The changing face of Logan Square makes the headlines every week. I’ll add to the dialog with this quick rant since I lived in Logan Square from 2011-2013, and considered moving back in 2016.
And very recently, the debate focused on 2 buildings at Sawyer/Spaulding and Milwaukee, a building I used to live in, and their purchase by controversial Logan Square landlord M. Fishman. Residents of these buildings had been paying $720-$780 in rent under previous management. M. Fishman sent them letters that their rent will now be $1100-$1280. And they can either accept the increase, or move out. The issue is highlighted in this DNAinfo article, “As Rents Skyrocket in Logan Square, Landlord M. Fishman Defends Steep Hikes” and this article in Chicagoist, “Logan Square Residents Protest Sudden, Hefty Rent Hikes From M. Fishman And Co“.
I lived at 2704 N Sawyer for 2 years, 2011-2013, my rent for a large, sunny south-facing studio was $750. It was a fitting price, location, size and everything that a 22-year-old working student would need. The blue line entrance was right out my back door to take to class, and the 76 bus shuttled me to work each evening. It was a convenient and quiet building, built literally right on top of the underground train stop, and you could never have heard or felt whether the train was passing through or not (unlike the red line).
Waiting for the train on the platform in my morning commute, I used to wonder if I was ever standing was directly below my unit. Perhaps the bed I was just sleeping in was exactly 3 paces to my left and 50 feet above me. A clear cut person-sized hole through the concrete, and a well-placed ladder would save me 4 minutes and 2.25 train fare each day, but probably make the neighbors upset.
It was a very light apartment too. It got sun all day. And the curtains I bought from the dollar store down the street were cheap and somewhat see-through, and served more as a privacy screen than a sun-blocker. which was fine since I’m an early riser. But when the McDonalds directly across the street turned to a Mega-McDonalds, the light pollution increased at night, but I learned to adjust. It sort of gave a nice glow to the unit in the dark. And I never had to feel my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
It was also a giant beast of a studio, partitioned off with a separate kitchen that was too big for its own good. Even with a modest table by the window and an oddly-placed ridge, there was still a lot of wasted space. There was a walk-in closet that leads to a bathroom with semi-new furnishings. And a separate walk-in closet big enough to fit a bike.
The neighborhood itself was good. Memorable and good times were had living in Logan Square. The highlights of a free weekend in the area were the Farmer’s Market (one of the best in the city), Rocking Horse for a drink, El Cid for a quick meal, Dill Pickle for fresh produce, maybe a venture to Wicker Park for Myopic Books or Reckless Records. Congress theater was still open at the time and I saw concerts there on occasion.
Looking to move this spring, and looking back on fond memories, I entertained the idea of returning to Logan Square.
And as timing would have it, May 2016, the exact same unit I once called my home is available, unit #202. As noted in the articles at the top of this blog post, the rent is now $1125. The rent increase (split 2 ways), is still expensive, but not a barrier of entry for me and, as I will go on to describe below (despite the controversy in the articles above), is a fair price for the unit. I could have moved back in that very weekend.
It was weird seeing the unit empty up on Craigslist, without my bed and furniture. Below is how I had the ‘living room’ set up when I lived there in 2012. Likely a tenant or 2 lived here in the past few years, and now I had the opportunity to go back to renting a space I once called home.
Most of the other units in the building were similarly priced and also empty, presumably because of the raise in rent, but from my experience living there, the units had very high turnover and disorganized management (prior M. Fishman) left many units to sit empty. They updated the kitchen floors, and took out the carpet in the hallway, but overall it was unchanged.
I’d love to join the debate and throw in a rant about corrupt landlords raising rent, but I think the energy around M Fishman and the Milwaukee-Sawyer/Spaulding buildings is being wasted, because the price increase simply brought the units up to market value. My old unit was among several apartments I looked at in the past few months. Similar large studio units (Logan Square and elsewhere) are going for $900-1200. And I haven’t yet seen one as big as and nice as the old one in the 2704 building. At $750, the apartment was a complete steal. A unicorn, some would call it.
The low 2011-2013 rent did come with drawbacks though. The management company was very disorganized. In the DNAinfo article, it was stated that it changed management companies 5 times in the last 5 years. I was unaware of it at the time, but thinking back, it was a bit sketchy as far as ownership, and I had no idea what or who owned the building. Now it kind of makes sense. Shortly after moving in, the on-site super down the hall, who I used to slip my check under her door, was fired. And I was told to pay rent to a different company temporarily. When I renewed my lease, it was yet another company. Names and phone numbers to reach changed several times. The only time I ever saw a face to associate with the building was when I moved out and dropped of my keys to a secretary in an office building in the Loop and ended my time in Logan Square.
I knew if I ever moved out and looked to move back in, it would be more expensive.
A lot changed in Logan Square (and continues to change) in my 3-year absence. Maybe for the better, but maybe for not. But I’m not sure the neighborhood would suit me as well anymore and I was unsure about making the move back, despite how much I enjoyed living in the unit and neighborhood.
For one, controversial luxury apartments are going up left and right down Milwaukee ave, contributing to Logan Square’s popularity and rent increases.
The Mega Mall is one of the first to go to make room for these new apartments.
Two Way Lounge is in talks of being sold to the owner of Furious Spoon.
Not that I regularly patronize any businesses that may be going away or new ones that may be going in, but it is a changing environment and I’m not sure I’m 100% sold on living there again. Compared to other neighborhoods in Chicago, 2013 Logan Square is very different than 2016 Logan Square.
However, my indecision on returning to the unit was short-lived. Because despite allowing cats and dogs, in the new management’s fine print there is a “no rabbit and no ferret” policy, and my pet of 4 years would not be allowed to come with. It’s ironic since the unit was her first home.
So this little monster made the decision for me.
I am not moving back to Logan Square.