Are you ready for Humboldt Park?

The blocks just south of North Avenue east of the park in Humboldt Park have seen a great deal of new construction activity in the past ten years, both single-family homes and condominiums. It’s all been small-scale infill development.

Walk the streets, as I did last August when I took these photos, and you’ll see more vacant lots than you find in healthy areas, board-ups, and Police Observation Devices a/k/a blue light cameras.

When you venture beyond Chicago’s most stable neighborhoods your experience can vary wildly depending on the block you live on. You can be blissfully situated in a pocket of neighborly paradise – or spending your days listening to gunfire. The state of the built environment is only one of many clues to the livability of an area, and it often sends conflicting signals, as it does here. The area is in transition but its direction remains unknown.

Last week a man was found shot in the 1500 block of Talman and pronounced dead a few minutes later. If the shooting occurred on the block, it wasn’t the first. Does that make the area unlivable? Your call, not mine. I think of the upbeat homeowner I met last summer in a nearby neighborhood who loved where he lived and was pleased that “we’ve only had two shootings on the block so far this year.”

I often hear tales of home buyers flitting from one fringe area to another in search of “the best deal” in a new home. They’re typically accompanied by real estate agents who are clueless about the neighborhoods they drive through. Whether any of those buyers get a good deal strikes me as a matter of pure chance.

Are you ready for Humboldt Park? Spend a dozen evenings and weekends within the span of a few blocks in the neighborhood, walking around and talking to everyone you meet. You’ll get closer to an answer.

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