I think it's fine as long as you don't plan on walking around there alone late at night on a regular basis and have a stomach for 'urban living'.
Considering the economy and housing, I think it will stay the same for the foreseeable future. the restaurant that used to be at the corner of blackhawk and ashland closed (le brochette), as have the restaurants before that (Stevie B's ribs, an italian restaurant, Duks).... i think it's one of those corners that has problems getting a sucessful business going.
There is the half built grey 'castle' right on ashland that has sat there for years not built; and less than 5 years ago, someone was gunned down right outside the parking lot of Carniceria Guanajuato (late at night, unrelated to the business).
My wife and I make it a point not to walk the streets east of Ashland, but even thatâ€™s changing as many as people continue to look for affordable options close to Wicker Park, and many owners have already moved there â€“ itâ€™s easily 10-20% cheaper than being in â€œWicker Park properâ€ west of Ashland.
On Ashland, I think the rim shop, the Mexican grocery, the laundry mat, and the â€œBase-mentâ€ bring a collection of people that are â€œdifferentâ€ â€“ people many urban professionals (like me) donâ€™t feel comfortable with, but I donâ€™t think that makes it unsafe. Thereâ€™s a church at Paulina and LeMoyne that runs a soup kitchen which attracts and unsavory looking crew to the area, but even those people have never caused a problem to my knowledge. Besides, I like to think that having an accepting viewpoint of some of these people is what made Wicker Park the interesting eclectic place that it is.
I know there were recently plans to put a Starbucks at Blackhawk and Ashland, but I think traffic concerns quashed that. Joseph Reed and Assoc. have bought-up much of the real estate along Milwaukee near Ashland, and there is a lot of redevelopment occurring there. The economy has seemed to slow that redevelopment â€“ for example, I know there was a third restaurant meant to go near Toco and Blue Coral Sushi â€“ but give it time. There are also discussions for the city to redevelop â€œPolish Squareâ€ that sits on top of the Division stop into some type of theater, park or other public space, which will be nice. Thereâ€™s a very large condo development going in at Ashland and Division â€“ you can check the MLS for details. The tall co-op building at Milwaukee and Division has a bad reputation for â€œimpactingâ€ the neighborhood east of Ashland, but I canâ€™t say how much of that is deserved since thereâ€™s still a lot of sub-standard rental housing in that area that has yet to be renovated, which will tend to attract the â€œwrongâ€ kind of people.
That said, if you have a stomach for it, this area will eventually turn. There are plenty of run down inexpensive multi-family homes that at some point people will come in and buy them up and convert them.
More important than subjective prognostications as to when the mattress shop on Ashland will relocate or the hubcap place will move to Elston is what your gut tells you about living a half block west of Ashland. Personally I don't need to be within walking distance of the Hollywood Diner. But maybe that's where you would like to be. If you are working with a realtor with respect to this purchase I suggest you ask him whether there's fall off in his/her view regarding being 1600 West or 1700 West, and whether there's any difference between LeMoyne and Julian and Beach. From my perspective there is a palpable difference between these blocks and the 1600 and 1700 blocks of each just as there is a difference regarding Wood Street between Milwaukee and North. The other question is whether you are considering a duplex up or a duplex down. The up has more upside than the down. And the down, to be a player regarding your exit strategy needs to have radiant heated lower level floors, professional grade appliances, a garage space, and several other upgrades to be a responsible purchase/investment.
Best of luck with your decision and purchase.
The Real Estate Lounge . Chicago