Is It Time to Consider Portage Park Your New Home?

Portage Park, a quiet and somewhat little known neighborhood outside of those who live here is making the news on a regular basis these days. In 2015 it was best new restaurant in Community Tavern and now its the remodeling of the Six Corners, the largest commercial corridor outside of the Loop.  

Lots of neighborhoods reference a 'Six Corners', but none are this large and/or see roughly 120,000 cars through the intersection on a daily basis. A master plan was put into place and the fruits of these efforts, some of which I participated in the conversations, are now starting to take root. Though I have already written about the Binny’s and the Clark Street Development at the Six Corners, now the Chicago Tribune,Time Out magazine and DNAInfo are doing the same.

Fact is, we're growing. So what is all the hubbub about? Take a community on the northwest side with low crime, good schools, incredibly low density, mostly single family homes/bungalows and add restaurants, breweries, shops and more - and you get the next hot neighborhood.

Portage Park offers exceptional values for bungalows and other single family homes along with the best (in my humble opinion, and I’m not objective at barely 500 feet away) park in the city, and you get what Time Out magazine said almost 6 years ago…one of the Top 5 neighborhoods to rebound in real estate.

Consider this the average sale price for a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home in Portage Park for the last 12 months is $320,459. Most lots here are oversized starting a 30 feet wide, rather than the standard of 25 feet. Typically you're getting a 2 car garage. O’Hare and downtown without traffic are often accessed in as little as 15 minutes.

I’m just saying…we have everything! Happy to tell you more about my neighborhood and why I love so much.

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Six Corners Developments

Clark Street Development


The information and plans are going to be publicly shared. As a member of Portage Park, two major developments related to the Six Corners - the real Six Corners, that is, are closing in on groundbreaking. 

If you're moving to the area or thinking of moving to the area, the Bank of America at the Six Corners intersection is coming down as it was purchased by Clark Street Development and being redeveloped for retail stores with 275 parking spaces. Renderings can be found in this DNA article, however, you can attend the meeting formally announcing the plans. The meeting will be Wednesday, Feb. 17, 6:30 PM at Filament Theatre, 4041 N Milwaukee Ave. 

The other news was on the old Bank of America/ LaSalle Bank west of the Six Corners at 4901 W Irving Park Rd. Originally bought by the owners of Cermak Produce, this was later sold to a new owner who has a commitment for a Binny’s Beverage Depot, with a Culver’s and Elly’s Pancake House open next door. The plan is expected to receive $2 million in TIF funds to in part preserve the 300 theater previously used by the Northwest Chicago Film Society

All of the changes were part of the master plan that was laid out for the revitalization of the largest commercial corridor outside the loop. These projects fit with the plans for traffic and walkability and will ideally be the cornerstone of the rebuilding of the Six Corners.

From a real estate standpoint, Portage Park has seen amazing gains since the crash, and you can expect those numbers to top the pre-recession numbers, making now a great time to get in. Old Irving Park to the east has always been a historically strong neighborhood, but is now seeing a bevy of new construction including Basecamp, and homes in the north part listing and selling over a million, beating pre-recession values.

With other businesses coming, a decade of hard work by Alderman and community groups such as the Portage Park Neighborhood AssociationOld Irving Park Association and Six Corners Association has the Six Corners primed to explode.

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Chicago's New Down Payment Assistance Program

The biggest myth I dispel with prospective buyers is that you have to have a 20% down payment to make a home purchase.  False!

If you're still renting and don't think you can afford to buy because you don't have a 20% down payment saved - you're wrong! You can purchase with as little as 3.5%-5% down, which a down payment assistance program can help you fund. There's a very good chance your monthly payment will be less than your rent.

There's been a lot of buzz going around about the Mayor's announcement planning to offer a home buyer assistance program for Chicagoans. Official details and launch date on the Mayor's program will be released in the next few weeks. Here’s what we know, currently:

  • It has been reported both first time and repeat owner-occupied buyers that meet household income requirements may be eligible for this program.  
  • The indication is that a family of 4 with an annual household income up to $106,400 would meet the income requirements.  It's likely that 1, 2 and 3 person households may hold lower household income limits.
  • The Mayor's press release indicated "up to" $12,000 in down payment assistance with an example of a $250,000 purchase price (5% down payment in assistance).  
  • The "up to" language and the example points to a likely-cap of $12,000 or 5% of the price (whichever is lower) with other possible restrictions.

There are other programs running that can offer down payment assistance as well. I'd be pleased to help you find out more about them and what they can offer you. Funding is often depleted quickly, so take advantage and don't miss out! 


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Are Divvy Bikes the New Starbucks?

Realtors used to say that a neighborhood had finally “arrived” if there was a Starbucks. So, I got to thinking when I read a DNAInfo article announcing the arrival of Divvy Bikes in Portage Park. Starbucks has already saturated so many communities, it's barely noticed. We have one 3 blocks outside of Portage Park in Old Irving Park, and I suspect a second will soon be here with the planned redevelopment by Clark Street Properties at the Six Corners. Since the northwest side has never really had a "down" period, there really is no gentrification process that would show a turn around as it has in other neighborhoods.

