Near South Side February 28, 2024
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Near South Side IL Homes & Real Estate

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The Near South Side is a neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois, USA, located just south of the downtown central business district known as the Loop. It is situated between Roosevelt Road to the north, 26th Street to the south, the Chicago River to the west (between Roosevelt and 18th Street), Clark Street (between 18th Street and Cermak Road), Federal Street (between Cermak Road and the Stevenson Expressway just south of 25th Street), and Lake Michigan to the east.

The Near South Side is home to several iconic structures along Lake Shore Drive, including Soldier Field (the Chicago Bears' NFL stadium), McCormick Place (Chicago's primary convention center), the Museum Campus (housing the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium), and Northerly Island. The neighborhood is currently undergoing significant residential and mixed-use redevelopment.

Historical Evolution

The history of the Near South Side is marked by continuous change. It has evolved from a Native American settlement to a blue-collar community, then transformed into an elite residential district, later becoming a center for vice and subsequently a slum area. It also served as a location for public housing and warehouses before transitioning into a newly gentrified residential district.

Early Beginnings

The Near South Side's early history included wagon trails along the lightly populated Lake Michigan shore. It was in this vicinity that the Fort Dearborn Massacre took place in 1812. The area initially attracted settlers who worked on the Illinois & Michigan Canal and in the lumber district. Proximity to railroads led to the growth of light manufacturing and shops. In 1853, the city expanded its boundaries to 31st Street, absorbing the community. The Illinois Central Railroad reached Chicago in the same period, further enhancing transportation connections. A horse-drawn streetcar line along South State Street in 1859 improved access to downtown and attracted affluent families. By the late 19th century, the area was home to opulent mansions and elite socialites. Central Station opened on 12th Street in the 1890s.

Changing Landscape

At the turn of the 20th century, rapid transit expansion led many families to move slightly farther from the Loop business district. Railroads brought warehouses and light manufacturing, and Michigan Avenue between 14th Street and 22nd Street became known for its automobile dealerships. The "Levee" vice district with brothels and gambling dens around Cermak Street and State Street thrived until 1912. Burnham Park and accompanying institutions were built in the 1910s and 1920s. World War I and post-World War I Great Migration brought new settlers, resulting in the "Black Belt" low-rent district. Urban renewal and public housing projects replaced some of the slums. In the 1940s, parts of the Near South Side still faced issues associated with urban blight.

Century of Progress

The Near South Side was the site of the Century of Progress International Exposition from 1933 to 1934, celebrating Chicago's centennial. This World's Fair showcased technological innovation during the century since Chicago's founding, attracting more than 40 million visitors and offering hope during the Great Depression.

Modern Development

West of Lake Shore Drive, the area was dominated by railroad tracks and interchanges until the 1960s when middle-class housing developments like Dearborn Park emerged. In 1977, George Halas contributed 51 acres of railyards for the creation of Dearborn Park apartments, townhouses, and walkways. The 1990s saw a housing boom, resulting in the construction of numerous condominium and apartment towers.

The Central Station development began in 1990 on 72 acres of former rail yards and air rights east of Indiana Avenue, between Roosevelt Road and 18th Street. Loft conversions in warehouses and light manufacturing structures along major north-south avenues like Michigan, Indiana, and Wabash brought residential properties back to the area. Notable buildings include One Museum Park and One Museum Park West on redeveloped Prairie Avenue.

Parks and Museums

The Near South Side features several prominent parks and museums, including Burnham Park, Northerly Island, the Field Museum of Natural History, Soldier Field, Adler Planetarium, and the John G. Shedd Aquarium. Landfill use in the 1920s and 1930s created these park areas along Lake Michigan.

The Central Station development area includes three parks: Mark Twain Park, Daniel Webster Park, and the Grant Park Extension. These parks provide green spaces and enhance the overall neighborhood environment.

