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How Downtown Became the Hottest Market for Chicago Renters

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It's Renter's Week here at Curbed, and today we're looking at neighborhoods in Chicago where renters previously felt left out. While in recent decades, renters have had free reign over much of the north, west, and southern neighborhoods surrounding downtown, it's only been in the last few years when downtown itself has begun to open its eyes to the world of rental apartments. A few factors have aligned to make this possible: the economy is rebounding, the building industry is booming, and younger workers moving into big cities today are looking to be as close to the action as possible. As a result, areas of downtown that were once the domain of condos and mortgages are starting to see an explosion of new apartment projects that will bring rent-payers into the city center.

Let's take a look at some of these neighborhoods with lots of new apartment activity:
South Loop

Despite being inches from the bustling center of downtown, the South Loop was Chicago's most tragically overlooked neighborhoods for decades until the early-2000's housing bubble saw developers swarm in to convert warehouses into loft condos and break ground on shiny new condo towers. When that bubble popped, many of those condo projects abruptly turned into apartment projects as the ensuing recession saw interest in purchasing a home disappear. Now that the economy is warming up, retail and restaurants are beginning to find their way into the South Loop, bringing a neighborhood feel to a part of town that once held a reputation of "nothing to do there."

The attractive thing for renters in the South Loop is that almost every apartment on the market is either brand new or fairly new, so amenities, appliances, designs, and fixtures will all meet the tastes of modern renters. If your dream is living in a building with a front desk and an elevator, the South Loop has you covered.

All previous South Loop coverage >>

River North

River North was the epicenter of a cultural upheaval during the last building boom. Once a low-rise district of aging buildings and the occasional tourist trap, River North quickly saw at least a dozen condo towers spring up while a vibrant restaurant scene took over the ground floors of the neighborhood's old buildings and tech startups took over the lofted floors above them. River North quickly became one of the hottest parts of town to work, eat, and live—as long as you could afford the down payment to buy a house. While home buyers flocked to River North, renters weren't so welcome. Very few apartment projects kicked off during the last boom, so the neighborhood quickly developed a "renters not welcome" stigma.

Now that the construction world is back in business, River North has seen a huge number of apartment projects announced. While previously the most likely way to find a rental in the neighborhood would be to find a condo for rent by owner, renters will soon have their pick of the litter of at least ten new apartment developments. River North's classically grumpy homeowner community will have to get used to sharing a zip code with renters!

All previous River North coverage >>

The Loop

Despite being the heart of Downtown Chicago, the Loop has spent the last few decades in suspended animation. The Loop would be plenty busy during the day time, when office workers would flood in from the suburbs, then at night everybody would go home and by 7 p.m. the once-beating heart of Chicago would transform into an abandoned ghost town reminiscent of the first scene of Omega Man. That trend is starting to reverse itself, with new boutique hotels creeping into the Loop and now a whole heap of rental apartment inventory is on its way shortly.

Rental options in the Loop are pretty limited right now (try Millennium Park Plaza at Michigan and Randolph), but between the apartments being built atop Block 37 and the huge new bKL-designed tower at 200 North Michigan, over 1,000 rental units will be hitting the market at once. Higher-end renters may also enjoy the recently-completed OneEleven West Wacker, with luxury amenities and killer riverfront views.

All previous Loop coverage >>

·Developers to Deliver 3,000 New Downtown Apartments in 2015 [Curbed Chicago]
·Mapping Downtown Chicago's 15 Newest, Priciest and Most Luxurious Rental Developments [Curbed Chicago]
·Apartment Boom Town archives [Curbed Chicago]
·All Renters Week 2015 coverage [Curbed Chicago]