Built a hundred years ago on a trapezoid city block located at the corner of Clark and Addison Streets (for an all-in sum of $250,000), Wrigley Field has for decades been the brick and mortar patriarch of Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood.
About Wrigley Field
Designated as an historic landmark in 2004, ‘The Friendly Confines’ (nicknamed so by Cub’s legend Ernie Banks and affectionately referred to by ‘cubby blue’ bleeding baseball fans everywhere) remains one of the most endearing and oft-visited sports Mecca destinations in the nation. With its sui generis red marquee above the main entrance turnstiles, ivy-covered outfield walls, and multi-tiered racks of stadium lighting (added in 1988) that loom like an illuminated sentinel over the infamous ‘bleacher bum’ cheap seats, the grand old ballpark stands as an architectural beacon above a residential grid of greystone walk-ups, courtyard apartment buildings, and turn-of-the-century rehabs. The bustling bar and restaurant district–with over a hundred different establishments–runs along both sides of Clark Street, spilling onto adjacent city blocks in every direction; thus, lending the namesake of ‘Wrigleyville’ to the entire area.
Over the years, this relatively small north side Chicago enclave has become a micro-economy in and of itself (not the least of which includes the buying and selling of real estate). Geographically, it is tucked between Montrose and Belmont Harbors to the east and Ashland Avenue to the west. There is even a nine-hole lakefront golf course a short walk away and reliable public transportation at every corner that includes the Addison Red Line ‘L’ stop.
Homes in Wrigleyville
The housing stock in the heart of Wrigleyville is predominately residential condominiums. At this writing, there are 80 active listings ranging in price from $157,000 (studio apartment with partial lake view) to $775,000 (2,000 square foot duplex-up with a private rooftop terrace). Twenty-two other units in the immediate neighborhood are currently under contract with a 77 day average market time. In addition to the above prices, plan on setting aside $25,000 for each deeded garage space you require. And while these are current (2014) figures, the numbers across the board (price-point, market time, etc.) have been consistent over the past 18 months, gently trending upward.
During this same fiscal period, a growing niche market of new construction single family homes—a sector that was reduced to smoldering cinders and promissory notes just a few years back–has once again started to emerge. Such dwellings, generally upward of 4,000 square feet in size and constructed of either brick and limestone, or frame and hardy board, have list prices starting at $1.5 million. Likewise, the going rate for vacant land (a standard Chicago lot measures a mere 25’ x 125’) in Wrigleyville begins at $500,000. Depending on the street, proximity to the lake, schools, parks, etc., this price can double or even triple. Consequently, given the high acquisition cost of land on the entire north side of the city, the ‘resale’ single family market is also vibrant and the strongest it’s been in years
Currently, there are only nine active single family listings in Wrigleyville ranging in price from $649,000 to $4.7 million, with three others currently under contract. Market time on those three pending deals average 62 days but one is still being built. (Note that any new construction house that is put under contract while still being built will continue to accrue MLS market time until the home is finished and escrow is closed.) And again, while these statistics are current, they are indicative of how the market has been performing since the early months of 2013.
Condos and Apartments in Wrigleyville
Multi-unit buildings, mixed-use commercial properties, and storefront businesses make up the remainder of the real estate market in the neighborhood. Although there are hundreds of existing apartment buildings in the area (built in the 1920s and predominately rental), it is rare (comparatively speaking) to ever see the best ones listed on the residential MLS. These buildings, for one reason or another, are properties that were never condo-converted during the ‘boom’ and appear, from my experience, to be marketed exclusively by Commercial brokers if they become available at all. Investment-wise, they are considered to be solid ‘buy-holds,’ especially the ones within close proximity to the ballpark or the lake. Many are family-owned properties that have simply never been on the market to begin with and it’s not uncommon to hear of these entities being exchanged privately, without any brokerage assistance. Of course, there are always those few lingering examples of over-leveraged money-pits that, after re-financing and excessive capital withdrawals, may never again fetch their last ‘sold price.’ But in Wrigleyville, these too, are rare. Having said that, there are only five active multi-unit listings available; ranging in price from $999,000 for a 6-flat to $3,999,900 for a 16 unit courtyard building that’s been on and off the market for 200 days.
It’s also important to note that occupancy rates for rentals hover around 95% in this immediate area and the search/selection/acceptance process can be a grueling experience for everyone involved in the transaction: landlords, tenants, owners, and brokers. Multiple offer situations are routine and the candidate with the highest income and most sparkling credit score generally gets the first shot on any rental offering. In addition, Chicago is a lot like Paris with respect to its love of dogs—you see people walking them everywhere; in the dead heat of summer through the icy jaws of winter– but good luck finding a landlord that will let you keep one as a pet, no matter how much cake you make. In short, if you have a four-legged furry friend, a low-paying jay-oh-bee, and a dinged-up credit score—you must go west. Way west.
The following are examples of bottom-level rents if you choose to stay in the rarefied rental market of the east, i.e., Wrigleyville.
- $1,000 per month for a 400 square foot studio/one bath
- $1,400 per month for a 750 square foot one-bedroom/one bath
- $1,800 per month for a 1,200 square foot two-bedroom/one bath
- $2,200 per month for a 1,600 square foot two-bedroom/two bath
- $2,850 per month for a 1,900 square foot three-bedroom/ two bath
- $180 per month uncovered parking rental
- $225 per month garage parking rental
The Future of Wrigleyville
Since the Cubs were sold in 2009, there’s been a lot of media chatter about what’s in store for the future of Wrigley Field and thus, the future of Wrigleyville as a self-sustaining mixed-use community. Residential property owners have been fighting for years (with varying degrees of success) to preserve the zoning status quo of the neighborhood while local business owners have had their own sets of financial and tax-based challenges. The recent on-site partnering of Whole Foods Market and the Center on Halsted ‘well being’ health facility a few blocks away was eventually accepted (if not initially welcome) by the community; but a proposed $500 million Sheraton Hotel just steps from home plate? Time out. Not so fast. A local McDonald’s was recently sold for $20 million–but not for the actual business; for the land (and the proposed new zoning) it sits on. Lawsuits over rooftop sight lines are pending and the tricky ballpark historic landmark status has handcuffed more than a few deep-pocketed investors looking to get in on the development action. Legally, and to some extent, socially, it’s an extra innings quagmire.
Now add forty thousand people entering and exiting the stadium, jamming the sidewalks and streets during the 81 regular season home games, and it’s enough to make even the most laid-back COEXIST driver lay on the horn of his Prius. Toss a couple weekly Clark Street ‘pub crawls’ into the mix along with the festival atmosphere that accompanies the year-round ‘Cubs Nation’ visiting tour bus trade and well—you get the idea. For many residents it’s either learn to lump it or cash in your wooden nickels and jump on the #152 Addison ‘Westbound.’ For the rest of us — i.e., the hard boiled Chicagoans who sit in the cheap seats and bleed cubby blue—it’s one of the greatest spots in the whole wide world. Except, of course, in February.