Chicago Relocation

Bucktown, Our Little Kozie Prery

February 17, 2014

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John D’Ambrogio

First of all, it’s hard to separate Bucktown from her sister, Wicker Park (or maybe “his” sister, isn’t a buck a boy?). I’m going to try though. I’m sure the BT and WP people will correct me, but that’s a great thing about neighborhoods that melt together.

Bucktown is northern of the two neighborhoods.  It’s got North Ave. on it’s southern border, then east along the river (roughly) to Diversey and west to Kedzie. Ask someone else to draw the parameters and you’ll get a different answer. Now I would never call it the western neighborhood of Lincoln Park (God forbid), but you can see why some people make that comparison for the area west of the highway. Furthermore, it’s part of greater Logan Square….  As I’ve said these Chicago neighborhoods like to overlap!

Originally known as “Kozie Prery” it was the far edge of the “Polish Downtown” in the 19th century. No official report confirms or denies if Billy Sianis (of Billy Goat Tavern Fame) raised the CUBS CURSE goat in that neighborhood, but I’m going to say he did. Read about it here.  It’s funny, my old man used to call it “old bucket of blood town” -but forgive him, he was born in 1922 and it probably was a different neighborhood during his formative years!

Bucktown’s change in demographics has lead to an interesting title that Bucktown holds – the most streets whose names that have changed in Chicago. The streets of Kosciusko, Sobieski, Pulaski and Leipzig eventually were changed due to a set of German immigrants with high political clout to Hamburg, Frankfurt, Berlin and Holstein. Then enter The Great War, and we now have McLean, Shakespeare, Charleston, and Palmer. Ah, politics!

The blue line elevated runs through Bucktown, making it a great commuter neighborhood to downtown (although judging my staff’s comments, the blue line breaks down more than any other color!). Heck, you can even walk to work if you have the legs for it, or bike (be careful up and down Milwaukee Ave. during rush hours!). But to be in a cool, artsy neighborhood, much more affordable than lakefront communities, it can’t be beat!

A lot of flats and condo buildings were built during the last bubble – lots of modern designs.  Combine those with a variety of old grey stone and brick and well, the housing is varied and interesting. In addition, it’s a very strong rental market . Busy commercial corridors next to relatively quiet tree lined streets filled with old flats and plenty of tear downs – that’s Bucktown.

If you are up for some sightseeing in Bucktown, there are three so called “Polish Cathedrals” in Bucktown. A must see for fans of architecture. The other Polish Cathedrals are the ones that say “Zimne Piwo” – That means “cold beer.” Usually under an Old Style sign at an unnamed bar.

For coffee and beer (presumably at different times of the day) Bucktown has it covered.  There’s gourmet independent coffee shops abound, along side micro brew pubs and great eats, cheap and otherwise.

If you’re really serious about your cuppa joe try - Killer Espresso. Any website that says they roast their beans with “sensitivity” takes it seriously, right? They even have a coffee blog (although at this writing it was 4 months since the last post – Grab some coffee and start writing, guys…).

My Uncle Vinnie Kacick’s favorite hipster coffee spot is Ipsento. And he loves the Costa Rican BYOB Irazu (apparently Drive Ins, Diners and Drives likes it as well). Or maybe Uncle Vinne is just partial to the letter “I.”

But seriously, there is a little of everything – French – Le Bouchon on Damen. “Classic American” – Classic Club Lucky on Wabansia in the style of classic 40s/50s restaurants. Italian? Try Antico. Try to find a bad review….

Close to downtown, lots of public transportation and incredibly cool hipsters. Who could ask for more?



Chicagoland 2013 State of the Market

February 5, 2014

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John D’Ambrogio

John D’Ambrogio and Leading RE’s Pam O’Connor discuss 2013′s fantastic real estate market and what it means for 2014.


Where to Start Renovating In Your New Home

February 3, 2014

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John D’Ambrogio

By: David Hurley 

Renovating your home can be an exciting experience, with very rewarding results, but it can feel like an overwhelming experience when you first take stock of everything that you’ll need to do. Even once you’ve started the renovation, those first days or weeks will feel both mentally and physically challenging. It is never easy to see a room stripped back before you start to make improvements, and if you have spent months planning then you might end up feeling like you have made a mistake. Yet, the end results will certainly be worth it…so, where do you start?

The truth is that your renovation tactic should be different if you are living in your house than it would be if you were not. If you are not living in your property and want to start from scratch, rip out every room at once. It is then easy to work on the heating and plumbing as a whole. If you’re living in your house it is not practical to do everything at once, so consider where people will sleep whilst each bedroom is being renovated and which rooms are the most vital (typically your bathroom and kitchen).

Be prepared to spend some time sleeping on an inflatable bed or on the sofa. Also think about whether you prefer to start with the rooms that will be cheaper to renovate, or the ones that are likely to cost a lot more. Follow these steps to prepare for your renovation:

 Arrange a Visit from a Home Inspector

It is a home inspector’s job to check that your house is structurally sound and undamaged, and that there are no major issues. An inspector will check the plumbing and heating, ensure that there are no leaks or damp patches and check that your wiring is up to standard. If you love in a cold Canadian city like Toronto, Ottawa or Vancouver, you will want to be particularly sure that there are no gaps in your house that are letting the outside in. A renovation is a chance to give your house a thorough check, so that you know as you renovate that the finished product will be a job well done. Nothing is worse than renovating your house only to find that a pipe was about to burst and that those new carpets are being destroyed by a leak below the floorboards.

Think About Permissions

You are not the only one to have a say in whether or not your renovation is going to work.  For example, in Toronto you will need a Building Permit if you are renovating your home, adding to your home, removing parts of your home, making structural changes, repairing your home, adding or removing interior partitions, adding new doors and windows, building a garage or balcony, changing your plumbing or heating system or installing a fireplace. Most cities have easy to follow instructions on their websites to help with the permit applications, take Chicago for example. The City of Chicago’s Official Site has a specific section for ‘Easy Building Permit Applications’.

To apply for a Building Permit you will need documentation. Typically you’ll be asked to supply detailed floor plans with measurements, a list of building materials, survey documents and site plans. Remember that getting together the required documentation can take months, so you should start this process well in advance.

Create a Schedule

Whether you are going it alone or getting help from the professionals, you’ll need a schedule that indicates how long everything should take. Think about how long rooms will be out of action for, and whether you can continue living in your home or will need to find alternative accommodation for part of your renovation period.

Create a Budget

As well as knowing how long a renovation should take, it is important to know how much it is going to cost. Price up your materials and the costs of hiring professionals, and draw up a budget that indicates how much your renovation project will set you back financially.

Think About Plug Sockets

Most houses are not built with enough plug sockets and electrical outlets for modern consumption. When you are planning your renovation, think carefully about how many you will need and where they will go. Once you have made your house look nice, you do not want to be trailing extension cords and cables across the floor and behind pieces of furniture.

And Finally…

Only once you have done all of the above should you begin the renovation. Refer to your schedule, and do your best to keep on track.

Have you renovated your home? Are you considering it? Have you got any tips to add? Leave a comment and share your opinion.

David Hurley enjoys buying and selling property around the world, and blogging about home renovation projects to prepare houses to live in or sell on.