Wednesday, September 16th, 2015
Chicago’s South Loop is an increasingly vibrant and often surprisingly historic corner of downtown’s rental landscape. Boasting museums, a wide range of recreational opportunities, the South Loop is an ideal neighborhood for a certain breed of apartment seeker. With landmark attractions ranging from the Field Museum and Soldier Field to the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, McCormick Place Convention Center and even the ShowPlace ICON Theatre sitting right outside their doors, residents have virtually limitless entertainment options. Lake Shore Drive and the Congress Parkway are similarly accessible so commuting to other parts of Chicago from the South Loop is as convenient as it gets. On top of which, as with so many other downtown neighborhoods, construction cranes have been busily redefining the real estate landscape for a decade. Luxury penthouses and rental apartments have steadily replaced the industrial buildings that haven’t already been converted into loft spaces.
The South Loop starts where downtown Chicago proper ends, extends south to Cermak Chinatown, east to Lake Michigan and West to the Chicago River. The neighborhood encompasses Printer’s Row River City, the northern half of Dearborn Park, the Central Station development, the Prairie District, and even the northern growth of Chinatown. Following decades of neglect, the neighborhood has rapidly evolved into one of Chicago’s hottest spots. As the new place to see and be seen, the South Loop is attracting trendier renters and becoming home to a host of hipster frequented bars and restaurants. Developers have practically attacked the neighborhood, snatching up whatever they can lay their hands on. Construction cranes are such a common sight that they’re practically permanent fixtures and apartment buildings are being thrown up at startling speeds. The last decade brought more change to the South Loop than the last century and its future will clearly involve even more change.
The South Loop is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Chicago. In its Gilded Age heyday a string of mansions, townhouses and sprawling green spaces along Prairie Avenue’s “Millionaire’s Row” housed 75 of the world’s richest men. While not far away in the infamous Levee District gambling dens and bordellos thrived. Eventually Chicago’s elite packed up and moved north into the area now known as the Gold Coast and morality crusaders managed to drive the Levee District’s seedier element out and Chicago’s then booming publishing industry in. The area fell into rapid decline after the publishers of Printer’s Row went bust. It was all but abandoned until someone realized that those empty publishing house warehouses were perfect for conversion into loft apartments and the neighborhood began to attract writers and other artists eager to take advantage of the affordable downtown real estate along Dearborn. Today, downtown Chicago’s real estate boom is attracting a wide range of renters to the South Loop, but the neighborhood has retained its eclectic vibe and has become a densely populated, tightly-knit, community.