evanston: college town and so much more
Named after John Evans, one of the founders of Northwestern University and for which the city is well-known, Evanston sits idyllically on the shores of Lake Michigan. Though renowned for being home to one of the nation’s top universities, it has become far more than just a college town on the lake. The creation of a vibrant downtown was begun in the early 1980s and sparked by the addition of a major multi-use entertainment and residential project in 2000. Since then, retail and residential have blossomed there and sparked further developments throughout Evanston. A sleepy college town of the 20th century is now a thriving and exciting place to live in the 21st century, while still retaining its small-town charm.
The city’s boundaries are Chicago on its south end, McCormick Boulevard and Crawford Avenue on the west, Isabella Street on the north, and Lake Michigan on the east — with some minor exceptions. The Village of Skokie sits on its western border and the Village of Wilmette to its north. Occupying nearly eight square miles, the city’s downtown sits geographically in its center and thus creates a north and a south Evanston by its nature. The University is located immediately to the north of downtown Evanston, occupying over 200 acres along a beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline.
Originally, the area was part of the Ridgeville Township in the early 19th century, which incorporated a large portion of what is now Chicago’s north side. Not long after the University was established in 1851, the Township of Evanston was created and split off from Ridgeville Township. Following that, the town of Evanston was established in 1863 and incorporated as a city in 1892. The city enjoyed the notoriety of being a dry community until 1972, due in no small part to the fact that Northwestern University was founded by the Methodist Church — a strong proponent of temperance. In addition, in the late 19th century the city became the headquarters for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, whose constitution called for "the entire prohibition of the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors as a beverage.”
Evanston is also known for its abundance of tree-lined streets, having been honored annually for over a quarter century by the Arbor Day Foundation as one of its “Tree City USA” designated places to live. The Chicago fire of 1871 encouraged many well-to-do residents, fearing another such calamity, to look north to build their spacious homes, for which Evanston is known for today. Over the past quarter century, the city’s population has remained around 75,000 people, making it more than just a suburb of Chicago. By the late 20th century, the city had become more than just a “bedroom community” for its larger neighbor to the south. Today, Evanston is a shopping and entertainment destination, not only for Chicago residents but also for the suburban north shore communities along Lake Michigan.
Located only 12 miles from Downtown Chicago, commuting to the “Big City” couldn’t be more convenient, given access to a variety of public transportation options, various bike routes, and close proximity to Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive. Commuting to the surrounding suburban communities is facilitated by a number of public transportation options as well. Both the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) and Pace (suburban buses) operate in Evanston and Metra maintains three commuter rail stations across the city. Bikes from Divvy rental stations, located throughout Evanston, can be exchanged at all Chicago stations. Access to Lake Shore Drive is only a couple miles away for those choosing to drive into the city.
All but one of Evanston’s 13 primary public schools are rated “above average” by the nationally recognized “Great Schools” rankings. In addition, Evanston is home to a number of quality private schools such as Roycemore (Pre-K through 12th), Chiaravalle Montessori (Pre-K through 8th), and St. Athanasius and Pope John XXIII — both Catholic elementary schools. Finally, the city boasts one of the best high schools in the State of Illinois, Evanston Township High School, which has been repeatedly named by U.S. News and World Report as a "Best High School in America" and in 2016 selected a “Gold Medal” winner — ranked as the 13th out of 674 high schools in Illinois.
Though being next door to the cultural, culinary and entertainment mecca of Chicago is a huge advantage, there are abundant things to do in Evanston as well. The city is no wallflower when it comes to theater and music, boasting a variety of live stage performances and live music venues. In addition, there are numerous cultural events from plays to music that occur on the Northwestern University campus and are open to the public. The Evanston Symphony Orchestra is a renowned and often honored ensemble that performs year-round and one of the more popular music venues, Space, is a concert hall and venue for performances and live recordings. The city also sponsors a New Year’s Eve First Night celebration and a number of summer festivals and art fairs, such as the annual Lakefront Arts Festival.
The city’s location on the shores of Lake Michigan with its numerous parks and beaches as well as running and cycling trails, means a never-ending variety of opportunities to enjoy nature. Finally, one of the city’s best-kept secrets is the plethora of great restaurants in Evanston and a growing number of local breweries, which seem to be popping up everywhere. Restaurants like Prairie Moon, Pete Miller’s, Tapas Barcelona, and Campagnola offer some of the finest food to be found anywhere and breweries like Smylie Brothers and Temperance Beer Company, among a number of others, have developed a loyal following for their craft beers. The stronger spirits can be found at Few Spirits, a local distillery, and a craft winery is set to open in the Summer of 2017.
cost of living
Though the cost of living in Evanston tends to be on the higher side, bargains can be found. The average monthly rent in Evanston in 2017 for a one-bedroom apartments was $1747 a month and $2420 for a two-bedroom apartment. However, apartments can be found at far below the average, as well. The median sales price of homes in the second quarter of 2017 was $335,000, though condominiums can be purchased for far less. Many of the shops and restaurants range from high-end to affordable Bohemian places to shop and dine and of course there’s no shortage of grocery stores in the area, making cooking at home a far more reasonable alternative.
is this place for you?
If it’s big city culture and amenities but small-town atmosphere that you’re looking for then look no further than Evanston. It’s ranked “extremely livable” by Area Vibes and it rates a “very walkable” score by Walk Score, meaning most errands can be accomplished on foot. Evanston is highly diverse community with a well-educated populace, suitable both for raising a family and for being single and looking for night life. Oh yes. There’s also that world-class university, which just happens to be in town. Want to learn more about Evanston and properties for sale and rent? Contact Worth Clark agent Don Gordon—our Evanston specialist and guru…
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