A neighborhood within Chicago’s Uptown community, Buena Park has a uniquely rich history that includes the Hutchinson Street Historic District, featuring numerous mansions that reflect the best of Prairie-style architecture.
It’s also bordered by one of the most historical sites in Chicago, the Graceland Cemetery and Arboretum, founded in 1860 and on the National Register of Historic Places. With so many tree-lined blocks and acres of green space spread across the neighborhood, Buena Park is an almost bucolic neighborhood that stands in stark contrast to the many high-rise sites that surround it.
Tucked in just east of Graceland Cemetery, which forms its western border, Buena Park is bounded by Montrose Avenue on the north and Irving Park Road on the south, extending to the lakefront on the east. Sheridan Road, Marine Drive, Broadway and Clarendon Avenues are the main north-south arteries through the neighborhood.
Buena Park began as a small rural community, settled by German and Swedish farmers. The earliest developments in the area occurred in the 1860s, with the construction of large mansions amidst a rural country landscape in what was then known as Lakeview Township. Among those mansions was one built by James Waller in the 1850s, the Buena Estate, from which the neighborhood derives its name. Thus began a housing boom of distinctive Italianate, Georgian-era and Prairie-style single-family homes on streets lined with canopied trees leading to the lakefront.
This was followed shortly with a boom in mid-sized apartment building construction. One of those developers was land speculator John Cochran, who encouraged multifamily housing west of what is now Broadway. He also orchestrated building the Northwestern Elevated Railroad Company tracks near his developments, spurring further development and making Uptown one of the most populous communities in Chicago. However, Cochran and other developers favored single-family housing east of Broadway, so Buena Park still retains a much lower density profile than the rest of the Uptown community.
Despite the fact that Buena Park is 6-7 miles from downtown, the commute to Chicago’s CBD is quite convenient. Being along the lakefront, there are extensive public transportation options, with easy access to both a number of bus lines (22 Clark Street, 36 Broadway, and 151 Sheridan Road are just a few) and the CTA Red Line stop at Sheridan Road and Irving Park, all of which connect to downtown. There are entry points to Lake Shore Drive at both Montrose Avenue and at Irving Park Road if you care to drive, and for cyclists you’re steps from the Lakefront Trail.
Buena Park is home to one of Chicago’s premier public schools, the Walt Disney Magnet School, as well as the highly rated Brennemann Public Elementary School. In addition, the neighborhood boasts two quality, Catholic elementary schools in the St. Mary of the Lake and St. Thomas Canterbury parishes. Finally, close by is the The Lycée Français de Chicago School, providing a world-class education to students through grade 12, in a multicultural, dual-language learning environment where instruction is in French and English.
The Buena Park Neighbors association, founded in 1997, has as its mission to improve the quality of life for residents, and as such it is one of the most active community organizations in Chicago. It should also be noted that the Uptown community, within which Buena Park is located, ranks quite well when it comes to violent crime and property crime (48th and 47th respectively out of 77 communities) and far above average in safety when it comes to quality of life crimes (69th out of 77 communities). Generally, Buena Park is regarded as a safe place to live, populated by families and young professionals.
Shopping and dining
Breakfast and lunch can’t get much better than at Dollop Coffee Company, which has been serving the neighborhood at its original location since 2005. For a more dinner fare emphasis, you can’t miss with Michael’s Original Pizzeria & Tavern, which has great deep dish and traditional pizza as well as a full menu of other items from burgers to pastas to salads. If it’s Chinese take-out you’re looking for, then you needn’t look further than the Hunan Egg Roll King, where they serve up Chinese standards like fried rice, chop suey and, yes, egg rolls. Finally, if your culinary preference is to cook at home, then you don’t have to go far to get to the expansive, neighborhood Jewel grocery store.
Cost of living
Though the Hutchinson Street Historic District is one of the more expensive neighborhoods along Chicago’s lakefront, the surrounding blocks in the neighborhood have numerous apartment buildings offering much more reasonable rents than found in almost any other lakefront neighborhood. Whereas Chicago average rents sit somewhere around $1,650/mo., apartments in Buena Park rent for $1,296 on average.
