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Andersonville? Uptown? SoFo? It's 'In The Eye of the Beholder'

By Adeshina Emmanuel | October 3, 2013 9:05am
 Some people dispute the boundaries of Uptown and Andersonville.
Andersonville or Uptown?
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CHICAGO — Is it Uptown, Andersonville or something else?

Some locals say Foster Avenue beween Clark Street and Ashland Avenue is the dividing line between Uptown and Andersonville, with Uptown located south of Foster and Andersonville north of it.

Others, including Andersonville Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ellen Shepard, say West Ainslie Street is the southern boundary and that her neighborhood extends north to garden store Gethsemane, near West Victoria and Clark streets.

It’s been “probably 10 to 12 years since we did our streetscape,” Shepard said, and at that point city officials had the chamber brand the stretch between Ainslie Street and Foster Avenue with Andersonville banners and call the area Andersonville. That's in line with boundaries for Andersonville's Special Service Area, which uses tax dollars to improve the commercial district — but the chamber's website says that Andersonville is bounded by Winnemac Avenue to the south.

Shepard observed that Chicago “is strange in that you have these official communities," such as Edgewater and Uptown, "but then there’s a million neighborhoods within those across all boundaries,” such as Andersonville and Boystown.

"I think it’s just kind of in the eye of beholder,” she said.

One of the area's most popular bars, Hopleaf, sits a few doors south of Foster and is commonly associated with Andersonville. The Hopleaf website, however, says the tavern is located in "Uptown, Chicago."

Hopleaf doorman Alex De Meyer said Andersonville's southern border is at Winnemac — not Foster. "For me, this is in Andersonville," he said.

Uptown resident Joel Midden said he considered Foster to be the dividing line between Uptown and Andersonville.

"I think we're in Uptown," he said at the bar this week. "Right?"

A bartender at Hopleaf for 10 years, Kristy Fiore, said that "everybody says we're in Andersonville."

"But we're right on Foster," she said. "So who knows?"

A few blocks south of Hopleaf, Doug Brandt opened Pie Hole Pizza Joint earlier this year at West Argyle and Clark streets — in an area he first called Uptown before conceding that it was Andersonville.

He said the sound of Uptown "is more urban," which he prefers. While Andersonville, which is usually associated with Edgewater and has roots stretching to the 19th century as a quaint Swedish enclave, sounds "more small-town," Brandt said.

But his shop sits a block north of street identifiers at Ainslie that say Andersonville — and besides, when it comes to Uptown, "everyone thinks of Wilson and Broadway … and shootings," Brandt said.

But there's one community designation he prefers above all for his pizza joint: "SoFo," which means South of Foster.

But he said: "Nobody knows what a SoFo is."

Don't tell that to the folks across the street from Brandt at SoFo Tap.

SoFo Tap co-owner Mike Sullivan, who is part of a team that owns Crew Bar and Grill in Uptown and that just bought the former T's Bar said "we're squarely in SoFo — part of Andersonville, part of Uptown."

Anyway, Sullivan added, the neighborhood names in Chicago "are mostly invented by real estate agents."

Heather Gustafson, vice president of business development at CMK Realty, said her company handled sales for 40 condos on Clark near West Lawrence Avenue that were advertised as being in Andersonville.

The site falls outside the Andersonville southern boundary of Foster Avenue and Ainsle Street and is the former home of Rainbo Roller Rink, an Uptown haunt that met the wrecking ball in 2003.

"We felt that the Andersonville neighborhood and the heart of Andersonville, all it has to offer in terms of shopping and dining, was the neighborhood that was most closely associated with the project," Gustafson said of the condos, as well as row houses being built behind the condo complex.

She said putting the word "Andersonville" on the properties was a matter of where potential buyers would probably hang out when they walk right outside their door.

It had nothing to do with Uptown's reputation as one of the more troubled North Side neighborhoods, she said.

"There's great things going on in Uptown, as well," Gustafson said.

A 47-year-old Uptown resident was walking by the condominiums Tuesday when he acknowledged Andersonville as "a more desirable neighborhood than Uptown," in the eyes of the real estate industry.

"Regardless, Andersonville is going to start at Ainslie, and this is going to be Uptown," he said.

Andersonville resident Matt Kuzma said he knows Andersonville isn’t an official community area, but pointed out that “Wrigley isn’t either, Boystown isn’t either."

“It’s a marketing thing,” he said.