Chicago’s impressive skyline features high-rise buildings jutting into space. Home to the renowned Willis Tower — currently the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere — along with three more of the top 10 tallest buildings in the United States, it is easy to see why downtown Chicago might seem exclusively built of skyscrapers.
However, when it comes to finding a home, Chicagoans have an extensive array of housing options available, even in the very heart of the city.
We will start with the obvious: High-rise condo buildings abound in downtown neighborhoods. The Loop, known as Chicago’s business center, is almost exclusively comprised of these skyscrapers, as is Streeterville, located just across the river. While many of the high-rises found in these neighborhoods are modern construction, several are lauded for their historic architecture.
Both the luxury of newer buildings and the history of long standing buildings offer a unique experience for those looking to live around the corner from their office. River North also contains an abundance of high-rise buildings offering luxurious living in a bustling neighborhood, with new restaurants and bars popping on a regular basis. A high-rise in the center of the city promises convenience and proximity to downtown activity, and often offers additional amenities such as doormen, fitness centers, package receiving, and even onsite dry cleaning.
2. Mid-Rise Condos
For those who appreciate living a little closer to the ground and who don’t want to wait for the elevator to make its way from the 50th floor, mid-rise condos might be a perfect fit. While there isn’t an exact height requirement that determines their classification, when walking the streets of downtown Chicago, it is easy to spot a mid-rise building against the backdrop of skyscrapers.
Generally under 20 stories, these buildings tend to feel less like you’re headed home to a hotel. Many mid-rise buildings promise the same amenities as high-rises, but offer a little more intimacy and the chance to actually recognize the faces you see coming and going in the lobby. The South Loop home to numerous mid-rise buildings, many of which are newer construction or freshly renovated. Mid-rises are also a common sight in the West Loop, River West, and River North.
While many loft-style buildings could technically be classified as mid-rises, their style is so distinctive that they deserve their own category. If wood beam rafters and exposed brick are your thing, chances are you will fall in love with loft living. Often boasting spacious floor plans and high ceilings, loft-style condos offer homeowners a unique sense of character and an open space to transform according to their preferences.
The West Loop—home to Chicago’s famed restaurant row—is also known for its industrial architecture, where countless warehouses and factories have been renovated into condo buildings. River North also has its fair share of lofts and you can find a few buildings in this style sprinkled throughout River West and the South Loop.
With more space than a condo, but generally not as expensive as a single-family home, townhomes can offer excellent value for those ready for a walk-up, but still hoping to stay close to the city center. You can find a select handful of townhomes in most downtown neighborhoods, but your chances are certainly better in Gold Coast, River North, West Loop, and South Loop.
Typically, townhomes incur Homeowners’ Association fees and you may share a wall (or two) with your neighbor, but the benefits of this set-up include less individual maintenance and a stronger sense of community. Townhomes are often a great option for first-time buyers looking to invest in an accessible home.
While they may not be incredibly prevalent, single-family homes do exist in downtown Chicago neighborhoods. Those looking for such a home may have to sacrifice a big yard and will most likely closely abut their neighbors, but the promise of owning a home in the heart of the city still carries strong appeal. Single-family homes promise more space than a condo or townhome and ensure an added level of privacy and independence.
Graystones, which get their name from their limestone facade, are a prominent home style in dense Chicago neighborhoods While they certainly are not cheap, single-family homes can be found on the outskirts of West Loop and River North. However, you are most likely to find single-family homes in the illustrious Gold Coast neighborhood. Here, beautiful single family homes line the streets, creating a residential enclave in an otherwise urban area. These homes often have attached garages or assigned parking and generally don’t carry the added burden of HOA fees.
One of the benefits of living in a city known for historic architecture is the potential to call a mansion “home.” If money is no object and you want to walk the halls once occupied by Chicago’s elite, Gold Coast has plenty of mansions for you to explore. While many no longer serve as residences, the few that do would certainly make you the envy of your neighbors. These historic buildings may be old, but they never go out of style.
-Contributed by Jennifer Darrow for Neighborhoods.com