Why live here?
In addition to being close to the exciting nightlife in Andersonville, Lakeview East, and Wrigleyville neighborhoods, Buena Park has its own share of entertainment. Enjoy golf? The neighborhood borders on the Chicago Park District’s Sydney Marovitz Golf Course, on Chicago’s beautiful lakefront. Speaking of the lakefront, some of the most expansive park space along the lakefront is at your doorstep. Here you’ll find a half-mile of beachfront at Montrose and an adjacent Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary. In the summer, there are outdoor concerts at nearby Cricket Hill in the park, where there are also other events such as the annual Kites Festival and road races for runners. Finally, Buena Park Neighbors sponsors their Annual Neighborhood Festival, where you can “sign up for architectural tours, participate in family friendly activities, shop the new Bazaar on Buena, listen to live music or take a break at the pop-up café.”
Buena Park has a great stock of older three-story buildings, most with six to 18 units, and although many of these buildings were constructed in the early and mid-twentieth century, there are also newer condominiums and rental buildings that have gone up more recently.
What you can rent in Buena Park
There are so many wonderful apartment buildings in Buena Park that you’re sure to have a hard time deciding. Be assured, though, that you’ll have no problem finding one that suits your taste and budget.
You can shop for healthy foods at the Jewel grocery store and keep fit at World Gym, one of the country’s premier gyms. Ready to head downtown? You can hop a Sheridan Road bus just outside your door or walk a couple blocks to the CTA Red Line Station at Wilson. This historic apartment community at 4242 N. Sheridan Rd. has been renovated into a magnificent elevator building, with many apartments overlooking the stunning courtyard garden from their private balconies. Amenities include hardwood floors and updated kitchens with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. There’s also an onsite fitness center and laundry facility. Rents start at $945/mo. for studio apartments.
735 W Junior Terrace
Pack up your golf clubs, put on your running shoes, or drag out that bicycle, because the Sydney Marovitz Golf Course, Lincoln Park, and the Lakefront Trail are all at the end of your block. Need to get downtown? The CTA bus stop is only steps away. This classic mid-rise elevator building at 735 W Junior Terrace features recently renovated studio, one-, and two-bedroom apartments, which include built-in cabinetry, marble bathrooms, hardwood flooring, and ample closet space along with on-site building management and a 24 hour laundry facility. Studios rent for $830/mo.
Times Square Apartments
You’re just around the corner from the well-recognized Profiles Theatre and all the action on Broadway. These recently renovated studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, include amenities such as newly remodeled kitchens and bathrooms, hardwood flooring, and ample closet space along with on-site building management and a 24-hour laundry facility. The Broadway bus is just around the corner and the CTA Red Line stop at Irving Park is only a few blocks away. Studios at Times Square start at $865 while 2-bedroom apartments rent for approx. $1,700/mo.
What you can buy in Buena Park
Are you looking to buy in the area? For-sale housing options in Buena Park run the gamut from cozy condos starting in the low 100K’s to beautiful townhomes priced around $300K and $3M historic mansions on tree-lined streets.
735 West Bittersweet Place 3S ($195,000)
Located close to the Walt Disney magnet School, steps from the lake and the bus stop at Clarendon & Bittersweet, you couldn’t ask for a more convenient location. Did you say you’re a Cubs’ fan? Well, a short walk will get you to the ballpark! This vintage 2-bedroom and 1-bath condo at 735 West Bittersweet Place has hardwood floors and fresh paint throughout, and an updated kitchen with sleek black granite counter tops, pendant lights, and new stainless steel appliances. The living room features a wood-burning fireplace with white brick hearth that ties in the unit’s molding.
So what are you waiting for?
A step into Chicago’s classic architectural past with access to great transportation, the lakefront, and all the entertainment you could possibly need. So, come find your next place to live right here at www.rentcafe.com and you, too, can enjoy all that makes Buena Park a gem of a neighborhood!
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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.