Bridgeport looks and feels like a standalone village at times, hemmed in by two highways, the South Branch, the Sanitary & Shipping Canal, and dramatically poorer neighborhoods to the south. And the cute Orange Line is the train, largely ignored by denizens of more northerly nabes. The cycles of movement through the work day are decidedly big city, however, as is the ethnic makeup: Bridgeport is known for its mix of people of Irish, Italian, Lithuanian, Mexican, and Chinese-descent.
Named for a bridge over the South Branch of the Chicago River too low to pass under, Bridgeport became an accidental port stop. First settled in the 1830s by Irish immigrant canal-diggers, the newest arrivals are artists, entrepreneurs, and a burgeoning Chinese immigrant population (not mutually exclusive). Businesses are responding with food and services catering to every group, particularly along Halsted and 31st Street to a lesser degree. The Zhou B Art Center on 35th is a major arts incubator with residences for 30 artists, a ground-floor gallery, and a cafe. Less established spaces dot the landscape including the newly-renovated Bridgeport Art Center, just down the street. And one of the city's most beguiling parks, Stearns Quarry (Palmisano Park), with its landscaped hills, marsh, and quarry water hole, is big with families, fishers, and tai chi practitioners.
In the aughts, new buildings began to mass around 35th and Morgan, along Halsted, and in subdivisions just west of U.S. Cellular Field. Unlike much of the South Side, population rose 13% between 2000 and 2010. That action is gradually returning as prices rise and as Bridgeport registers more interest with outsiders. On the rental side of things, it's largely about small and indistinct stock— flats, single-familes, condo leases, and sublets. The historical home base of the Daley clan and three other mayors, these are interesting times for a unique 'hood.
Rental Units: Don't come looking for studio apartments or anything with a view (unless you're getting a live-work loft setup). Much of the listed rental stock consists of one- and two-bed flats, and two-bed cottages. Scenesters will find what they're looking for at Morgan & 31st, with its concentration of beer, coffee, music, and art. Ditto Halsted b/w 31st & 35th.
Rent Range: One-beds can reliably be had for less than $1,000, and surprisingly, the rates don't catapult out of reach for many two- and three-beds— there's little need to overcrowd or even split the rent more than twice. Whole house rentals, the 1,000-1,500 square-foot ones, hover around $2,000 from what we've seen. Any average-sized apartments outside of the $2Ks should eyed with skepticism.
Neighborhood Highlights: These would have to include the aforementioned Stearns Quarry, Bridgeport Art Center, and Zhou B Art Center, as well as new cultural touchstone the Co-Prosperity Sphere, a buzzy art gallery with ties to the SAIC arts community. There are a few really good coffee houses, a dive bar or two, a gussied-up packaged goods spot named Maria's (a sponsor of live music and food truck fests), and a bunch of non-pretentious and amazing eats— Han 202, Bruno's Bakery, Pleasant House Bakery, Zaytune, Pancho Pistolas (visit Yelp for more).
·3800 S Emerald Avenue #2; a 3/1 apartment for $1,000.
·3311 S Emerald Avenue #2; a 3/1 flat for $1,399.
·1246 W 31st Street; a 4/2 single-fam for $1,895.
·3505 S Morgan Street #206; a 2/1.5 condo for $1,350.
·509 W 38th Street; a 3/2 single-fam for $2,450.
·2500 S Halsted Avenue #4E; a 2/2 penthouse condo for $3,300.