Berwyn, IL- A quality Chicago urban inner-ring suburb and Illinois’ most dense municipality

Berwyn has it roots in the mid 1800s starting with Plank road cutting across it linking up Chicago-Ottawa IL. For several decades it remained mostly undeveloped until the late 1800s. In 1908 it was chartered as a municipality¬† and quickly became one of Chicago’s fast growing suburbs. The bulk of Berwyn’s growth came in the 1920s as the middle portion of the suburb was filled in. This explains why there are so many cute bungalow brick homes here. By 1930 Berwyn had 47K and it maxed out in 1960 at 54K souls. Population slowly receded in the remaining decades of the 20th century only to quickly rebound in the 90s likely with a large influx of Hispanic Immigrants. Berwyn is back to full strength and now has 57K residents.

Berwyn also has the highest population density of any municipality in Illinois sitting at 14,500 residents per square mile. While Berwyn is known as the “City of Homes,” it also contains four primary business corridors: Ogden Ave, the Depot District, Cermak Road, and Roosevelt Road. Ogden Ave, a segment of historic Route 66. These business districts are lengthy and were originally streetcar lines. They is a mix of quality urban stretches and auto centric areas, the worst being Ogden and Harlem Avenues. The Depot District, centered on Berwyn’s regional train station, contains the best urban form and has seen some good mixed-use infill.

Berwyn also excels at quality walkable schools, solid public transit access, good park amenities, attractive 1920 Bungalows, good retail & cultural amenities, relatively affordable for-sale options and many rental options, and a high level of safety. There are however no dedicated bike lanes nor bike sharing stations, often outdated ADA curbs, and poor urban massing in spots. Berwyn simply needs more quality urban in-fill to become a great urban districts. It certainly has great urban bones and already good walkability.

Click here to view my Berwyn, IL Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

 * Solid density and good public transit access.
* Excellent connectivity and grid system.
* Great diversity all around, especially economic.
* Lots of walkable public schools here rated well except the public High School.
* No major parks but lots of small-medium sized park well distributed throughout Berwyn.
* Decent architecture with a mix of quality urban infill near the train stations but some crummy auto centric infill along some of the commercial corridors. Lots of cute brick bungalows throughout and some good historic commercial.
* Good cultural amenities including lots of food & beverage bizs, many breweries & night clubs, several live music venues, a couple local theaters, and a cineplex just across the border in North Riverside.
* Good retail amenities as well including several off-brand supermarkets and smaller groceries, several pharmacies, the North Riverside Mall sits on the western edge and contains main amenities (Dept stores, Best Buy, Office Depot, Aldi’s Ross’ etc.), several hardware stores, many boutiques/thrift stores & gift shops, some antiques, many banks, a couple book & toy stores, plenty of dessert joints, bakeries, & gyms, local post office & library, many churches, and a major hospital.
* Overall a very safe community.
* Good variety of for-sale small to medium sized options generationally moderately priced. Decent # of 1 & 2 bed condos sell btwn 80K-200K; tons of 3 & 4 beds that sell btwn 200K-600K
* Good # of rentals. 1-beds lease in the low-mid 1Ks, 2-beds in the 1Ks, and 3-beds btwn the high 1Ks to mid 2Ks.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Bike Infrastructure is non-existent in Berwyn.
* Generally good ADA and sidewalk infrastructure, but modern ADA curbs are hit or miss on residential streets.
* Decent but not great tree canopy throughout.
* Urban massing is a mixed bag. Many commercial districts with long stretches many auto centric development inevitable in spots. Best urban massing is the commercial district near the commuter line.