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Old 10-02-2010, 05:49 PM
5,807 posts, read 10,362,817 times
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I know their have been several threads on this, and I know for a lot of regulars this the same information heard many times, but this is solely a service and a guide for newcomers or anyone else who wants to know what community fits them best.

This is not meant to start debate, but obviously anyone is welcome to add or debate if they so wish.

Many people post questions researching which suburbs have a small town character,friendly, etc. So, here I am to compile a concise yet breakdown of the Chicago suburbs that are "their own towns," that are different, that provide whatever it is that most of Chicago suburbia might lack. So here it goes: I will break this down mostly by direction/sector from the cityas to which ones are more than just typical suburbia.

For anyone here: It is important to note that when I talk about small town character here, I am not talking about small towns with fewer than 10,000 people, with ten miles of farm fields and woods in between. No matter where you go within 40 miles of downtown Chicago, you are going to find more suburban culture. There are many options of suburbs that provide an old -fashioned downtowns, with a main stream and a strong sense of community. I'm not talking Mayberry here. Towns I am talking about will almost always have more money than typical country town income levels, and subdivisions surrounding the older downtowns. yet you can find communities where there conspicuous consumption is at a minimum, and you can have quick access to some woods/fields, lakes, some rolling hills even if it is not 10 miles of it. Generally speaking, suburbs that have a strong community, typically grew up along the metra stations.

If you drive well over an hour in any direction during non-rush hour times, you will get out into farm country. However, the only direction where you can do this more quickly is towards to the south. The south suburbs have grown significantly less because it was the sector that was more industrial, less corporate headquarter oriented, and consequently the suburbs do not extend as far: Still, your only real option for a bona-fide midwestern country town that is what Iowans might be used to, and still be within commutable distance of Chicago, would be Peotone, yet that is pushing the definition of "commutable" (about an hour in weekday traffic) along I-57, and still does have couple suburban subdivisions, on the outskirts. Yet, it is a bonafide country town of under 5,000.

In terms of suburbs that are faily unique, and have a strong sense of community, and a lot of character, taken as a whole you would want to look at the west and southwest suburbs. This first installment of the thread will focus on the W-SW corridor of suburban towns along the BNSF railroad.

I-88 which runs through the west suburbs is similar to I-90 which runs through the Northwest suburbs, however there are differences. There are many glass and steel regional and national corporate headquarters and malls; but the difference is, is that they are much more spread out along I-88. Along I-90 the shopping and employment is much more concentrated in and around Schaumburg. Schaumburg has just about everything a city of 100-something thousand could have, but in an artificial, history-less way. Very similar to the way areas of southern California developed. The only historic downtown in the NW suburbs that attracts large crowds and is a draw from all around, is downtown Long Grove. Long Grove is restored19th century village that is very charming, however mostly focuses on boutique/antique/cutesy stuff, and doesn't really have anything at all, that people would need to shop for on a regular basis.

While some NW suburbs such as Arlington Hts and Palatine have old downtown areas, Schaumburg draws away some of the potential for community in many of the nw suburbs, and consequently most of the nightlife The west suburbs also became much more well connected to the west bound trains, than the northwest suburbs early on, and consequently even though people work in the big buildings along I-88, they are more likely to play and live in the downtowns of towns along the Burlington northern and UP-West lines. Top of the list is Naperville with the largest and most vibrant downtown of the west suburbs, however all the communities that are along the BNSF line have a strong character and sense of community: (Naperville, Lisle, Downers Grove, Clarendon Hills, Hinsdale, Western Springs, La Grange).

Hinsdale is the wealthiest along the corridor, followed by Western Springs and Naperville (the farthest out with the largest downtown). Hinsdale, Western Springs, and La Grange in particular are places that are largely dominated by 70-plus year old housing. Although La Grange, being the most middle class of the three may have the most intact collection of turn-of-century housing, whereas Hinsdale has gotten to be a bit more "hodge-podge" due to teardowns in the last 10-15 years. Two communities to the east of these: Brookfield and Riverside, have a small town character due to the fact that both of these (10,000-15,000 pop) suburban villages are surrounded by strips of wooded areas along branches and bends of Salt Creek and the Des Plaines river, as well as their small downtown areas that are not bisected by major roads. Riverside in particular is a national historic district over much of the vilage.

This is my first installment of this. I would like to actually have this as a thread at the begining of this forum if possible. Again, this is meant to be strictly informative for anyone asking questions.

I just discussed in detail the general purpose of this thread, as well as detailed information on the W-SW corridor of the Chicago suburbs, since it is this corridor that IMO, has the greatest concentrations of communities with the most community/character. More will come soon on the other corridors.
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Old 10-06-2010, 10:31 AM
Location: Lake Arlington Heights, IL
5,481 posts, read 10,073,365 times
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When you discuss employment concentrated in Schaumburg for the NW suburbs, it may be more accurate to say Schaumburg and Hoffman Estates due to the Prairie Stone corporate park that includes headquarters for Sears. You also fail to talk about the employment that O'Hare brings to the NW suburbs and the freight and manufacturing located in Elk Grove, Des Plaines, AH and Rolling Meadows.
Maybe it will be in you next post about the NW suburbs. Oh, don't forget Chicago Executive airport is one of the busiest in the State outside of O'Hare and Midway.
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Old 10-06-2010, 12:11 PM
28,393 posts, read 68,085,348 times
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Default Not sure about some generalizations...

I really doubt that the bulk of the housing stock in Hinsdale or Western Springs is really all that old. Sure, there are some places that have been there since the WWII era but they mostly have gleaming high end kitchens, fully updated bathroom and all the other goodies that one sees in the dream magazines. Of course there are also many many homes built much more recently, some with a deliberate effort to look right at home alongside an older gem.

Hard to really characterize the large towns the same way, I mean yes Downers Grove does have a lovely core that does have lots of charm ,with parts more like Riverside or Oak Park, but it also have vast stretched of very generic if well built homes that may be 40 years or more old. Some have been updated considerable while right next door the owners took "maintenance free exterior" and ran with it... Naperville even wider ranging, with slices of development surviving from WWI or earlier, and example of booms / busts from everey business cycle forward to the present...

I appreciate the effort that Tex set forth, just not sure that the "short cut" lopped off too much that folks ought to check out on their own.
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