On fairly frequent occasions, Edgebrook resident and real estate agent Julie Schultz fields calls from bewildered house hunters driving around the leafy suburban-looking streets of her neighborhood. The conversations sound something like this:
Caller: "Here's the address I'm looking at. Can you tell me what suburb this is?"
Schultz: "That address isn't in a suburb. You're still in the city."
Caller: "No, no, this can't be the city. Are you sure?"
Schultz: "Yes, I'm sure. Sure as I can be after living here 23 years!"
Those confused callers aren't the first to mistake Edgebrook for a suburb, and they won't be the last. Encircled by forest preserves and boasting tree-lined streets, handsome brick homes, and lots that in some cases are triple the size of typical Chicago parcels, Edgebrook looks like anything but the Chicago neighborhoods most folks know.
"Edgebrook is a classic example of Chicago's motto, which translates to 'City in a Garden,' " said Schultz, an agent at the Edgebrook office of Koenig & Strey GMAC Real Estate. "It's true, because we're surrounded by all the forest preserves, the trees and the flower boxes on Devon Avenue and at the Edgebrook Metra station."
She won't get any argument from Kathleen Riley, who as a 5-year-old moved to Edgebrook with her family, and 43 years later still lives there. "When we were kids, we would run the neighborhood all day long," she recalled. "We'd play kick the can and hide-and-go seek, then take our bikes and go uptown, to the Edgebrook shopping area.
"Every house had at least three children in it. You knew everybody, and you didn't ring the bell. You just walked in and started yelling for your friends."
Four decades later, little has changed. Riley raised her own daughter in a house on Greenleaf Circle, just four blocks from her parents, who live in the same house they bought in 1966. And many of her friends from the old days at St. Mary of the Woods School also returned to Edgebrook to raise families after realizing they could do no better than the enclave where they grew up.
"It has all the advantages of the city, the accessibility to all the city has to offer, city parks, recreation and services," Riley says. "But it has the benefits of the suburbs, like wide tree-lined streets, a park-like atmosphere and a great shopping district."
Many Edgebrook residents cite the nearby forest preserves among the greatest benefits offered by their neighborhood. Among them is Phil Barone, a managing broker at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Edgebrook. Some visit the preserves to picnic, while many more head to the forests for some golf at the nine-hole Billy Caldwell Golf Course or 18-hole Edgebrook Golf Course, he said.
Edgebrook is also the start of the North Branch Bike Trail, which leads bicyclists to other trails taking them all the way to Glencoe's Chicago Botanic Garden, Schultz said.
Moreover, the forests award residents frequent glimpses of wildlife. "In the early morning or at dusk, you'll see deer everywhere, and they roam the neighborhoods as well," Barone said. "In the older part of Edgebrook, just south of Devon and west of Central [Avenue], they actually put out salt blocks for the deer."
It would seem to be a long ride to the Loop from such a rustic setting, but Metra's Milwaukee North District Line trains speed downtown in a mere 23 minutes, Schultz said. That's a big reason Edgebrook home buyers tend to be younger parents who want to spend more time with their kids, and less time commuting.
The enclave's varied housing selection and expansive yards offer an additional inducement to young buyers. Brick Georgians, Colonials and English Tudors are home styles that predominate, Schultz said. Central Edgebrook offers yards five or 10 feet wider than typical 25-foot-wide Chicago parcels. But in its northern districts, there are a number of double lots. Wildwood, a north Edgebrook nook of four streets, is noted for its densewoods, and double- and even triple-sized lots.
Home prices start at $400,000 and can climb to more than a million, Barone said. Those prices are about 25 percent lower than their peaks a few years ago, he added.
Bordered by the Edens Expressway on the east, the forest preserves and Niles to the west, the Chicago River North Branch to the south and the city limits north, Edgebrook is largely built out and hasn't had any major developments constructed recently.
The only larger development currently being built is Edgebrook Glen, just outside the border of Edgebrook near Forest Glen, and offering 64 single-family homes, said developer Paul Bertsche, vice president of Chicago's CA Development.
One more factor appealing to buyers is the neighborhood's inherent safety. "It's got one of the lowest crime beats in the city of Chicago, if not the lowest," said 41st Ward alderman Brian Doherty, whose ward includes part of Edgebrook. "It's populated by a lot of police officers and firemen, who tend to be of the upper rank."
The community's distinctive angled streets also do their part to enhance safety. "It's not easy to traverse if you don't know where you're going," Doherty said.
No glimpse of Edgebrook is complete without a spin around its downtown -- or uptown, as residents call it. Few are likely to be glum about a business district where the neighborhood supermarket is called Happy Foods. The growing number of tempting eateries, such as El Primo Conto, a Brazilian restaurant; Piatto, an Italian restaurant; and Elephant Thai, only serve to further gladden the hearts of Edgebrook denizens.
It's the kind of little locally-owned, everybody-knows-your-name business district out of a 1940s Frank Capra film, some say. "People walk to the store," says Barb Eastman, one of the owners of Happy Foods. "It's very friendly and personable, and everyone knows each other. You're never anonymous in Edgebrook."
Most agree Edgebrook's business community benefited from the vote that turned the community from dry to wet a few years ago. But there's a near-unanimous feeling it has a ways to go to realize its full potential. Riley's wish is to see diagonal parking in front of stores for easier access, while Eastman would like to see a gift or craft shop move in to an empty storefront.
That may come to pass, said Schultz, who also is president of the Edgebrook Chamber of Commerce. "We've been hearing more and more that business owners are interested in the vacant spaces now on Devon," she said."We get calls at the chamber every day."
For now, Edgebrook is about as good as a city neighborhood gets, its residents assert. "It's a great place to raise a family," Riley said. "And a great place to live."