So, what am I suggesting? Divvy marks a change in the demographic of our neighborhood. Portage Park, like most northwest side neighborhoods, is known for being very stable with longtime residents. Those residents aren't very likely to have petitioned Divvy to come out here. We are constantly seeing increases as people move here from Bucktown, Wicker Park and Logan Square, looking buy a great, affordable home with excellent schools. I think Divvy is a stamp of recognition that Portage Park has become very visible on the radar of a younger generation of residents in Chicago, and is a prime target as a desirable place to live.


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The Portage

It's a sad day when any beacon in the community darkens.  Unfortunately, one of our neighborhood favorites is scheduled to close, The Portage restaurant.

The Portage opened in Portage Park about about 5 1/2 years ago, and breathed new life into the restaurant scene on the northwest side by not only demonstrating it can succeed, but that the demand from the locals was there.

The Portage, it was announced, will have its last service on New Year’s eve.

We know the the building is owned and the hints on Facebook indicate a new concept will be opened later in 2016. To say we are excited is an understatement.

In fact its almost ironic that I referred to “community” when that is exactly what Quay Tao named his new restaurant at the Six Corners, Community Tavern, ranked by Chicago Magazine as one of this years 10 best new restaurants

Certainly if you haven’t been to The Portage, go! It's charming, intimate, local and you still have three weeks.


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Shop Local: Portage Park

In a recent blog post, I addressed the misconception of a lack of public transit on the northwest side and Portage Park, when I pointed out the Irving Park stop the Blue Line and Metra often are with a few hundred feet of each other.

Today I thought might nice to point out another misconception: while the volume of stores in Portage Park may fall short of the number in LakeView, etc., we have a great selection of small businesses. I thought a taste of some of my favorites might put my neighborhood on your holiday shopping destination list. Three of my favorite stores in Portage Park to patronize again and again and again: 

Replica Chicago is just brilliant if you love Chicago. Looking for a t-shirt featuring the Chicago skyline in the format of a heart monitor, yeah? Wallet with the iconic Chicago flag, yes to that too! They are located north of the six corners at 4425 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Distinct Bath & Body will help you maintain your appearance and keep you smelling great throughout the long winter. Handmade soaps, bath bombs, moisturizers and more. Sam will even teach you to make the soap at his monthly class.

Tea’se is everything to tea. Forget about coffee, because when you leave here you will want to drink tea exclusively. The mixes change but they have five different categories right now to choose from. Of the half dozen in my house right now I’m lovin’ the Roasted Almond Rooibos, the Coconut Chai and the Butterflies in your Tummy, though the Banana Coconut smells like freshly baked banana bread.


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Funny as F%#%!

How many neighborhoods in the city have a playhouse and improv theater? Answer…not many.

The Gift Theater is located where Portage Park and Jefferson Park meet, and is one of my favorite storefront theaters. The Gift offers not only great plays that are regularly nominated for Jeff Awards, but they also have their own comedy improv team, Natural Gas. They operate most Wednesday evenings, and is a phenomenal way to spend an hour laughing your rear end off. It’s also only $5. What could be better than an hour of laughter for $5?

Speaking of Jeff Awards, the full list of Jeff Recommended Shows, includes The Gift Theatre production of Good For Otto, a dramatic look at the effects of mental illness in this country.

The Gift Theater is the type of venue that helps to create the character of a neighborhood, or at least those are my thoughts as a supporter and season subscriber.


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Charlie Brown Christmas at the Filament Theatre

In Portage Park, where we continue to see amazing growth in our cultural scene, The Filament Theatre, 4041 N Milwaukee offers a wonderful annual tradition via their Holiday Special. The Filament Theatre is story driven, narrative style theatre. It really is a different and magnificent experience.

Each year, the ensemble members get together to view A Charlie Brown Christmas & How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which is projected and accompanied by live performances voiced by the Filament Resident Artists, with live music from the Slap Happy Jazz Trio! 

Whatever you do this holiday season, I can honestly say this is likely the most fun you’ll have. It'll bring out the kid in you, no matter your age. 

Happy Holidays even if its still a little early!


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How Portage Park Got Its Name


I'm a huge Chicago history nerd, and have long known where Portage Park got its name:

Originally a park district (the park in the center of the neighborhood remains), this area is named for the nearby portage routes used by fur traders and Native Americans between the Des Plaines and Chicago Rivers

Daniel Pogorzelski wrote a detailed book on my favorite neighborhood, and I can’t recommend it enough! You can even buy it at one of Chicago’s finest newsstands, City Newsstand in Portage Park.

This brief synopsis on the Mental Floss website offers information on where you can find out how all the Chicago neighborhoods got their names.


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Lucky Grill


Everybody always wants to know about the hottest new restaurant, the best local greasy spoon, or who has the best taco al pastor.

One the great things about being a realtor is we eat out often, so we get to try a lot of restaurants in a variety of neighborhoods. 

So it occurred to me…duh, you should share the food love! 

So if you haven’t gotten lucky lately, go visit the Lucky Grill. They make a great skillet if you want to load up before the Bears game on a cold winter Sunday morning.  Its located at 4454 N Milwaukee in a strip mall just south of Wilson Park, close to where the Portage Park meets up with Jefferson Park.

I'd love to hear about your local favorite restaurants! 


All real estate is local.