Chicago Neighborhood's Defined: One Community Area At A Time

communityareasAs the city of Chicago continues to evolve deep into its second century of existence, the neighborhoods have seen significant changes in population demographics.  As time passes and new people move in and out of the various areas of the city, boundaries of neighborhoods have shifted and some have changed their names.  Often there is some confusion as to where exactly some business or home is in the context of its neighborhood.  People ask where some neighborhoods begin and end and what exactly defines one.
To begin to explain how they were created or named is often a history lesson in ethnic groups settling in areas and/ or the names of early settler’s homesteads.  When the University of Chicago attempted to study the demographics of the city, they created 77 community areas that roughly corresponded with the accepted known neighborhoods in the 1920’s.  These so-called “community areas” have been widely used ever since as a convenient means of summarizing social and physical features of spatial units smaller than the city as a whole, with stable boundaries for the compilation of census data. They remain useful, however, as subdivisions of city space that allow the study of change over time because of their stable boundaries.   These boundaries have become a useful tool for Chicago real estate in defining search areas in the industry’s Multiple Listings Service (MLS) in looking for a new home in Chicago.
A confusing element of the these community areas is that sometimes they are named the same as a local neigborhood.  Lincoln Square community area, for example, contains several neighborhoods such as Ravenswood, Bowmanville, Ravenswood Gardens, Budlong Woods and Lincoln Square.  So one could live in Lincoln Square Community Area, in Ravenswood Neighborhood, in Lincoln Square (a sub-neighborhood recently created) adding to the confusion.
One might ask where do the Wards of Chicago come in to play and what makes those relevant?  As most might already know, there are 50 wards in the city of Chicago and these defined areas are the political subdivisions for the city.