The Curbed Cup, our annual award for the neighborhood of the year, is kicking off with 16 neighborhoods vying for the prestigious (fake) trophy. We’ll reveal each of the neighborhoods this week, and polls will be open for 24 hours so you can cast your vote as to which ones should advance. Let the eliminations commence!
Lonely Planet dubbed Avondale one of the nation’s top 10 hottest, need-to-visit neighborhoods this year. Mostly for retaining its “humble” two-flat charm and scruffy feel while hipsters and artisan coffee shops continue to creep in from surrounding areas. The neighborhood doesn’t exactly come to mind when discussing trendy areas, but that’s the point. Residents cherish their tree-lined streets and low-key coolness.
The city broke ground earlier this year on 312 RiverRun—finally making use of the North Branch section of the Chicago River. The 2-mile recreation path will connect Irving Park, Albany Park, North Center and Avondale.
This neighborhood isn’t just a solid, and very affordable, place to live. The bars, restaurants and shops here are absolutely worth a trip. Honey Butter Fried Chicken, the original Kuma’s Corner and Michelin-starred Parachute serve some of the best food in the city. Cute shops such as the whimsical, retro Bric-A-Brac Records and the third-generation, family-owned Kozy Cyclery Megastore show this neighborhood is about making relationships with locals. The Beer Temple, a friendly curated beer shop, and Revolution Brewing’s Tap Room make this an obvious destination for any brew lovers too.
(12) Wicker Park and Bucktown
Wicker Park and Bucktown have shed their old identities for trendier shops, outdoor patios and even a few rooftop bars. They have become destinations for both locals and tourists for shopping, dining, and nightlife.
The community still retains an artists vibe and there are even some Bucktown two-flats with lawns that haven’t been targeted (yet) for new lot-line-to-lot-line mansions. There’s also no doubt that the city’s expanded TOD incentives have had a huge hand in the gentrification of the neighborhoods as multi-family rental developments pop up along Milwaukee Avenue.
Both neighborhoods share a border with the North Branch Industrial Corridor—and now that the city has relaxed zoning restrictions it could mean a lot more office, retail and apartments are on the way. Being able to score an affordable apartment in Wicker Park is near impossible and Bucktown’s days are numbered.
The architecture and creative redevelopment in the community is something to appreciate though. The Robey Hotel has lived many different lives within its Art Deco walls and has one of the last functioning antique elevators in Chicago. Just next door, a Walgreens is housed within a historic former bank building that boasts a high stained-glass ceiling and beautiful archways.
The Flat Iron Arts Building, a mix of art studios and local businesses, is a survivor of the neighborhood’s past. Wonder through the hallways and art studios during First Fridays to admire paintings, photographs, performances and other art from the local community. Despite a lot of commercialization and Double Door controversy, some local bars, theaters, galleries and quirky bookstores have hung on.