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Logan Square burns hot as many city neighborhoods cool down

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff Realty Group.  This four bedroom house on Whipple Street sold for $933,500 last week, up about 19 percent from what its sellers paid for it in 2014.

 In a year when the real estate market in many Chicago neighborhoods has cooled, nobody has turned down the heat in Logan Square.

The median price of a single-family home in Logan Square has shot up by more than 19 percent this year, according to year-to-date data through the end of September released by the Chicago Association of Realtors on Oct. 14.The number of houses sold also rose steeply, almost 9 percent, in the same period.

That combination is stronger than the numbers for any other North Side neighborhood, Crain's analysis of the association's data shows. The price of a house has dipped in Lincoln Square and North Center, and the number of houses sold has stalled or declined in Lakeview, Lincoln Park and West Town.

Ask Jonathan Egan—who bought a house on Whipple Street with his wife, Alison, last week—what's behind Logan Square staying hot in a cold real estate climate: "There's a vibe that we love," said Egan, president of Egan's Irish Whiskey, a brand that's been in his family since 1852.

"We're getting away from the constant Walgreens, sports bar, Starbucks in a row to more independent joints," he said. "Mom-and-pop joints and a lack of TVs in the bars."

Add to that the 606 trail, a crop of new-construction houses, and the CTA's Blue Line, and you have a place "where young families really like to be," said Rory Mone, the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff agent who represented the Egans.

Where there's heat, though, somebody can get burned, and some neighborhood activists say it's the longtime and Latino residents of Logan Square who are paying the price of the neighborhood's popularity. On Oct. 23, a coalition of civic groups will hold an anti-gentrification march, calling on public officials to find solutions to what they say is rampant displacement of Latino residents. "We're doing this march for racial equity and affordable housing," said Nancy Aardema, director of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, one of the groups organizing the march. "You see all this investment (in real estate), but we're seeing teardowns and displacement. Between 2010 and 2014, more than 19,000 Latino residents moved out of Logan Square, she said. "The schools lose a lot of students," she said, "and that (leads to) losing funding."

Some newcomers to the neighborhood wouldn't want displacement to continue. Mone said the neighborhood's diversity appeals to many buyers. "They tell you at open houses that they want to live in diverse neighborhoods," he said. "That's the future of the city, and it's what Logan Square offers."

The median price of single-family homes sold in Logan Square in the first nine months of the year was more than $832,000, according to Chicago Association of Realtors' data, up from about $699,000 during the same period in 2017. Condo and townhouse prices rose less sharply, by 6.6 percent to $405,000. (The number of sales of condos and townhouses declined, but even so, with three indicators out of four rising, the neighborhood outpaced nearly all others.)

Avondale, immediately north of Logan Square, has also stayed warm, with median house prices rising 6.5 percent and the number of sales up almost 12 percent year-to-date at the end of September.

South Side neighborhoods showing similar increases in home prices and sales to what Logan Square has are largely beneficiaries of the wave of rehab and recovery that has been washing over the South Side in the past few years. Among them, according to CAR's data, are Auburn Gresham, Roseland and South Chicago.

The Egans paid $933,500 for a four-bedroom house built in 2007 on an extra-deep lot, 150 feet compared to the city standard of 125 feet. The sellers had paid $785,000 for it in 2014. The difference, roughly 19 percent, is because "they bought before the 606 opened" in 2015, said Francesca Rose, of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff Realty Group. The popular recreation trail is three blocks south of the house. In the first year after the 606 opened, home values in areas along its western end, including Logan Square, rose by more than 9 percent, the Institute for Housing Studies reported in 2016.

A major factor in both home price increases and displacement is new construction. About 1 in 5 homes that sold in Logan Square in the past two years was new construction, according to Crain's research on Redfin, an online real estate database. There is likely more to come, thanks to both supply and demand, said Greg Vollan, an @properties agent.

On the supply side, "there are still a lot of old buildings in disrepair that need to be rehabbed" or replaced, he said, and buildable lots now go for considerably less than more built-up neighborhoods like Wicker Park and Bucktown. On the demand side, Vollan said, are the buyers who "don't want a house from 10 years ago in Wicker Park that they have to redo. They want new." 

Posted in Lathrop, Affordable Housing, 606 Bloomingdale Trail, News Archives