From Lincoln Park to Dearborn Park: Chicago’s Central Neighborhoods

From Lincoln Park to Dearborn Park: Chicago’s Central Neighborhoods

As I have mentioned in my posting on wealthy urban neighborhoods, one cannot really compare entire city neighborhoods to homogenous single family suburban neighborhoods. The 69 suburban Chicago neighborhoods in the Higley 1000 have an average of of 624 households. The 11 contiguous central Chicago neighborhoods spotlighted in this essay have an average of 7,740 households ranging from 35, 069 in Lincoln Park to a more suburban-like 572 in the Dearborn Park neighborhood just to the south of the Loop.

Chicago is endowed with a large number of beautiful and expensive downtown neighborhoods, but only one single Block Group in the middle of Lincoln Park has a mean household income that is high enough to make the Higley 1000. Even the Lincoln Park block that was christened the “wealthiest block in Chicago” by Forbes Magazine in August of 2007, does not qualify for the Higley 1000. As the block in question has only recently undergone widespread demolition to make way for the construction of multi-lot pleasure palaces for our new Gilded Age, it will undoubtedly make the list after the 2010 Census.

Forbes may salivate over the nouveau mansions of Lincoln Park, but any self respecting Chicagoan knows that the real center of Chicago’s elite is found in the Gold Coast. The luxurious single block of East Lake Shore Drive, North Lake Shore Drive from Oak Street to North Avenue, and Astor Street are unquestionably the most elite of the city’s neighborhoods. Surprisingly, the Block Group that covers this area does not have a high enough mean household income ($180,093) to qualify for the Higley 1000.

The reason for this relatively “low” mean household income in the Gold Coast is found in the very density and complexity associated with urban neighborhoods. For every condominium tower that features multi-million dollar units in this area, there are massive high rises that bring the mean household income down to more pedestrian levels. For those familiar with Chicago, 1350, 1360, and 1400 Lake Shore Drive are examples of massive rental-turned-condo high rises’ that subvert the mean household incomes of this plush neighborhood.

Racial Integration in Chicago’s Central Neighborhoods

Defining the geographical boundaries of Chicago’s central neighborhoods is a challenge to any Geographer since the city’s rich history of urban sociological research has resulted in many definitions. After much research using Census Tracts and Block Group boundaries, I have settled on the eleven neighborhoods found on the map below.

A Map of Chicago’s Central Neighborhoods

View Larger Map of Higley 1000 Neighborhoods in the City of Chicago

The Racial Makeup of the Neighborhoods

City of Chicago Neighborhoods Racial Makeup

Rank Neighborhood Mean HH Income 2000 Population Black % Asian % Latino % NonHisp White %
  Chicago 54,175 289,5964 33.8 4.2 17.9 42.0
1 Lincoln Park 115,856 62,641 2.5 3.9 3.6 88.8
2 Near North 105,586 19,664 8.3 6.1 3.7 80.1
3 Streeterville 107,276 15,398 4.9 11.9 2.5 78.9
4 River West 86,168 7457 13.4 10.3 3.4 71.2
5 Sandberg Village 95,876 7205 3.8 3.9 3.1 87.4
6 Gold Coast 153,358 6895 2.4 3.7 1.6 91.4
7 River North 100,797 6552 12.1 4.9 5.7 74.0
8 Lake Shore East 122,145 5144 11.6 8.6 3.7 73.1
9 Old Town 104,060 4038 8.1 3.8 4.3 80.0
10 The Loop 91,033 3236 7.8 4.4 9.5 73.4
11 Dearborn Park 174,249 1365 30.1 2.6 3.5 60.5
  Total   139,595 5.6 5.7 3.5 83.4

The racial makeup of the City of Chicago households at the time of the 2000 Census was 42.0% Non-Hispanic White, 33.8% African-American, 17.9% Latino, and 4.2% Asian. The eleven wealthy central neighborhoods are radically different in racial makeup: 83.4% White, 5.7% Black, 3.5% Latino, and 5.7% Asian. Although there are significant differences among the elite central city neighborhoods, none of them come close to matching the racial diversity of the rest of the city.

I have rank ordered the neighborhoods by populations starting with the very large Lincoln Park Neighorhood. Lincoln Park has over 40% of all of the households in my sample and although it has many sub-neighborhoods (e.g. Sheffield Neighbors, the Old Town Triangle), I have chosen to lump them in one unit. Lincoln Park is only slightly more integrated than Chicago’s elite suburbs on the North Shore. A mere 2.5% of Lincoln Park’s households are African-American. The only city neighborhood that has a lower percentage is the Gold Coast (2.4% African-American).

It is interesting that the four central city neighborhoods that have the largest percentage of African-American households are relatively “new”. The Dearborn Park neighborhood was 30.1% African-American in 2000. Dearborn Park was built just south of the Loop in two phases (1977 and 1988). Although the percentage of African-Americans is high compared to other central city neighborhoods, it is important to remember that this neighborhood is quite small.

River West (13.4% Black) and River North (12.1%) are new loft neighborhoods that have been created out old factories and and office buildings as well as new high rise construction. The neighborhood that is sometimes referred to as Lake Shore East consists solely of high rises, most of which have been built within the last 20 years.

Two neighborhoods that have a significant number of Asian households are Streeterville, a high rise neighborhood along the lake, East of Michigan Avenue (13.4% Asian) as well as the aforementioned “new” loft neighborhood of River West (10.3%).

The only neighborhood with a significant Latino presence is the Loop (9.5%). At the time of the 2000 Census, there were few households in Chicago’s central business district as only 1,025 were counted. Since the last Census, office conversions and new construction have changed the face of the Loop with a much wider array of housing choices.

As to whether all of the new high rises. lofts, and townhouses will significantly alter the racial makeup of Chicago’s central neighborhoods will be of great interest. Virtually all of the new construction is at the high end of the market, most notably the 1,200 unit, 2,000 foot Chicago Spire under construction in Streeterville. The Higley1000 sends its condolences to the real estate agents trying to sell 1,200 units that run up to $45 million in this market! Where are those Russian Oligarchs when you need them?

Posted in Metro Briefs, Racial Diversity, Uncategorized on Mar 15th, 2008, 10:35 pm by Stephen Higley   

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