May 22, 2018

New Markets: Humboldt Park in Chicago, Ill.

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New Markets: Humboldt Park in Chicago, Ill.

Capitalizing on the cachet of a neighboring hot area can improve a border community.

Chicago’s Near West Side is hot right now, as urban redevelopment proceeds in concentric circles from the city’s central business district. Developers and real estate practitioners are edging further west, where land is cheaper, to accommodate the intense demand. The latest neighborhood to experience resurgence is Humboldt Park, the heart of the city’s Puerto Rican community.

Once home to Eastern European immigrants, the area changed character in the 1960s, when Puerto Ricans migrated west in search of affordable housing. White flight, commercial disinvestment, municipal neglect, and bank redlining took a toll on the neighborhood over the next 20 years. Housing values plummeted to about 60 percent of the citywide average, and the area succumbed to gangs and crime.

Jose Acevedo, broker-owner of Landmark Heritage Realty located in heart of Humboldt Park, grew up in the area during those turbulent times. Now, 25 years later, he’s in on its revival. The biggest marketing challenge right now, he says, is to overcome the neighborhood’s negative reputation. One strategy real estate professionals are using is to give it a new identity.

“It’s a sprawling area with a lot of variation, so we broke it down into smaller segments and renamed them North, South, East, and West Humboldt Park,” Acevedo says. “In fact, we now refer to the northeast portion as ‘West Bucktown’ to convey the idea that it will enjoy the same surge in property values as its neighbor.”

Despite its edgy reputation, Humboldt Park is a magnet for newcomers because it offers amenities that few other communities possess—a 207-acre park with a beach, a swimming pool, lagoons for fishing and boating, 15 baseball diamonds, 11 tennis courts, several playgrounds, bike paths, sprinklers, and formal gardens, among other perks.

The housing stock varies greatly within Humboldt Park, ranging from modest frame teardowns to stately graystones. On the side streets, large apartment buildings flank rows of solid single-family homes and duplexes. Prices depend not only on the quality of the homes, but also on how much the area has been redeveloped. “Houses are cheaper at the western end, which has seen less development, but the area overall is still affordable,” Acevedo says.

According to Chicago Magazine’s annual home price guide, Humboldt Park’s average sale price from July 1, 2001, to June 30, 2002, was $113,507. The average sale price for a single-family home in Humboldt Park for the first half of 2003 was $212,525.

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