Meet Chicago's Largest Neighborhood: Austin
Austin is the largest neighborhood in Chicago, and until recently it was the most populous (Lakeview now claims the top spot), according to the Chicago Tribune. Shaped like an upside-down L, the West Side neighborhood is bounded by Roosevelt Road, Austin Boulevard, Kenton Avenue, Harlem Avenue, North Avenue, and Metra tracks. Trace the neighborhood back from its 19th-century roots to today to see the unique niche Austin holds in the sprawling collection of Chicago communities.
About 8.5 miles outside of the Loop, Austin first got its start as a suburb, rather than a neighborhood, of Chicago. Austin was born as a suburb in 1865, and became a part of Chicago in 1899. By 1930, more than 130,000 Chicagoans lived in the neighborhood and took the Lake Street ‘L,” which is the forerunner of today’s CTA Green Line.
Wells Fargo intends to invest $600,000 into Austin through the United Way of Metro Chicago Neighborhood Network Initiative by 2020, according to The Financial. The Neighborhood Network Initiative seeks to improve communities’ health, education, and income through work with partners and nonprofits, according to the report. Wells Fargo began working in the neighborhood with the initiative in 2015.
Home Sweet Home
Austin has a wide variety of home types. Residents live in brick bungalows, Queen Anne-style houses, and homes marked by neoclassical architecture, but you’ll also find condos in this widespread community. If you love beautiful architecture, be sure to keep an eye out for the J.J. Walser Jr. House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
As such a large neighborhood, it’s no surprise Austin contains smaller pocket communities. The Island (located on the southwest side of the neighborhood) and Galewood (located on the northwest side of the neighborhood) are two popular spots for homebuyers.
According to Neighborhoods.com data, the median sale price in Austin is $157,100, while both The Island (median sale price of $165,000) and Galewood (median sale price of $259,945) are slightly more expensive. Homebuyers will find mostly single-family homes in both of these smaller community areas.
Austin is served by two CTA lines. Residents of the southernmost part of the neighborhood, including The Island, have convenient access to the Blue Line. You can hop on at the Austin or Cicero stops, and the train with get you downtown in less than half an hour. Further north, the CTA Green Line has four stops (Austin, Central, Laramie, and Cicero) serving the neighborhood. At the northeast corner of Austin, commuters can get on the Metra’s Milwaukee District West line at the Chicago, Grand, and Cicero Avenue stops. Additionally, 16 bus routes cross through the neighborhood, according to Walk Score. Walk Score also ranks the neighborhood as “very walkable.”
Aside from public transit, drivers will also find Austin easy to navigate. I-290 runs right through the southern portion of the neighborhood.
Austin is dotted with parks. Up in the Galewood area, you’ll find Amundsen Park and Galewood Park. Other smaller parks include La Follette Park, Hubbard Playlot Park, Levin Park, Cottonwood Playlot Park, Moore Park, and Clark Park.
But Columbus Park is the crown jewel of open space in Austin. Designed by landscape architect Jens Jensen, Columbus Park is 135 acres of greenspace with an outdoor pool, a lagoon, sports fields, and more, according to the Chicago Park District website. The park also includes the Columbus Refectory, a historic building so beautiful that it’s regularly rented out for weddings.
Austin is known as a haven of locally owned eateries and stores. If you’re craving something sweet, Brown Sugar Bakery has an outpost in Austin (the bakery’s other locations are at Navy Pier and on the South Side), according to Eater Chicago. If you love southern-style cooking, Austin is the neighborhood for you. Try MacArthur’s Restaurant, 6978 Soul Food, Emma’s Breakfast & Soul Food, Tonya Stanley’s Soul Food, and Flavor’s Southern Cooking. The neighborhood also has its fair share of late night eats. Come up to the counter of Peeples Taco Place or Terry’s Place for tacos and pizza after dark.