McCormick Place

McCormick Place, a major exposition and convention complex, was constructed in 1960 at 23rd Street and Lake Shore Drive. The original building burned in 1967 but was rebuilt and reopened in 1971. Several expansions followed in subsequent years, including those in 1986, 1997, and 2007. Today, McCormick Place hosts various events, including the annual Chicago Auto Show.

Historic Structures

The Near South Side is rich in historic architecture, including the Prairie Avenue Historic District, which includes notable structures such as the John J. Glessner House and the Henry B. Clarke House. Additionally, several buildings and landmarks in the community area are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Beginning in the mid-1990s, the Near South Side saw the transformation of former factories into loft condominiums, a redevelopment trend that continued into the early 2000s. The South Loop residential development expanded into the Dearborn Park neighborhood. Central Station, a major mixed-use development on former rail yards, included properties between Michigan and Indiana Avenues.

South Loop and Printer's Row

The boundaries of the South Loop and Printer's Row neighborhoods within the Near South Side can sometimes be imprecise. Some sources define the South Loop's southern boundary as Cermak Street and its western boundary as Canal Street. The Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance represents residents living in and around the South Loop and Near South Side areas, offering support and representation to thousands of residents.


Lake Shore Drive underwent reconstruction in 1996, altering its alignment to the west of Soldier Field. The northern boundary of the Near South Side, Roosevelt Road, marks the end of consecutively named east-west streets. East-west streets north of Roosevelt Road have street names, with exceptions between State Street and Michigan Avenue. The neighborhood features numbered streets from 13th to 26th, with Cullerton Street (20th Street) and Cermak Road (22nd Street) as notable named cross streets.

South Loop/Printer's Row Overlap

There is often confusion regarding the exact boundaries of the South Loop and Printer's Row neighborhoods within the Near South Side. While some sources do not clearly define the northern boundary, they typically place the southern boundary at Cermak Street and the western boundary at Canal Street. The Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance serves residents living in the South Loop and Near South Side, offering support and representation to a broad community, including the Prairie Avenue District, Central Station, Museum Park, Motor Row, and the South Michigan Avenue corridor. It aims to foster a sense of unity and engagement among residents in these areas.

The Greater South Loop Association represents residents between Congress to the north, the Chicago River to the west, and the Stevenson Expressway (approximately 25th Street) to the south. South Loop Neighbors, on the other hand, serves residents as far south as approximately 15th Street and as far west as the river. Fodor's, a travel guide, defines the South Loop as the area bounded by Cermak, Michigan Avenue, the Chicago River, and Congress Parkway-Eisenhower Expressway.

Notable Residents

Over the years, the Near South Side has been home to several notable individuals, including:

  • Philip Danforth Armour (1832–1901): A prominent meatpacking industrialist and founder of Armour and Company, he resided at 2115 South Prairie Avenue during his later years.
  • Richard M. Daley (born 1942): The 54th Mayor of Chicago, Daley moved from Bridgeport to the Near South Side in 1993 during his tenure as mayor. After his mayoral term, he relocated to the Gold Coast.
  • William Kimball (1828–1904): A businessman and the founder of the Kimball Piano Company, he lived at 1801 South Prairie Avenue in the 1890s.
  • Major Robert Henry Lawrence Jr. (1935–1967): An officer in the United States Air Force and the first Black astronaut, he grew up at 11 West 23rd Street during his childhood.
  • Frank Leland (1869–1914): A baseball player, field manager, and club owner in the Negro leagues, he resided at 2348 South Dearborn Avenue.


Residents of the Near South Side are zoned to schools within the Chicago Public Schools system. K-8 schools serving various sections of the neighborhood include Jones College Prep,  Drake School, National Teacher Academy, and South Loop School. Phillips Academy High School is the designated high school for the Near South Side.

In conclusion, the Near South Side of Chicago has a rich history marked by continuous change, from its early beginnings as a Native American settlement to its evolution into a dynamic and diverse community. With its iconic landmarks, ongoing redevelopment, and vibrant neighborhoods, this area remains an integral part of the city's cultural and urban landscape.