Then and Now: How Wrigleyville is Changing

Wrigley Field opened in 1914 and took on its iconic name in 1927. The neighborhood that sprung up around the ballpark is named for the stadium, and for years it was largely defined by the Chicago Cubs and the team’s diehard fans. That is starting to change. As Wrigleyville’s neighborhood staples are disappearing, new developments are filling the void. 

While the Wrigleyville of today bears some semblance of the neighborhood of the past, it is undergoing a transformation that will make the old Wrigleyville harder to find. Here is how the neighborhood has changed over the past several years. 

What did Wrigleyville look like 10 years ago?

Photo by Towpilot / CC BY

Ten years ago, the Cubs winning the World Series was nothing more than a beautiful dream just out of reach because of a goat and a curse and Wrigleyville felt more like a quiet neighborhood that only came alive on game days. The neighborhood had classic bars like the Cubby Bear – still open today – and a reasonable cost of living. College students and just entering the workforce gravitated toward the lower prices and the abundance of bars and nightlife in the neighborhood. 

In 2009, the Ricketts family bought the Chicago Cubs, marking a new era in the neighborhood. When the family bought the team, they had their eyes on more than just winning games. The Ricketts are a big impetus behind some of the biggest changes in Wrigleyville, with the the family having invested $750 million into revamping Wrigley Field and the surrounding neighborhood.

Now, the Cubs franchise is hoping to see the neighborhood offer more than just a bar scene before and after baseball games.

“And so our vision is to create a little bit of a different feel for Wrigleyville north of Addison, where it becomes more of a white-tablecloth experience, something with a little upper-end feel to it,” said Crane Kenney, the Cub’s president of business operations, according to the Chicago Tribune

Instead of just bars and sports memorabilia shops, the Cubs and the Ricketts want to see nicer restaurants and development that will make Wrigleyville into a tourist destination whether or not the Cubs are in town. 

What is changing?

Photo Courtesy of Addison and Clark

The cost of living has been increasing in Wrigleyville in leaps and bounds. In 2012, rents in the neighborhood saw a double-digit increase, according to DNAinfo. Rising rents and more condo buildings mean a lot of the neighborhood’s former residents, lured by the low rents and access to public transportation, are migrating to other neighborhoods. New condo buildings going at premium prices mean more established Chicagoans are gravitating toward the iconic neighborhood.

Rolling Stone laments the death of “the old, weird Wrigleyville.” In the 1980s, the sports-heavy atmosphere shared the neighborhood with a thriving punk scene. That scene faded as stores like The Alley, a shop dedicated to all things counterculture, and a Dunkin’ Donuts, which rightfully earned the nickname Punkin’ Donuts, both disappeared. 

In the past year, a big wave of new development has swept away some of the neighborhood’s beloved gathering spots. The McDonald’s at 3620 N. Clark St. and the 7-11 at 3554 N. Sheffield Ave. have been knocked down. Some held out hope for Wrigleyville’s 24-hour Taco Bell, but just a year later the fast food joint also fell prey to new development. The restaurant at 1111 W. Addison St. is slated to close in 2018.

The Park at Wrigley / Photo by DNAInfo

McDonald’s will be coming back to Wrigleyville, but as part of a boutique hotel. Hotel Zachary, right across the street from the ballpark, will also have a Big Star and a West Town Bakery. The hotel, expected to open in 2018, will have 175 rooms, DNAinfo reports. The Ricketts family owns the development company masterminding the hotel.

This spring, the 50,000 square-foot plaza, formally called The Park at Wrigley, debuted in the neighborhood. The outdoor plaza features open space and a building with a merchandise shop, Starbucks, and space for a future restaurant, according to Curbed Chicago.

The Addison & Clark development is singlehandedly rewriting a large chunk of Wrigleyville. The expansive development will include a movie theater, fitness center, 148 luxury apartments, a parking deck with 400 spots, and retail and dining space.

The Cubs broke the curse, ending a drought many thought would never end. And it looks like Wrigleyville – once thought as unchanging and predictable as their team – is just as eager to shed its past.

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