Urban Gardening in Andersonville, Chicago

peonyAh… yes, spring comes early to the lakefront neighborhood of Andersonville in Chicago. The daffodils are already blooming in some areas, and the tulips are at least showing their green. Reminds me that I need to tend to my urban gardens to prepare them for a show in the summer. It’s time to cut down all the dead stuff from last year, rake it out, spread some mushroom mulch. Chicago Botanic Gardens has an April checklist of steps to prepare your gardens.

Time to get those clay pots out of the garage and plant them with spring annuals that can tolerate alternating cold and warmth. And then there are the perennials. I love how Kelly describes the charm of perennials. They come back every year, even if you don’t remember where you planted them.

And then there’s the lawn furniture and barbeques. Time to dust off the table and chairs, get out the cushions, and give that barbeque grill a wire brushing. And don’t forget to invite me to that garden party.


Happy New Year!  Today, we share information on a gorgeous property in sustainable, walkable, wonderful Ravenswood in Chicago, 60640, located between the communities of Andersonville and Lincoln Square.  I just noticed that a two unit building we have been wondering about for awhile is for sale.  I am familiar with this building because I used to live next door.  It is a two unit, three level building on an oversized lot that is 150 feet deep.  Extra deep lot = large building + deck + vegetable garden + yard and two car garage.  The yard has plenty of sun to grow your own veggies.  It is a two unit building so living in one unit while renting out the other one helps with economic sustainability.  You can walk to the new Marianos Fresh Market, opening in spring 2014, and purchase locally grown produce, meats and more the Andersonville farmers market on Wednesday afternoons from spring through fall.


It is located on what appraisers are describing as a “greenbelt“.  Commuting is easy as the Metra Rail station is a lovely short two block walk down Ravenswood Avenue and the train takes you downtown in about ten minutes.  Just as convenient is the brown line Leland stop which is a quick five block walk.  The property is two blocks from the LA Fitness, opening first quarter of 2014 at the corner of Ravenswood and Lawrence.  Ideally situated, you can shop local in nearby Andersonville, Lincoln Square and Ravenswood.  Just a few blocks from the Divvy and I-Go bike and car sharing programs.


So, all around, it is a wonderful place to call home.  Contact Maggie Finegan at 773-502-1673 to find out more about the area or to schedule a showing for this property or other two flats in the area.


Finally let’s talk about those questions that come up from your renters. This is a time to truly consider what the request is rather than what you as the landlord think the answer should be.

Be safety conscious. When our renter called to ask if they can install carpeting on the hardwood stairs going up to the bedrooms, I wanted to resist the idea of covering our lovely hardwood stairs. Then the safety first light went on in my brain, as I thought of the safety of them and their young children, who might slip on the wood stairs. When the potential renter called and asked if we would install a garbage disposer, we agreed even though it is not something that we use or want in our own homes.

What to do about pets? Should we rent to people with dogs and cats? We were fine with one dog per townhouse. We learned after giving permission to our wonderful tenants to add a second dog that two dogs seemed to alienate our neighbors in the townhouse complex, who had to listen to the barking. We also learned that our neighbors with young children are also a little uncomfortable with their children having to share the sidewalk with large dogs.

Being available and on site. Weekends in the summer we try to spend some time gardening in the yards so our tenants and the neighbors can approach us with their concerns.

Wow have we learned a lot. We certainly haven’t gotten rich over this exercise, but we have learned how to provide safe, attractive housing for good solid renters. And we have met and developed relationships with some wonderful people along the way, some who are now long time friends.

Maggie Finegan, ABR, Move with Maggie Chicago Real Estate Team


In our first post, we’ve advertised our property for rent. Next, we discovered the annual challenge of how to determine the correct rental price. This becomes more and more important in Chicago, as our real estate taxes, which make up the lion share of our expenses, keep going up. After a few years of struggling with rents, I discovered that the apartment rental service companies like Apartment People in Chicago, were more than happy to stop by and give me an estimate of the current rental value. This is extremely helpful.

With our real estate taxes going up, we have to continually add value for our potential renters, so that we can increase the rents to cover the rising costs. (Kinda sounds like the horse driving the cart doesn’t it?) But this is Chicago and we do things our own way here, like most urban areas.

