Bloomingdale Trail

Photo: Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune

A bike route is proposed for the elevated Bloomingdale Trail that runs through Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood.

Q: Dennis, my wife and I live in DC but love visiting Chicago. We would like to buy a real estate investment in Chicago that we can rent out. Recently, I’ve been reading a lot about the 606 Trail. Do you see this area developing in the next 5–10 years? We love walking along the High Line in NYC but aren’t that familiar with the 606 Trail.

Would you suggest buying something along this trail with the hopes that it becomes a popular area and real estate increases? Or the safe bet with either a rowhouse or condo with a view? —Brian

A: Yes, investing in real estate in the neighborhoods along The 606 will be a good idea in the next five to ten years—mostly because they’ve already been good places to invest, even without development of the trail. Much of the residential area along the 606’s route has been reviving very well in the past decade-plus and will continue to improve.

The trail is icing on the cake. Sweet, tasty icing, but icing nevertheless.

Occupying a disused rail line, the route of The 606 lies in Noble Square, Bucktown, and Humboldt Park, and near Wicker Park and Logan Square. These are all neighborhoods that have been on the upswing for years. Some—Wicker Park, Bucktown, and Logan Square—are at the epicenter of the renaissance of urban living in Chicago, while the others are one-step-out rings that have seen their share of the action.

The Humboldt Park stretch of The 606 is the weakest link in that chain; It’s in the northern part of the neighborhood, a little removed from the historic park and even farther from the action along the Paseo Boricua stretch of Division Street. The neighborhood was starting to really pick up speed during the boom years, in part because of its proximity to more expensive neighborhoods, but since then it's been hit hard by foreclosures and has had some violent crime problems.

Also, you may be coming at this late. Real estate developers have had their eye on the potential of Bloomingdale Trail for several years. In 2009, I wrote about a Bucktown house that had been designed expressly to take advantage of its adjacency to the trail site. Four years later, the Bloomingdale Trail/606 project is finally about to shift from being about potential to being about actuality, with a $54 million construction project getting started and a 2014 opening planned.

The 606 is on its way to becoming a contemporary urban counterpart to the rails-to-trails bike paths that already run through many suburbs. It will be a long, linear park, sort of the common backyard that threads 2.7 miles through residential neighborhoods. If it comes out as planned, it will be a terrific new amenity for the areas around it and will contribute to increased home values. But I see it as one more amenity added to an array of good things that are already up and running in the area: shopping, dining, galleries, transportation, architecture, and parks. It will make neighborhoods that are now very desirable even more desirable.

And by the way, unlike cities on the East Coast, Chicago isn’t much of a rowhouse city.

What’s your Chicago real estate question? Ask me!