South Loop dreams

Downtown's down-under neighbor is booming

  • The South Loop from the the corner of Michigan Ave and Roosevelt on Aug. 14, 2013. ( Lenny Gilmore/ RedEye )
The South Loop from the the corner of Michigan Ave and Roosevelt on Aug. 14,…
August 31, 2013|By Tracy Swartz, @tracyswartz | RedEye

When Olivia Cole, 25, was deciding where she should live with her boyfriend, she considered breaking up with Chicago.

She was tired of the slow Red Line commute from her place in Edgewater to her job downtown, which affected how much she wanted to go out at night. She thought about moving to another city but didn't want to change jobs. She wanted to be near her friends who live on the South Side without being too far from the Loop.

Eventually, Cole settled on the South Loop, a place she came to know and love from her time as a student at Columbia College.

"It's just a cool area. … Now I can get to work in 20 minutes," Cole said. "I love that I can walk to Roosevelt [Road]. My dad was in town and I said, 'Let's go to a museum.' "

Cole's commute may be even shorter if she sticks around the South Loop for a couple of years. This year, the city is expected to begin construction on a new Cermak-McCormick Place Green Line station, which will help close a nearly three-mile gap between the Roosevelt and 35th-Bronzeville-IIT stations.

The change is one of many—from retail to sports to transit—coming to the South Loop, an area that has seen as many ups and downs as a Bears season.

In July, H&M opened at Roosevelt Collection, a movie theater complex once slow to lure tenants. In the past three weeks, White House Black Market and Ulta and Fleet Feet Sports have opened there.

In May, the city announced plans to build an 10,000-seat arena for the DePaul men's and women's basketball team across the street from McCormick Place. The target open date for the arena, controversial because of its use of taxpayer money, is the 2016-17 season.

The South Loop, roughly defined north-south from the Congress Expressway to the Stevenson Expressway and east-west from the lake to near the Chicago River, is no stranger to boom.

The Near South Side, which includes most of the South Loop, Museum Campus and Northerly Island, saw the city's greatest percentage population increase—125 percent—between 2000 and 2010, Census numbers show.

The area is popular with college students because of its proximity to Columbia, Roosevelt University and John Marshall University, and it serves as a haven for those enrolled at the University of Chicago.

But the South Loop is also no stranger to busts. South Loop resident Michael Murphy, a senior broker at The Burnham Group and Prudential Rubloff Properties, said the neighborhood experienced a housing boom from 2003-08 but then started to see a decline in 2009 when the recession took hold.

Now, the projects that developers didn't finish because of money troubles are starting to sell again, including the Central Station development, condo towers between Roosevelt and 20th Street.

"The South Loop is resurging because before there were lots of pieces missing, meaning retail and restaurants and things to do," Murphy said. "Now it's like pushing a reset button."

Crime report

Not all the news is good, though. The lure of the South Loop has also attracted crime. The Tribune last year, using city data from 2009 to mid-2012, deemed the Roosevelt stop on the Red, Orange and Green Lines on the edge of the South Loop neighborhood the No. 1 station for rail crime.

Meanwhile, a 33-year-old man was shot to death July 19 in the 200 block of East 15th Street. The South Loop rarely sees homicides. The neighborhood's most high-profile recent homicide case was in January 2009, when former Bulls player Eddy Curry's ex-girlfriend and baby daughter were shot to death in their South Loop townhome.

THE NUMBERS

RedEye breaks down the amenities and demographics of the South Loop.

Size matters

Near South Side population in 2010: 21,390

Near South Side population in 2000: 9,509

The Near South Side, about 1.78 square miles, includes most of the South Loop, Museum Campus, Northerly Island and McCormick Place.

Rent to be

Studio: $1,200-$1,800

One-bedroom: $1,600-$2,200

Two-bedroom: $1,800-$3,600

Three-bedroom: $2,400-$4,000

Maurice Ortiz with Apartment People, an apartment finding service, said he's seeing about half the inventory he typically sees this time of year because demand is high.

Epic rail

Roosevelt Red, Green, Orange Line station ridership in 2012: 3,811,521

Roosevelt ridership in 2002: 1,278,065

Cermak-Chinatown Red Line station ridership in 2012: 1,611,799

Cermak-Chinatown ridership in 2002: 1,014,314

The new Green Line station, Cermak-McCormick Place, will be off Cermak Road. Construction was supposed to start in February but a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation, which is handling the project, said that was an aggressive timetable. No groundbreaking has been announced for the project.

Homicides by the numbers

Near South Side in 2013: 2

Near South Side in 2012: 1

One of the two homicides this year on the Near South Side was a 32-year-old woman on the ramp from Lake Shore Drive to the Stevenson Expressway.

Spinning their wheels

The Near South Side has eight Divvy bike sharing stations with two more on the way, according to its website.

Park it here

The Near South Side has 10 parks and beaches, including Daniel Webster Park, a small playground at 14th Street and Indiana Avenue, and Northerly Island, according to the Chicago Park District.

Not abuzz

There are only five Starbucks locations in the South Loop, including near the Roosevelt stop, and the Dominick's on Canal Street, according to the Starbucks Web site.

The place to be

Near South Side staple McCormick Place saw 2.2 million visitors in 2012, up from 2.05 million in 2011, the Tribune reported.

T party

One is the number of T. Rexes currently residing on the Near South Side. Sue, at the Field Museum--42 feet long snout to tail and 13 feet tall, measuring at the hip—is a major draw for the neighborhood's museum campus.

tswartz@tribune.com

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