Highland Park

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Urban culture & historical homes entice many to dwell in Highland Park

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For a girl from the far north suburbs, like me, Highland Park always felt very "big city". It has a downtown shopping district, million dollar homes, a top-notch hospital, and a unique culture all its own. But what brings people to Highland Park? What is the draw to buy homes here and raise a family? Why do many celebrities like Gary Sinise, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Billy Corgan choose Highland Park as their dwelling place?

The perceived notion about Highland Park's real estate is that many homes here are multi-million dollar mansions. Interestingly though, a quick visit to the city's website lists the median home price at $380,000 2. And a quick drive around the city itself depicts a community rich in history and a definite lack of "new construction" that can be prominent in many north shore suburbs. So while its known for the sprawling manses in some of the wealthier, gated communities, there are definitely affordable homes available for the buying. But what value does this area offer that persuades people to live here?

Long-time Highland Park area resident, Cheryl Ziemba (25), thinks it's the unique combination of a quality community and prime lakefront location that makes Highland Park such a great place to live. "I think the crime rate is probably really low, the teachers all have their masters or PhDs so the schools are excellent, and it's along the lake which is always prime real estate. It's also close enough to Chicago to commute, but not TOO close so you feel safer and away from the busy city...and there is a cute downtown area with Walker Bros., Saks and boutique shops that you can't find anywhere else."

Highland Park was incorporated in 1869, with a population of just 500. The current population is just over 31,000, with a median family income of $117,235 2. I was curious as to what kind of a home would be available to someone like me, currently living in a Gurnee townhome, so I checked out Most of the homes in the $250k to $350k range were condos or co-ops, and most looked older and needed "sprucing up" 3. Once you get above the $380k price range (remember, this is the median quoted by the city's website), you find more single family homes available, but I didn't find a single one built in the last 10 years. The newest home I found was 30 years old, and most were between 50 and 100 years old. See what I mean about history? Many had been refurbished and now featured hardwood flooring, newly remodeled kitchens, and finished basements.

When purchasing property in Highland Park, you have to know that along with the value of the home itself, you're buying into a community that is way above average as far as education goes (61% or more have at least a bachelor's degree; almost 30% have a master's or higher), significantly below the national crime rate average, and conveniently located to some of the top colleges and hospitals in the country. It's just a short train ride into the city, and with its own downtown train station, commuting is a breeze. Highland Park's downtown shopping area boasts many unique boutiques and resale shops, as well as lots of chain stores (Banana Republic, Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, Saks Fifth Ave, Restoration Hardware), so you don't have to travel far to shop well. It also has two movie theaters, both of which frequently feature independent films that aren't widely-released, so you really don't have to travel to downtown Chicago to see the latest indie films. It is well-maintained, clean and friendly, with many recreational opportunities for families and people of all ages to participate in. Highland Park's real estate value cannot be judged by home prices alone; you've got to consider what you're getting overall to really discover the value of buying a home here!

To find all available homes for sale in Highland Park, check out the Highland Park MLS. Click here for the Highland Park real estate report.


by Christin Kuretich