One of the best things that I did to add value was to create private outdoor space for the townhouse. With our cold winters, renters can’t wait to sit outside. So we built a patio, and surrounded it by shrubs for added privacy. Our renters loved it so much that they had a lattice work screen and planter box added at their expense. We also landscaped the property with perennials, shrubs and annuals for blooming and winter color too. All this helped us to be able to increase rents over time. Listening to tenants, learning from them and giving them what they want. Our rents went from $1100 a month before the landscaping, private patio and fencing in 2003 to $1800 in 2011.

We are always learning from our renters and we try to keep an open mind. We noticed that over the years, the renters who call about our townhouses have changed, and so we needed to change our rental listings to let people know what we have to offer. We are seeing more young families who love the 3 bedrooms, the lower level family room that works well as a playroom, and the private yards, and the secure parking spaces. The ornamental wrought iron fence that we installed at great expense a few years after purchasing, has provided the added value of security. It keeps the renters’ children protected from the street, and creates a sheltered place for them to play in the local townhouse community. And the parking space that is out back rather than on the street means they can walk to and from the parking space without having the children near the street and in harm’s way.

Maggie Finegan, ABR, Move with Maggie Chicago Real Estate Team


I bought my first rental property in 2003. It was a 3 bedroom townhouse in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood. I had shown it to a client who didn’t like the 50’s feel of it. She didn’t love it, but I did, so I bought it and became an instant landlord. My first challenge (and fear) was how to screen for tenants. A fellow realtor referred me to ACR-Advance Credit Reports (ACR) in Matteson. I set up an account with them, and they provided me with legally compliant tenant application forms that you can have tenants fill out. Simply fax the completed application forms and ACR will run a “Tenant Qualifier” in a matter of hours. It includes a credit report, civil records, inquiries and residence history. For a nominal additional fee they will call employers and former landlords. For an extra charge you can run a criminal background check.

In 2004, I added a new partner, when I married my husband Keith, and he joined me land lording. We purchased a second townhouse in the same complex as the first one. By then the marketing process had evolved, using a combination sources I found that good tenants come from a variety of places. Start the recipe with postings on Craig’s list, add Chicago Reader Classified, and for maximum exposure list the rental property with Keller Williams Realty, who automatically posts the listing to many, many rental websites, including Hot Pads, Enormo, Trulia, Zillow and Domu to name a few. All at once it is posted. My most recent tenants have come from HotPads and Domu. I always use professional photographs in my ads and even hired a virtual tour company to take the shots and draw the floorplans.

Maggie Finegan, ABR, Move with Maggie Chicago Real Estate Team


If you are looking for a great walkable Chicago neighborhood to call home, check out the Damen and Montrose area, where the vibrant neighborhoods of Lincoln Square, Ravenswood, North Center and Lakeview meet.

The new streetscape experience on Montrose with flowers and planters, new benches and ornamental lighting enhance your walking and shopping experience. Local home owners are out and about in this vibrant neighborhood, shopping and dining.

At the corner of Damen and Montrose, on your way home from the Montrose brown line stop, you can work out at the Ravenswood Fitness Center, get a manicure at 2×10 Nails, a haircut at Lather, or wash your doggie at It’s a Paws World.   The post office, North Community Bank and Giordano’s are just across the street. For serious shoppers, my favorite store is Agnes, west of Wolcott on Montrose where you find wonderful inventive purses, jewelry, artwork, gifts, cards and flowers.

Stop in at the new Fountainhead restaurant, on the corner of Damen and Montrose for a drink, lite bites, salads, and interesting fare.   They are opening a rooftop beer garden in the Spring.   For a quick, healthy reasonable lunch, try Roong Petch, with great Thai food and sushi.   For wonderful fresh fish, there’s the popular Glens Diner on Montrose, if you order by 5 pm you get the 5 courses for $15.95

As suits the neighborhood, check out a very versatile three level home on Damen, that works well for singles, families, couples, and home businesses. It has a gorgeous new kitchen, marble fireplace, grand staircase, and a lower level that is ideal for a nanny suite/home office space, with a separate entrance.   There’s also a wine cellar, a huge private back yard, and garage.

Maggie Finegan, ABR, Move with Maggie Team


The Ravenswood Metra station is currently undergoing extensive renovations as part of a major project to expand the station.   This is part of a $185 million investment of the Union Pacific North Line to expand the Ravenswood station and replace 22 railroad bridges funded in part by the federal stimulus package.

An illustration of the proposed design shows a covered platform which will improve conditions significantly for waiting passengers who currently have to stand outside uncovered during inclement weather.

