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Dorothy Hernquist, who has lived in Lincoln Park with her husband for nearly 38 years, said although there are tensions among homeowners and renters, they have become too attached to the neighborhood to move out.

Diversity of Lincoln Park homeowners, renters enhances atmosphere, experts say

by Jayna Omaye
May 9, 2013


Jayna Omaye/MEDILL

For the U-Haul in Lincoln Park, May starts the busy moving season, which runs until October, said manager Tony Messina.

For nearly 38 years, Bob and Dorothy Hernquist have lived in their Lincoln Park home. After retiring about 20 years ago, Dorothy Hernquist, 79, said even though they considered moving, they became too attached to the neighborhood.

“It has a very inviting sort of feel to it,” she said. “You walk down the street and even people you don’t know, you say hello to.”

May marks National Moving Month, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, which estimates that nearly 35 million Americans will move this year.

Although May kicks off moving season in Chicago, experts say neighborhoods such as Lincoln Park have an interesting mixture of both homeowners, like the Hernquists, who stay and a cycle of renters who move in and out.

“Lincoln Park comes up very frequently,” said John Scarpa, a broker for the Apartment People. “A lot of people ask for it straight up. A lot of people love the fact that they’re near transportation, grocery stores, shops and activities.”

Of the nearly 40,500 residential units in Lincoln Park, about 54 percent are single-family homes and condominiums, and the remaining 46 percent are multifamily buildings, according to the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University.

Sarah Duda, the assistant director at the Institute, said that generally, single-family houses and condominiums are owned and multifamily units are mainly rentals.

“Definitely renters have more flexibility,” Duda said. “If you’re an owner, you do have to sell your property in most cases to move.”

Lincoln Park renter Megan Frankel, 25, said she likes the flexibility of renting.

“I have considered moving closer to work but I get hung up on living downtown,” said Frankel, who has moved three times since relocating to Chicago from Oregon in 2011. “I moved to Lincoln Park because it is closer to work for me and I like the general environment of the area.”

Frankel and Dorothy Hernquist said they both see people moving during May.

“On my particular street, there isn’t too much moving in and out,” Frankel said. “However, the street across from mine always seems to have moving trucks in and out.”

In Chicago, May 1 and Oct. 1 were major moving days since the 1840s, according to the Encyclopedia of Chicago. Although real-estate boards changed lease dates to start at any time of the year, May 1 continues to be a popular moving day for Chicago residents.

At the U-Haul in Lincoln Park, which provides moving and storage services, manager Tony Messina said May kicks off its busy season.

However, Charles Suchar, professor of sociology at DePaul University, said although many older residents have moved out of Lincoln Park because of the high cost of living, he said there are some, like the Hernquists, who stay.

“It’s [Lincoln Park] being enhanced in value in many different ways, culturally, economically, socially,” said Suchar, who specializes in urban sociology. “All these things make people reconsider staying or moving to the suburbs.”

Dorothy Hernquist said when they first moved into their house, the area was not as young or affluent. Because of these changes, she said conflicts arise among renters and homeowners.

“There is an invisible barrier,” she said. “It’s not just students but some of the renters, it’s not their community as it is their place to live.”

Similarly, Suchar said certain age groups view the neighborhood differently.

“There’s mixed feelings of the older residents of the Yuppies coming to the neighborhood,” Suchar said, “and who don’t see the neighborhood as a place that they live in, but they come to for entertainment.”

However, Michael Bennett, professor of sociology at DePaul University, said the diversity of older and younger residents enhances the neighborhood.

“Communities like this, they have a percentage of older, long-term residents who are anchors to the community,” said Bennett, who specializes in urban policy. “And then you have this kind of fresh flow of energy and people who come in and out, and that continues to revitalize the environment of a community like this.”

Although Dorothy Hernquist said tensions persist, she said residents try to help each other. When two DePaul students volunteered to help move chairs out of her house, she offered them a home-cooked meal.

“You don’t always think the same way,” she said. “It’s a different kind of living. That’s part of the fun is the diversity of the neighborhood.”