Chalk it up to high gas prices, new urbanism or a nostalgic longing for the downtowns of old, but many homebuyers want to be close to their favorite hangouts. Instead of spending gas and time driving into town, they want to live in town, near their favorite stores and restaurants.
"We have our favorite places to eat: the Tavern for date nights and Trattoria Pomigliano when we go out with the kids," said Stephanie Nepomuceno, who along with her husband Joe, bought a new single-family house at the School Street development in downtown Libertyville in 2011. "The kids and I go to Patranek's Pharmacy for Melissa & Doug toys, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for ice cream and Lovin Oven Bakery for Saturday morning doughnuts."
The Nepomucenos moved to Libertyville after living in a Mundelein subdivision that required car trips for every errand.
"This is like living in the town where I grew up in Ohio," said Stephanie. "We can just walk. I wanted my kids to have this lifestyle too."
Single-family home sites at School Street are sold out, but the development also includes lofts with starting prices ranging from $175,000 to $949,000, with square footage from 690 to 3,200. Eleven of the 14 lofts remain for sale.
John Immormino is another homebuyer who chose to buy in the suburbs, while being close to his favorite haunts.
"Some of the suburban downtowns have changed," said Immormino, who bought a town house in 2011 at The New 922 in Downers Grove.
"When I grew up in Downers, you went downtown to buy a new suit or new shoes. Now you go for the night life. There are plenty of bars and restaurants; it's a happening place."
Immormino and his fiance, Edita Rinkeviciute, have two cars and a Harley that sit idle in their garage. Weekdays, he commutes by train to Chicago, while Rinkeviciute walks to her job in Downers Grove.
They walk on weekends to nearby eateries, including Gatto's Restaurant & Bar. They also frequent Starbucks.
Prices at The New 922 start at $349,000 for a two-bedroom town house with three levels and a rooftop deck. Five of the 28 are sold.
"Young couples, people with grown children and singles; we have a mix," said builder David Luman of R.D.P. Global Development LLC in Plainfield.
Owners of town homes at Buckingham Court in Des Plaines are within walking distance of diners and boutiques on Touhy Avenue. Nearby, Rosemont is teeming with restaurants, including Carlucci's, Nick's Fish Market, Gibson's Bar and Steakhouse and Harry Caray's.
Homes at the D.R. Horton development are priced from $229,990 to $259,990, with four homes ready for immediate delivery.
West Point Gardens, an Elgin development with town homes priced from $141,990, is west of the Randall Road corridor, which is lined with restaurants and stores that extend from Algonquin to the north to Aurora to the south. Farther east is downtown Elgin, which includes a smorgasbord of restaurants plus a steakhouse at the Grand Victoria Casino.
For Michael Lynch and his wife, Charlotte O'Leary, buying a new home in Chicago was a better fit.
After living in Florida, where "cities are smaller and are closed on weekends," said Lynch, they were eager to take advantage of the higher-octane lifestyle of downtown Chicago.
The couple bought a two-bedroom condo at 550 St. Clair in Streeterville in 2009. O'Leary can walk to work at her job at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and Lynch, who works from home, can take lunch breaks with their 9-week-old daughter.
"We have relatives in Elgin who tried to convince us to buy a house in the burbs," said Lynch. "But we're city people. We love having so many restaurant choices.
"Our favorite places to eat are Dao Thai, Xoco and a coffeehouse that's right across the street," said Lynch. On weekends, he said, his wife enjoys heading to Michigan Avenue's Magnificent Mile, a shopping district overflowing with retailers.
The 550 St. Clair high-rise has 12 condo units left, ranging from a studio for $179,900 to a penthouse for $909,000.
"Mag Mile is the big selling point," said Mark Sutherland, principal of Sutherland Pearsall Development Corp., which built 550 St. Clair. "You just walk out your door. Many of the residents don't need cars unless they use them to drive to mom's house in the suburbs on weekends or to go out of town."
For Katie Zarilla and her fiance, Derek Jordan, the old-fashioned, living-over-the-store concept was the best fit when they shopped for a new home in 2011.
They bought a home at the Front Street Lofts in Lemont, where prices start at $136,000 for one-bedroom units and $235,000 for two-bedroom-plus-den units.
"Downstairs, there's a Mexican restaurant called the Front Street Cantina," said Zarilla. "Nearby are other restaurants and bars, some boutique shops and a deli."
The couple's go-to shops are Muffins Ice Cream Shoppe and Bottles, which doubles as a liquor store and bar.
Their loft's exposed ductwork and high ceilings give it an urban feel, said Zarilla.
"We work in the suburbs so didn't want to buy in Chicago, which is too noisy and congested for us. This is a happy medium.
"We're young. We like to go out with our friends. This way, we can just leave our cars in the garage and go out and have fun."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun