (the perpetually crowded and slow 20 Madison), and a new, shiny Morgan Green Line stop. (Two more stops, both Blue Line, sit at the extreme southern ends of the neighborhood.)

The Bartelme Park at Monroe and Peoria is an entire city block of amazingness. And WeLo is also known for “Restaurant Row” on its northern end.

But for all the amazing things happening in WeLo, it still hasn’t reached that point of coalescence as a neighborhood. Andersonville, on the other hand, is the textbook definition of a neighborhood, and all the pluses of one: tight community ties and people filling its shops, stores and restaurants.

Why isn’t WeLo every bit as cozy and inviting as Andersonville? I’ve wondered why for a while – and figured I’d try to use some urban planning ideas and metrics to compare and contrast these two areas.


The mysteries of Pittsburgh

I’ll be discussing several so-called “Rust Belt” cities here in the next few weeks.

PittsburghBut I’m launching a series of posts today on one particular city: Pittsburgh.

The choice of Pittsburgh is, in part, because of my own experiences: I grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. As an adult, I lived in city neighborhoods for over a decade. I still call it “home.”

But personal connections aside, I think Pittsburgh is a really compelling city to examine in this blog. Pittsburgh has been hailed as a success story (and rightfully so) of a city that lost its primary industry and managed to reinvent itself.

Pittsburgh is thinking about – or running right into – many of the issues of urban use, reuse, planning and development that are being discussed across the country.

And there are shifts in Pittsburgh’s suburbs, and the regions surrounding Pittsburgh, that fall into national trends (leapfrog suburbs, decay of first-ring suburbs).

Pittsburgh’s transit options (or lack thereof) are also very representative of the challenges many cities are dealing with, and I’ll be examining Pittsburgh’s transit issues, too.

There are some unique aspects of Pittsburgh – the geography, the resources and of course, the Pittsburgh accent – and I’ll be writing about those, too.