In another sign of the renaissance of family living in the city, a townhouse development in urban Bridgeport is witnessing a baby boom of the sort that’s usually associated with suburban neighborhoods.
At the 39-unit Lexington Square, nine babies were born in 2011, as the builder announced in this press release. Two more babies were born this summer, and five more are on the way—two of them any day now. That’s in addition to the 12 children who moved with their parents into the new homes along the 3600 block of South Sangamon Street. On Saturday, six of the boom babies and their parents celebrated in the Lexington sales center/model home along with ten other children (pictured above).
“It feels like where I grew up in Orland Park, with so many little kids all on the same block,” says Lisa Chatys, who lives in the development with her husband, Martin, their six-year-old son, Cohen, and their 16-month-old daughter, Harlow. “Kids ride their bikes around here at night, and they can all play in the park across the street.”
That’s Donovan Park, where, for now, most of the Lexington babies can do little more than toddle. Harlow Chatys isn’t yet old enough for playgroups in the Donovan Park field house; her brother, Cohen, played baseball there over the summer, and his parents envision the park being a mainstay of their children’s future. “We don’t have to put the kids in the car to drive to a park,” as they did in their former River West address, notes Martin Chatys. “That’s one of the things that attracted us: this feels like a neighborhood for families.”
Because Martin Chatys is a Chicago cop, the family is required to live in the city. (Martin was born in Poland, but he moved to Chicago’s Marquette Park neighborhood as a boy.) But Lexington’s president, Jeff Benach, believes other homeowners will stay even if they don’t have to. “If you find a city neighborhood with a bunch of kids and [parents] interacting with each other like on a suburban cul-de-sac, it’s golden,” he says.
Benach, a second-generation homebuilder, says that, traditionally, his and his father’s companies expected about 50 percent of a townhouse development to be bought by first-time buyers with no kids and 40 percent by empty-nesters. At Lexington, “it’s been 100 percent families,” Benach says. “We intended these [units] to be single-family home substitutes.” With three bedrooms all on one level, there isn’t the stacking effect that can make townhouses awkward for families with young kids.
On top of that, “the overall length of time spent in one home has doubled,” Benach says. (That’s probably due in part to the decline in home values that keeps people in one spot.) Fundamental to keeping these families in Chicago will be the availability of a good education (as we discussed Monday in a segment on WBEZ’s The Morning Shift). But most of the parents of this gaggle of babies have several years before they have to cross that bridge and decide whether suburban schools have a stronger pull than city life.
In the meantime, there’s all the fun and dining of Bridgeport—not to mention the fireworks. From the upstairs windows and roof deck of the Chatys house (and others in the development that face east), there’s a fine view of the fireworks that go off a few blocks east during White Sox games at U.S. Cellular Field. What kid wouldn’t want to watch that while safe at home?
Photograph: Nick Castle