Renting & Living in the Gold Coast

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

The Drake Hotel, Chicago, ILChicago’s Gold Coast is without a doubt one of the most luxurious residential neighborhoods anywhere in the world. Nestled just beyond the edge of the Loop proper, the Gold Coast is a mix of grand 19th century mansions, luxury high-rise condominiums and renovated grey and brownstone walkups. Here, old and new seamlessly blend together with the connecting thread of wealth and status. Bounded on the south by Oak Street and East Lake Shore Drive, on the north by North Avenue, from Lake Michigan west to Clark Street; the Gold Coast, has a decidedly more residential feel than other downtown Chicago neighborhoods. Shaded avenues, landscaped walkways and prim wrought-iron fences add to the neighborhood’s refined appeal. A stroll among the massive stone structures that once housed many of Chicago’s wealthiest and most influential families is breathtaking. Sharing the block with lofty, contemporary condos are majestic, symmetrical Georgian Revival mansions and impressive, stone-turreted Richardsonian Romanesque townhouses that unquestionably suit the elite, but welcome the attention of any passerby. In fact, Gold Coast neighborhood architecture and history is celebrated by annual walking tours sponsored by architectural foundations.

What Attracts Renters to Chicago’s Gold Coast

The Gold Coast got its start in the late 1800’s as the Astor Street District. Today’s Gold Coast incorporates this original district and extends beyond it. The original Astor Street District was named after John Jacob Astor, one of the richest people in the country. He did not live in Chicago, but was a respected citizen with several achievements and his name gave the neighborhood a status of wealth which remains even today. In 1875, Lake Shore Drive became a popular spot for leisurely lakefront rides. As a result, the Gold Coast area became more frequently visited. In the ensuing two decades, Potter Palmer, the Chicago Archdiocese and James Charnley built mansions in the area. They were soon followed by other wealthy families, bringing up the status of the area and giving it a reputation as a neighborhood of influential citizens. As the neighborhood became more densely populated, there wasn’t as much space for mansions, and high-rise apartment buildings were constructed.

Today’s Gold Coast retains all of the prestige and reputation that it has enjoyed over the last century. Encompassing the north end of the Magnificent Mile, the neighborhood is home to some of Downtown Chicago’s most elite shops, world-class hotels, posh restaurants, and unparalleled architecture. The atmosphere here speaks of tradition and grandeur. Walk on State Parkway between Banks and Schiller to see the old Playboy mansion. Residents can stroll down Astor Street District for an impromptu tour of Victorian architecture. Don’t miss the quaint, historic firehouse on Chicago between Michigan and Lake Shore. Find designer boutiques on Oak Street. Head to Rush and Division for classy cocktails. And take time to visit Oak Street Beach, which offers a unique beach experience: sunbathing while gazing at Downtown Chicago’s skyline.

Rent an Apartment on the Gold Coast Then Visit …

  • The Purple Pig – The Purple Pig draws its inspiration from the Mediterranean and packs its menu with an accessible mix of antipasti, cured meats, cheeses, and smears; all the hottest commodities (sopressata, bone marrow, Mediterranean wines) are there for the taking and admirably done. Even gambles pay off, as in the tender sepia cuttlefish a la plancha with toasted almonds and fried rosemary.
  • The Signature Lounge – Instead of visiting the John Hancock Center’s zenith during daylight hours, opt for an evening cocktail in the building’s high-flying lounge. Located on the 96th floor, the dimly lit bar has dazzling 360-degree views of the city. With three salons to choose from, you can romance a date at a window table in the south lounge or socialize with a group on couches in the west lounge.
  • Bistro Zinc – The bread and butter alone are worth the trip to this quaint French bistro with Provençal-yellow walls, tin ceiling and zinc-top bar. While its cocktails are made with spirits from a local distillery, its menu is straight from France: don’t miss classic dishes like steak frites, croque monsier and housemade pâté, as well as its decadent desserts.
  • Wolford – This shoebox-sized storefront specializes in one essential niche of women’s fashion: high-end, high-quality hosiery. The Austrian-based luxury line sells everything from animal-print leggings to flame-patterned tights to your basic opaques in all the colors of the rainbow. But unlike your standard Spanx, these may very well last a lifetime.
  • Oliver Peoples – This minimalist white storefront showcases all three of Oliver Peoples’ trendy eyewear brands: Paul Smith, Mosley Tribes and the namesake Oliver Peoples. Find delicate metal designs and vintage plastic classics like the original, circular O’Malley frames on display for fashionable four-eyes.
  • Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art – On top of the dining and shopping the Gold Coast boasts one of the largest contemporary art museums in the country. Located on East Chicago Avenue and designed by architect Josef Paul Kleihues, the five-story building has three floors of dedicated gallery space extending from a central glass atrium. Highlighting pieces from 1945 to the present, the permanent collection focuses on surrealism, minimalism, conceptual photography and work by Chicago-based artists. Pieces include those by Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Alexander Calder. Exhibits change monthly, and free docent-led tours provide insight into select works.

Get to know the Gold Coast with Downtown Apartment Company's guide to living in the area.