Patel, 25 and single, relocated from Boston last fall to work as a pharmacist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Hagedorn, 62 and a longtime Chicago suburbanite, is a retired school teacher eager to enjoy city diversions with her family.
But both recently found condominiums to suit their needs in Streeterville, a Near North neighborhood delivering a bumper crop of designer high-rises that are taking it far from its historic roots as a salty shipping and industrial enclave. While the neighborhood's northern and middle tiers have older housing, both luxury and some moderately priced, much of the new development is in its southern tier. The pricey new condos are bringing more people than ever into Streeterville, which has long drawn crowds to Navy Pier, the John Hancock tower, Michigan Avenue shopping and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Buying into the mid-section of the neighborhood bordered by Lake Michigan, the Chicago River, Oak Street and Michigan Avenue was an easy call for Patel.
"I don't have to worry about commuting," she said of her two-bedroom, one-bath home in a just renovated 1963 building on Pearson Street. "I'm exposed to the tourist things and can walk to restaurants in River North."
Hagedorn and her husband Ed, 65, homeowners in Bloomingdale for 33 years, will savor weekends in their new three-bedroom, 21/2-bath unit at the Park View on Illinois Street built by MCL Cos., a major area builder. "We like the theater, restaurants, biking along the lake and taking our granddaughters to festivals at Navy Pier."
"Streeterville's location is phenomenal for housing, and the jobs created by Northwestern [University and its affiliates] are the economic backbone," said Mia Wilkinson, a real estate agent at Rubloff Residential Properties. "In the south, some new retail popping up is making it more of a village, but it still needs green space."
"Streeterville is a work in progress," said Jeff Hagedorn, 41, who like his parents, Shari and Ed, bought a condo at the just completed Park View high-rise. His is a two-bedroom, two-bath unit. "In time, I expect a strong return."
He has sound reason for high expectations.
The average asking price of existing and new Streeterville condos jumped to $815,884 during the first quarter of 2008 from $409,349 in late 2002, according to Rubloff Residential.
But all the growth and activity has a down side.
Some buyers, like attorney Violet Warner, 27, have been priced out of the neighborhood. This spring, she shopped for a two-bedroom condominium in the $460,000 range. New construction was too small. "They were half-million-dollar closets," she said. "Older units needed updating I couldn't afford."
Meanwhile with seven high-rises under construction, including the 150-story Chicago Spire, some residents like Scott Deatherage find their once- glorious lake views gone.
"Now, I look at a brick wall and have to go online to find out the weather," bemoaned Deatherage, 45, who bought a loft near Navy Pier in 1999. "When the market recovers, I'll probably move."
But he likes the Streeterville hubbub so much he may stay in the neighborhood, he said.
The construction and tourism adds dynamism, but it can also be a bother, longtime resident Karen Burnett said.
"The neighbors have worked to keep the construction and traffic under control," she said. "But everyday, tourist buses park at my front door, unload and leave their engines running."
Long a travel destination, the neighborhood got its name from the seafarer and huckster George Wellington Streeter.
In 1866, his ship ran aground on a sandbar where Superior Street and Chicago Avenue now intersect. In the vessel, Streeter set up house for himself, opened a bar and a brothel. As the city rebuilt from the Chicago Fire of 1871, he had debris from the cleanup dumped between his ship and the shore, eventually filling in 186 acres he called the District of Lake Michigan. He tried but failed to claim it as his private domain separate from the city. But the revelry that he and others promoted served workers in the area's shipping and industrial businesses.
Housing stockIn the northern tier, with its wide array of older stock from classic to modernist, condos of all sizes sold for an average of $801,875 in the second quarter. In the mid-section, where high-rises built from the 1960s through 1990s proliferate, the average sale price was $661,230 and in the southern tier $661,091, according to Jameson Real Estate LLC, a broker and developer.
In south Streeterville since 2000, the pace of growth has accelerated with about 3,000 new housing units completed. Other recent additions include an AMC cinema, Lucky Strike Lanes bowling, a Dominick's supermarket, Walgreens and Fox & Obel Market Cafe.
Average asking prices in seven towers under construction range from $1,568 a square foot at the Spire to $454 a square foot at 160 E. Illinois St., according to Appraisal Research Counselors, housing consultants.
"Until five years ago, south Streeterville was overlooked because sites were large, requiring big investments and long sell-outs," said Gail Lissner, an Appraisal Research vice president.
The sleek glass towers going up have been designed by well-known architects such as the Spire's Santiago Calatrava and 600 N. Fairbanks Court's Helmut Jahn.
Although first quarter sales of 158 new and existing units fell about 20 percent from 2005, prices won't decline, said Daniel McLean, president of MCL Cos..
"We're here for the long term; there's no reason to hurry," said the developer, who has sold about two-thirds of his Park View condominiums to suburbanites seeking a second home.
Next week: Yorkville