River North IL Homes & Real Estate

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The River North Gallery District, often simply referred to as River North, is a vibrant neighborhood located in the Near North Side of Chicago. In the past, it boasted the highest concentration of art galleries in the United States outside of Manhattan, making it a cultural hub. However, over the years, River North has undergone significant transformations, particularly from 1990 to 2012, with the development of towering high-rise buildings, the emergence of nightclubs, and the flourishing of restaurants. Today, River North is renowned as one of Chicago's premier neighborhoods for nightlife, particularly in the vicinity of Hubbard Street. Although there are now fewer galleries than before, the neighborhood still retains its artistic spirit, with regular art openings and an annual Fall River North Design District Walk taking place every September.

1 Bedroom Condos For Sale In River North

2 Bedroom Condos For Sale In River North

3 Bedroom Condos For Sale in River North

4+ Bedroom Condos For Sale in River North

Defining River North

River North is typically defined as the area north of the Chicago River and the Merchandise Mart, south of Division Street, east of the Chicago River, and west of Wabash Avenue. While the neighborhood was once primarily associated with art galleries, it has evolved into a dynamic area that houses not only art spaces but also a plethora of bars, dance clubs, popular restaurants, and entertainment venues.

Subsections of River North

Within River North, there are several distinct subsections:

The Gallery District

This district, officially designated by the City, is primarily situated along Chicago, Superior, and Huron streets, spanning from Lasalle to Orleans. While galleries have expanded beyond this core area, the heart of the artistic scene still resides around Superior, Huron, and Wells Streets.

The Contemporaine Building

The Contemporaine Building, recognized with the 2005 AIA Honor Awards for Architecture, stands as an architectural landmark in River North. It represents the neighborhood's commitment to innovation and design excellence.

Design District

North of the Merchandise Mart, you'll find a thriving design district with shops and showrooms offering commercial and luxury interior furnishings. This area reflects River North's evolution into a hub of creativity and style.

Kingsbury Park

Kingsbury Park encompasses a collection of newly constructed residential high-rises surrounding Erie Park, situated at Erie Street and the Chicago River. It exemplifies River North's urban development and modern living options.

Historical Roots

Originally known as Smokey Hollow at the turn of the 20th century, River North earned its name due to the heavy smoke generated by numerous factories and forges in the area. This dense smoke often obscured sunlight. Smokey Hollow served as a critical transportation center, connecting the ports along the Chicago River with surrounding regions. The Merchandise Mart, a prominent landmark, still retains its underground railroad tracks from that era. The neighborhood was dotted with massive coal bins that supplied coal to factories and forges, and the Merchandise Mart itself functioned as a significant storage warehouse.

Moreover, River North was home to "Little Sicily," a community of Italian immigrants. Assumption Parish on Illinois Street became the first Italian Roman Catholic Church in Chicago, serving Italians residing between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River. As Sicilian immigrants moved northward, they established their own parishes, while those from other regions of Italy settled west along Grand Street.

During the era of Prohibition, River North played a role in bootlegging operations. Dean O'Banion, a key figure in Chicago's underworld, operated a flower shop that served as a front for his illegal activities. The area was also known for its significant transportation and storage facilities, including those of the Montgomery Ward company.

Punk Rock Legacy

In the 1970s, River North gained recognition for being home to one of the most prominent punk rock clubs of the era, O'Banion's, named after the infamous gangland hit on Dean O'Banion. This establishment left a lasting mark on the neighborhood's cultural history.

Urban Transformation

Starting in the 1960s, River North experienced urban challenges as families relocated to the suburbs to escape deteriorating urban conditions. Many buildings were demolished to make way for parking lots, and crime became a significant concern. However, Assumption Church on Illinois Street continued to serve the remaining parishioners, many of whom traveled from the suburbs to attend Mass in their old neighborhood every Sunday.

Development and Revival

River North's transformation began in earnest in 1974 when real estate developer Albert Friedman embarked on a mission to purchase, restore, and construct commercial properties in the area's southeast sector. At the time, this region was considered a skid row. To attract tenants, Friedman coined the name "River North" for the area, and it soon became a hub for photographers, ad agencies, and art galleries. This laid the foundation for what is now known as the River North Gallery District, boasting the largest concentration of art galleries in the United States outside of Manhattan.

In recent years, from 1990 to 2012, River North has blossomed into one of Chicago's most vibrant neighborhoods, particularly along Franklin Street and Hubbard Street. It has become a sought-after destination for residents and visitors alike, offering a diverse array of restaurants, nightclubs, and entertainment options. The neighborhood has witnessed significant population growth, driven by the development of numerous high-rise buildings.

River North's journey from Smokey Hollow to a thriving urban district exemplifies the resilience and adaptability of Chicago's neighborhoods. Today, it stands as a testament to the power of revitalization and community-driven transformation.


River North April 21, 2024
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