East Hyde Park is literally a neighborhood on “the other side of the tracks”. Though the idiom traditionally has a negative connotation, in this case, nothing could be further from the truth. The Hyde Park community has many notable features, such as the Museum of Science and Industry and the University of Chicago campuses, but one of its more overlooked features is the commuter tracks that run through the east side of the community.
Being elevated as opposed to street level, with numerous viaducts at the cross streets, these tracks create a distinctive demarcation that defines the boundaries of the East Hyde Park neighborhood. It also creates a rather intimate, if not tranquil, relationship between the neighborhood and Chicago’s stunning lakefront that the Hyde Park community west of the tracks does not share.
Located only a few miles south of downtown Chicago, East Hyde Park has the Lake Michigan shoreline along its east side. The western border is defined by the South Shore Metra tracks just east of South Lake Park Avenue, which runs parallel to the tracks. The northern boundary ends around 49th Street, where it borders the lakefront park, and the southern boundary ends at the Museum of Science and Industry campus at 56th Street, with a small slice of residences extending along South Stony Island Boulevard to around 59th Street. The neighborhood has a strikingly serene setting considering that it is in the middle of a large city such as Chicago.
Hyde Park’s origins date back to the middle of the 19th century when a New York lawyer by the name of Paul Cornell purchased over 300 acres of land which would be the heart of the neighborhood. As opposed to the greater Hyde Park area, which mostly features low-rise residential structures, East Hyde Park features a large number of architecturally significant high-rise buildings, many dating as far back as the 1920s and many originally constructed as hotels. The Flamingo Apartments complex at 5500 South Shore Drive was built in 1927 as a mix of residences and hotel rooms. It now offers beautiful furnished and unfurnished studios, convertibles, and one-bedroom apartment homes with stunning views of Lake Michigan and Downtown.
Lake Shore Drive sits right at the neighborhood’s doorstep. However, if you’re an avid cyclist, you can make the downtown trip unimpeded by traffic along Chicago’s beautiful Lakefront Trail, which on some days can actually be quicker than driving – and there’re plenty of Divvy stations if you want to rent a bike.
In most of Chicago, public transportation is extensive, and East Hyde Park is no exception, with both bus and rail line options. The primary bus routes are the #2 Hyde Park Express and #6 Jackson Park Express. As for rail lines, there’s the Metra stop right in the middle of the neighborhood at 51st/53rd St. and the CTA has a stop on the Green Line at 51st street, but it’s much further west in the Hyde Park community. Also to be considered is that the South Shore Line, which runs on the same Metra tracks as the Metra Electric District line, has a stop at 57th Street and provides access to numerous locations through to Indiana and as far as the Michigan border.
As with the larger Hyde Park community, there is a healthy mix of public, selective enrollment, charter, and private schools available for East Hyde Park residents. One of the options for East Hyde Park parents is the Bret Harte Math & Science selective enrollment, public magnet school, and just a few blocks west is the acclaimed University of Chicago Lab School.
Crime in East Hyde Park
Hyde Park, in which East Hyde Park is located, ranks as average, out of 77 communities, when it comes to violent crime and property crime (42nd and 41st places respectively) and above average when it comes to quality of life crimes (58th place), according to data from the Chicago Tribune. The neighborhood is generally safe, popular mostly with students and young professionals seeking a cheaper alternative to downtown living.
Shopping and dining
East Hyde Park has its own cluster of great places to shop and eat. For some great American food, such as burgers in a casual setting with some great views, the Terrace Grill in the Regents Park building is a great choice, as is Cholies Pizza on 53rd Street, where you can order out or eat in. If cooking at home is your style, then a visit to Treasure Island Foods on East 55th, Chicago’s famous European food mart, is a must-stop to pick up whatever you need to make even the most exotic dishes. Though Hyde Park holds most of the community’s shopping destinations, there’s also a number of quaint and unique shops in East Hyde Park along 53rd and 57th streets.
Cost of living
Being one of the most reasonably priced neighborhoods along Chicago’s lakefront, the overall Hyde Park community provides a far cheaper alternative to living in the higher priced waterfront communities such as Lincoln Park and the Gold Coast – or even the South Loop – yet still offers a convenient commute to the city’s CBD. Average rent in Hyde Park is $1,194 (1-bedrooms rent at $1,177 on average, 2-bedrooms at $1,468, and 3-bedroom apartments at $2,525). The overall city average is $1,649, according to data from Yardi Matrix.
Why live here?
East Hyde Park is home to one of the country’s best museums, The Museum of Science Industry, but it’s really the lakefront that’s the main attraction for those living here, east of the tracks. Chicago’s spectacular 20 miles of publicly accessible lakefront parks sit right at your doorstep, as do Washington Park on the west and Jackson Park on the southeast sides, both of them designed in the 19th century by the father of landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted.
In addition, being part of the greater Hyde Park community, the art scene is one of most vibrant anywhere. Of course, there’s the annual, nationally renowned 57th Street Art Fair – the Midwest’s oldest juried art fair – which is located just a few blocks away to the west of the tracks, but there’s also the ever-popular Hyde Park Art Center located at the north end of the neighborhood.
There is a wide selection of apartment buildings in East Hyde Park, distinctively characteristic of the early to mid-20th century, as well as a number of contemporary buildings constructed more recently.
Located at the south end of the neighborhood and steps from the Museum of Science and Industry, the Mayfair offers a full range of apartment options, from studios to 1- and 2-bedrooms and includes some furnished apartments as well. The Mayfair is conveniently situated just blocks from the Metra stop, the 57th Street exit to Lake Shore Drive, and Chicago’s Lakefront Trail. Among its numerous amenities are on-site management, an around-the-clock laundry area, free Wi-Fi, and controlled building access. Studios start at $952.
Located two blocks from the lakefront, this contemporary high-rise not only offers access to convenient transportation, but is also just around the corner from the popular Hyde Park Art Center. The building has studio, one-, and two-bedroom apartments, some with hardwood floors, a free 24-Hour fitness center, bicycle storage, online rent payment possibilities, free Wi-Fi, and an electronic entry system.
Only steps from the lakefront, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Metra stop at 57th Street, this classic brick and stone, 3-story walk-up is similar to much of the 20th-century architectural styles found all over Hyde Park. The front of the building greets you with a charming landscaped lawn and each of the units have a back porch to enjoy the summer breezes off the lake. These expansive 4-, 5-, or 6-bedroom units include fireplaces and hardwood floors throughout.
Most of the properties for sale in East Hyde Park are condos, but there are also some interesting single-family options like this architectural gem at 5112 South Hyde Park Boulevard built in 1894. This lovely Victorian home mixes old world charm – including the original woodwork on the open staircase – with modern day conveniences.
Condos come in every price point, from the low-$40Ks to more than $500K. An in-between option would be this 2-bed, 2-bath condo at 4800 South Chicago Beach Drive listed for $175K. Situated at the far north end of the neighborhood, only a few blocks from the 51st/53rd Street Metra stop and numerous CTA bus routes, the 1,200-square-foot unit has views of Lake Michigan from every window, sits adjacent to the park, has available garage parking, and maintains a 24-hour doorman.
So what are you waiting for?
Not only is there the convenience of having a plethora of public transportation options, proximity to shopping and entertainment, and a neighborhood filled with classic architecture, but East Hyde Park puts Chicago’s stunning lakefront at your doorstep. Come visit and you’ll find the allure that draws so many to this charming community. Find your ideal place at www.rentcafe.com and you too can have it all!
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Contributor: Don Gordon is an accomplished author and copywriter, having written two books, university course content, political speeches, and press releases.