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Wrigleyville fields more than ballgames, beer

Wrigleyville fields more than ballgames, beer
Wrigley Field is the centerpiece of the neighborhood. (Shauna Bittle/Photo for the Chicago Tribune)

Gus Isacson is an exception to the rule.

Isacson, executive director of the Central Lakeview Merchants Association, says most

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Wrigleyville

residents spend three years in the neighborhood. They usually work outside the area, taking advantage of its large public transportation network, he said.

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Isacson, however, likes to walk to work in this neighborhood that he and his family have called home for three generations.

Charles A. Weeghman built his baseball stadium in 1914 at 1060 W. Addison St., naming it Weeghman Park. Two years later,

the Cubs

moved in. Weeghman eventually sold his interest in the club and the field to William Wrigley, and the course of the North Side neighborhood was changed.

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"There is so much to do in a small area," Isacson said, with a nod to

Wrigley Field

. In addition to baseball, the stadium has hosted concerts by such artists as

Jimmy Buffett

, The Police,

Elton John

and

Billy Joel

. It has welcomed other sports, including football, soccer and hockey. Isacson rarely misses an event at Wrigley, and lists the 2009

National Hockey League

's Winter Classic among the most memorable.

An enclave in the Lake View community, Wrigleyville is roughly bordered by

Irving Park

Road, Diversey Parkway, Halsted Street and Racine Avenue, according to the Central Lakeview Merchants Association.

Wrigley Field was the linchpin for growth here. Without it, the venues that attract crowds of young professionals, couples and families from the neighborhood and beyond may not have opened, let alone succeeded.

Comedians

Mike Myers

and the late

Chris Farley

first appeared at the Improv Olympic (now

iO

) theater in Wrigleyville long before they broke into

Second City

.

Alternative rock musicians regularly take the stage at Metro, one of Chicago's premiere live entertainment venues. Old playbills read like a who's who of music —

Depeche Mode

, the Ramones and

Billy Idol

played Metro. So have

Iggy Pop

,

Smashing Pumpkins

,

Bob Dylan

and

Kanye West

.

The bars and clubs along Clark and Halsted streets continue to feature live music. The last vestige of the area's Irish history is found in the many pubs that pepper the strip of bars and restaurants along Clark.

Georg Bauer was attracted to the energy of the neighborhood when he and his family moved to Wrigleyville.

A Realtor with 16 years of experience, Bauer opened CMI Real Estate eight years ago.

"If you live in Chicago, Wrigleyville is the place to be," Bauer says. "I am from Germany, and walkability in an area is always a big thing for me. (Here) you are always close to public transportation and you never run out of entertainment options."

Wrigleyville's housing stock of three-flats and single-family homes appeals to a young crowd. Plus there are condo developments and brownstones along the shaded side streets off Clark.

Three-flats with bleachers on the roof are a Wrigleyville exclusive. Lining Waveland and Sheffield avenues, Wrigley rooftops provide a clublike atmosphere for fans.

"New construction almost came to a halt," Bauer says of the housing downturn's effect on the neighborhood. "I do not see many (new homes) now, but prices don't seem to be as affected by the recession as much as in other areas."

New in the pipeline is a proposed mixed-use project across from Wrigley called Addison Park by M&R Development. It includes 145,200 square feet of retail space, a 137-room hotel, 135 apartments and 399 underground parking spaces. The Chicago Plan Commission endorsed the project June 17.

The complex would stretch along the south side of Addison Street, from Sheffield west to Clark, then south on Clark for nearly a block. With the exception of two businesses at the corner of Clark and Addison, the existing buildings would be razed to make way for the multilevel complex. At street level, a base "podium" for retail would be two-stories tall. The apartment building would rise to 81 feet and the hotel would reach 91 feet.

Critics say the complex would displace independent businesses, increase traffic congestion and help usher in more high-rises.

Isacson says the complex would be a boost for the neighborhood, encouraging families to stay after a ballgame to dine, shop stores such as Hubba Hubba and Windward Sports, and stroll the streets, many of which are named for historic figures.

Addison was named for 18th century publisher Joseph Addison. Clark Street takes it name from the leader of the Kentucky militia during the Revolutionary War, George Rogers Clark. Irving Park Road honors author

Washington Irving

. Halsted got its name from William Butler Ogden, the first mayor of Chicago, who named it after financiers William H. and Caleb Halsted.

Alta Vista Terrace is another street worth exploring. A block-long historic district, it is just north of Wrigley Field at West Byron Street. Built between 1900 and 1904 by Chicago developer Samuel Gross, it mimics a street of rowhouses he discovered in the Mayfair district of London. The homes are placed using diagonal symmetry, meaning its twin is on the diagonally opposite end of the block. It is a neighborhood favorite for early evening strolls, especially during the holidays.

Wrigleyville has a safe atmosphere with a relatively low crime rate. The

Chicago Police Department

's ClearPath report for Beat 1923 east of Ashland between May 27 and June 9 lists 24 crimes, all nonviolent. These include nine thefts, two vehicle thefts, one robbery and two burglaries.

The neighborhood has two Chicago public schools: Lemoyne Elementary School and

Horace Greeley

Elementary School, which is part of the Lake View North magnet cluster.

Finding a cab here is rarely a problem, or you could rent a rickshaw or bike. Runners take to the streets early in the morning, heading through the neighborhood toward the lake.

Uncommon Ground is one of the most popular places to gather. The restaurant and coffee shop supports local artists and chefs, and offers an organic menu. The view from an outside umbrella table provides the best of both worlds. To the west, a glimpse of quiet, tree-lined Grace Street. A glance south on Clark catches Wrigley Field and the magnetism that it creates in the neighborhood that bears its name.

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