From a real estate perspective, Kelly Leggett thinks Sauganash is one of the best-kept secrets in the city.
"The homes are beautiful and the neighborhood has wonderful schools, a park and community groups that make it a great neighborhood, especially for families," Leggett says. He should know; he lives there.
When Leggett, a real estate sales consultant for Keller Williams, returned to Chicago from San Francisco, he considered going back to the lakefront high-rise where he lived in the 1990s. But the more he drove through Sauganash, the more he convinced himself that he had to leave the view of the lake for the shade of the trees.
The larger lot sizes in the Northwest Side neighborhood helped with his decision. So did the primarily residential zoning that ensures lower-density building and more green space. "And believe me," he says, "neighborhood residents are vigilant in maintaining that distinction."
A recently published guide for building and renovating in Sauganash is part of that vigilance.
Titled "Sauganash Workbook," it is mainly focused on curbside appeal and is the product of the Sauganash Architectural Design Committee. It is the first step of an effort that started about three years ago out of a concern about teardowns. The committee's goal is to promote, preserve and protect the scale and integrity of the neighborhood.
A leisurely drive through the wending streets of the Sauganash area between Devon and Bryn Mawr Avenues, the Edens Expressway and Pulaski Road reveals historic residences that exude character.
The character results from the influence of the original developers, Koester and Zander, who wanted distinctive homes built on the strip of land they purchased in 1912. Anecdotal history says they invited architects to do just that, design a variety of homes for their suburb in the city. Urban legend says there are no two homes alike in Sauganash.
Thanks to the lot sizes, the result is architectural contrast but not harsh conflict. A French Revival home set next to an Art Moderne might be glaring elsewhere, but not in Sauganash. Most of the homes were built between 1920 and 1950. Today, large trees provide an elegant frame to the residences and a green canopy for the streets.
Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th) thinks Sauganash is a beautiful neighborhood. A resident herself, she is most impressed by the community spirit. "I wish we could bottle it," she says, crediting the residents with the expansion of the playlot at Sauganash Park, the push for the rails-to-trails project and for organizing community celebrations during the year, like the much-heralded Fourth of July Parade and Picnic.
The Sauganash area participates in the city's Blue Cart recycling program. It's located near the city's most popular biking trails so residents can ride to work in the Loop or beyond.
Schools are one reason families stay for generations or often move back. Local schools include All Aboard Learning Express, Sauganash Montessori, Sauganash Elementary, Queen of All Saints and Chicago International Charter Northtown Academy High School.
A lot of those students stop at Tarpey's Pharmacy at the corner of Peterson and Cicero. Tarpey's is a neighborhood drug store that fills family prescriptions and fits the bill of a general store. A walk through the aisles finds a paperback rack with the newest from Anne Rice, a shelf of household paper products, birthday cards, children's books, toys and a generous selection of candy from hard candies to Fannie May.
An order of fries is always in order at Edens Fast Food Restaurant, also on Cicero just north of Peterson. Gus Georgopoulos owns and operates the Sauganash version of a fast-food restaurant. The fries are hot and crunchy but the main draw is a grilled, marinated chicken sandwich on pita served fully dressed with mayo, tomato and lettuce. The sandwich is worth the drive from Greektown. If the Sox are playing, the game is shown on a flat-screen TV hung over the three booths that line the plate glass windows.
For Sauganash residents who want to get around town, the Edens Expressway forms the western border of the neighborhood. CTA buses operate along Cicero, Peterson and Pulaski. Residents also access the Metra in nearby Forest Glen.
Weekends find most Sauganash residents in the yard or at a school or park district event. Being a homebody is a good thing in this community with a median age of 43.
Jennifer Costales and her family live in Sauganash. They spend as much time as possible at home. Costales, president of the Sauganash Community Association, believes that the overall crime rate is low and the quality of life high.
A report from the Chicago Police Department ClearPath site supports her view. It shows 12 incidents of crime between April 4 and 17, ranging from theft to aggravated assault. A recent alert was posted for residents to be wary of GPS thefts from cars.
Costales says that people are surprised at the green space in and around the neighborhood, citing the Sauganash Trail and the forest preserve.
The north branch of LaBagh Woods Forest Preserve wraps around the southern end of the neighborhood. Its dense landscape is laced with trails and home to four large picnic areas. It is also a haven for bird watchers who tick off sightings of hawks, shorebirds and, on occasion, sandhill cranes.
Strong family ties and strong community ties keep people in their homes for generations. That's one reason there are not a lot of opportunities to move into Sauganash, Leggett says. A property summary for the last year reads 32 units sold that were on the market for an average of 233 days. The average sale price was $525,922.
Sauganash is not immune to the housing problem, he says, and sometimes it takes longer for homes to sell, but the neighborhood has not been impacted by foreclosures.
The area is so well-preserved, Leggett says. "Looking at a photo of a home 80 years ago, you can still recognize it from the street today.
"It is unique that some people have lived here for 30 years, and [that] younger generations come back to buy into the neighborhood." Both stages of life keep the listings small and the secret of Sauganash intact.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun