Navigating New Eastside Nonsense

Over the past week there has been a lot of discussion about just what is Chicago’s New Eastside — Is it a development?  Is it a neighborhood? Is it a marketing gimmick?

As someone who has lived in two different buildings in the New Eastside, and almost a third, I feel I can bring a modicum of insider’s knowledge to this issue and clear up some of the misinformation that’s floating around the interweb.

In all honesty, the absolute authority on all things in this area is Richard Ward, the president of NEAR, the New Eastside Association of Residents, which he runs out of his home in Harbor Point Tower (155 North Harbor Drive).  His web site can be a little thick at times, but if you’re willing to wade through it, it’s very informative.

The New Eastside became an issue recently because of an article in Crain’s Chicago Business published April 9th.  It asked the question of whether the New Eastside is really a neighborhood or not.  It was a fine article with just a couple of minor errors:

  • The Buckingham (also known as Buckingham Plaza – 360 East Randolph Street) is identified as an office building.  It was built as condominiums in 1982 and later converted to apartments then back to condos.
  • One person interviewed claims the nearest El stop is a half a mile away.  In reality, it is 511 feet from the CTA Brown/Green/Orange/Pink/Purple line stop at Randolph and Wabash to the edge of the New Eastside, and just over 1,100 feet to the first sign welcoming you to the New Eastside.  Even if one measures to the center of the New Eastside, it is still under a half a mile.

I don’t usually throw stones at Crain’s.  Two precepts I’ve maintained over the last ten years of  writing the Chicago Architecture Blog are: 1 – Journalism is hard.  2 – Blogs aren’t journalism.

Exemplifying that is Curbed Chicago, an online publication that is mostly rehash of articles from legitimate newspapers and broadcast outlets, mixed with endless mini-puff pieces about two-flats in Lakeview.  When it regurgitated the Crain’s article about the New Eastside, the usual crowd of blog commenters, Twitter tweeps, and other internet dross came out in force demonstrating that the majority of Chicagoans don’t have a firm grip on what the New Eastside is.  The lone sane voice in the crowd was our friend Joe Zekas from YoChicago, who tried to set the record straight in the comments section.

Because of the demonstrated lack of knowledge of the New Eastside, here’s a primer for everyone:

  • The New Eastside is not a neighborhood.  The Near East Side is a neighborhood, but is only a portion of the New Eastside.  The remainder is part of the Loop neighborhood.
  • The Illinois Central Railroad had plans drawn up to turn the area from a rail yard into residential and commercial development as early as 1923.
  • “The New Eastside” isn’t a new term coined by real estate developers. It was in common use by people in the area in the 1980’s, and the city erected signs in the neighborhood.  Some can still be seen today.
  • The earliest reference we could find to a real estate developer using the term is from a series of ads for North Harbor Tower (175 North Harbor Drive) that were published in the Chicago Tribune in 1988.  In July of 1989 the owners of the 21 buildings already erected in the area formed an organization to promote the New East Side.
And because we’re all such visual animals, here’s a map:

The red boundary marks The New Eastside.  The blue boundary marks Lakeshore East. The green boundary marks Illinois Center.

It’s worth noting that not every building along Michigan Avenue is part of Illinois Center.  Also, note that Prudential Plaza is not part of Illinois Center, but that the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois Building is.

 

Editor

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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