Multifamily Architectural Styles

Brick & Stone 2-4 Flat c.1920

The good news about multifamily housing in Gladstone Park is that there is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to different choices at various prices. These range from rental apartments to two-flats to one floor of a two-story vintage house to senior suites. In addition, some investment-owned condos are rented out. The bad news is that so many people seek out these competitively-priced units in the community that they often get snapped up within a day or two of being advertised.

Is that because, in summary, gushes about rental housing in the greater Jefferson Park area including Gladstone Park by describing the location as a “….family-friendly neighborhood…[with] tree-lined streets, lush parks, and vast wooded areas [that provide it] with a pervasive sense of natural beauty [while at the same time] bustling Milwaukee Avenue features a slew of stores, restaurants and businesses…quick access of public transportation…and the landmark Copernicus Civic and Cultural Center [which] contributes an international flair…?” Perhaps.

Or do the attributes of Gladstone Park’s multifamily housing simply travel by way of mouth?

Whichever it is, most rental units in the community are located in vintage buildings that, although they have in large part been thoroughly modernized, can’t help but ooze with character and charm. People new to the area who want to live and work in a major city like Chicago are often stunned to find that one- and sometimes two-bedroom units of this type are still available in Gladstone Park in 2021 for less than $1,000 a month.

Small vintage apartment buildings, particularly in the southern and northern parts of the neighborhood that are closer to the commercial areas, stand on corners where they anchor blocks of single-family homes. This ensures a comfortable intermix of housing choices on these streets with plenty of free street parking for tenants, mostly permit free. Although there are some larger vintage apartment buildings (including a few U-shaped courtyard buildings), most of these are no more than three stories in height with 12 or fewer apartments. All are small enough to be their own communities.

Newer apartment buildings tend to be located on Gladstone Park’s three main business corridors of N. Elston, N. Milwaukee, and N. Northwest Highway. The largest apartment complex in the neighborhood, although not a new one by any means, is the six-story 81-unit Senior Suites of Jefferson Park on N. Northwest Highway. This is by far the tallest building in the entire community with more than triple the total number of units than any other.

During the decades when it was financially more advantageous to do so, a not small number of multifamily properties were converted to (for-sale) condominiums, giving a different option to those who want to own without the same level of maintenance as they’d have with single-family houses. These are not only in former apartment buildings, but also in some two- to four-flats, including half-houses. But because some of these former apartments, two- or-four-flats or two-family houses are investment properties, their owners often keep their units on the rental market.

But perhaps the greatest rental opportunities in Gladstone Park lie in its numerous smaller two- to four-flats. Many of these are in vintage buildings that were specifically built for this purpose with a flat on each floor. Many of the two- to four-flats built as rentals are located on major roads such as N. Central and N. Elston while others are interspersed throughout the neighborhood. Meanwhile, some older German-, American-, and English-style homes also offer two-flat living, whether originally built as such or later converted to two or more units, in what from the street look like single-family houses. Regardless of type of 2/4 flat, they are all on their own lots with treed and flowered front yards and grassy backyards with patios, BBQs and room for dogs to run and children to play, making them very popular. Residents who cannot afford to buy can have nearly the same of living experience renting one of these as owning their own home. Some move in and never leave, providing investors with a very stable rental basis.

Thus far there has been little economic pressure on the landlords of Gladstone Park’s modest 2/4 flats like there has been elsewhere in the city to sell out to developers who might want to build bigger, more lucrative apartment housing. The neighborhood has long benefitted from keeping its large stock of 2/4 flats healthy, the advantages of which are fully supported by research. DePaul University’s extensive housing studies reveal that 34% of rental units throughout Chicago that cost $900 or less are in two- to four-unit buildings, as discussed in Housing advocates push to preserve two-flats in Chicago by Elvia Malagón, Chicago Sun-Times, July 16, 2021. Not only have two-flats been identified as the most affordable units for renters, but also they have been pegged as a major entry point for first-time home buyers, as highlighted by Adam Rubin of the Chicago Architectural Center in the article. People who would not otherwise have had the chance to move up in the world can purchase a two-flat, live in one unit while renting out the other to pay for the mortgage. Building personal financial security through home equity like this is a path readily available to buyers of two-flats in Gladstone Park, giving them a chance to lift their entire families as they pass down homes as sources of intergenerational wealth.

While only a handful of multifamilies went up in Gladstone Park in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries, demand for rental units in the neighborhood is again increasing with a number of proposals for new multifamily buildings in the offing. Fortuitously, there are still underutilized tracts of land on the community’s commercial corridors available for the right price, although developers have to face the community’s often fierce opposition to proposals that clash with the character and values of the neighborhood by virtue of being too tall or too dense. Residents also demand tenant parking be fully addressed, as they are not willing to give up the convenience they now have of free and abundant street parking and unimpeded roadways. The low-rise landscape runs in the close-knit community’s veins…no up-zoning please!

When you look at the photographs of Gladstone Park’s wide variety of multifamily housing opportunities, you will notice that most of them were built during America’s boom years. There are many Dutch colonial houses, brick-and-stone 2/4 flats, and three-story apartment buildings, for example, from the 1920s when the American economy was flourishing. Many mid-century two- and four-flats were built during the 1950s and 1960s when times were also good.

When looking at the photos of multifamily offerings, check them out for similar architectural features as seen on single-family houses from the same time frame. Those built during the bungalow era also feature brick façades of intricate colors and patterns with limestone or ceramic ornamentation, clay tile roofs or flat ones with decorative parapet elements, arched doors, window boxes, and elliptical basement windows. Midcentury buildings tend to be sleeker with interesting blends of brick and fieldstone materials with glass block windows.

For more on how Gladstone Park’s standout stock of homes were built and serve to enhance residential life in the neighborhood, see Development and Vintage Home Living.

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