This project testifies to the influence that neighborhood residents have as their newly formed association hired an attorney to thwart the railroad’s plans to build a new station on the north side of Lawrence which has more residential units than the south side of Lawrence which is more industrial and commercial.   The upgraded station and platform is currently under construction.

Additionally, Metra announced on Thursday, September 30, 2010 that it will postpone the reconstruction project to rebuild 22 bridges until the spring as riders along the Union Pacific North Line lodged many complaints about the erratic train schedule and delays caused by two tracks that were cut back for the extensive bridge project.   What this means for the Lawrence station renovation is unclear.

Ann Marie Walker, ABR, Move with Maggie Team


One more reason we love living and working in walkable, artsy Lincoln Square, Andersonville and Ravenswood. The Ravenswood ART Walk, October 2-3, 2010 from 11 am to 5pm. Stroll Ravenswood Avenue from Grace to Wilson, from 11 am to 5 pm on both days, and you will see artists working in their studios, from puppet makers to glass blowers, sculptors to furniture makers.   You can even pick up a few pieces for yourself. Want to get on the inside track, then stop by on Friday night from 7-10 pm, for the opening Reception Awards, at 4011 N Ravenswood. Honorees are John Wertymer, owner of the Cornelia Arts Building, and Bau Graves of the Old Town School of Folk Music.  All that art and craft in such a concentrated area.   Woohoo.

While in the area, you can’t help but pick up the vibe going on at Damen and Montrose, with new dining/shopping area with restaurants like Fountainhead, a nail salon, and dog groomer.

Speaking of workable, walkable Lincoln Square…Want to live or work in the area? Visit this home for sale on Damen with photos of this great home featuring 3 levels for living or combined living/working at home. You can live on the top 2 floors, and use the lower level for a home office, studio or extended family space. Check it out.

Maggie Finegan, Move with Maggie Real Estate Team


Metra Rail ChicagoLocal residents, home owners, and business owners in Andersonville, Ravenswood and Lincoln Square in Chicago, met with Metra representatives on June 29 and reviewed plans for the new Ravenswood Station.

The location and design of the new station is the remaining piece of the puzzle to be revealed regarding the new transit oriented development, which is planned for the north side of Lawrence at Ravenswood. The development will ultimately improve our home values, as transit is a key factor in determining value. Follow the story on Twitter.

The new Metra station will provide amenities such as overhead coverage, warming shelters, improved lighting, and landscaping, along with a ticket office and vendor space, ramp access and stairs. There will be two ADA accessible entrances at Lawrence and Ravenswood, along with a new rider/pedestrian tunnel planned for the area of Ainslie and Ravenswood,   that will link the station with a new five level parking structure.

It is part of Metra Union Pacific’s North line $80 million project to replace bridges, trestles and walls that are over 100 years old. Construction of the platforms and station will begin on the west side of the tracks, with east side to begin in 2012.

What’s not to like about being able to wait for your train in a well lit area that is sheltered from the elements, instead of standing out on the platform in the wind and rain and cold? And how about the handicapped accessible ramps and stairs, and the ticket office?

What’s not to like about getting off the train at Ravenswood, purchasing your groceries or your take- out meal at the new Mariano’s gourmet grocery store, and dining al fresco at the sidewalk café. Then walking steps to your car or bike, and heading home?

How about working out at the new health club, then sitting outside on the terrace, and enjoying the view from the green roof?

To be honest, there are a few homeowners on the east side of Ravenswood, north of Lawrence, concerned about the potential for increased noise, traffic and pollution, as the station stop is moved north of Lawrence. It appears however, that the glass enclosed structure with warming stations at both ends, is designed to minimize the amount of noise and pollution.

Maggie Finegan, Move with Maggie Team

© 2010 Commuter Rail Division of the Regional Transportation Authority


Chase Park will be hosting the Ravenswood Resale on Saturday, May 15, 2010 from 8am – 2pm at 4701 N. Ashland Avenue.   Admission is FREE.   Bring the kids and see what treasure trove you can find.

Chase Park also hosted an official groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday, March 20, 2010 for the Chase Park Playlot Renovation.   The Chase Park Advisory Council supported a fund-raising effort for the Chase Park Playlot Renovation by selling bricks and tiles through its Building It Together Program.   The bricks and tiles will be incorporated throughout the park’s design.   The funds raised through this program will directly benefit park improvements such as the playground renovation and the new entrance plaza at Leland Avenue and Clark Street.

Ann Marie Walker, ABR, Move with Maggie Team