A neighborhood which first came to prominence as a refuge from the Great Chicago Fire, only to be nearly destroyed by arson a century later, Homan Square proudly stands today as one of the city's prime examples of urban renewal and revitalization. New commercial and residential development, coupled with strong support from the city and private investors, has made Homan Square a thriving community with a shopping, dining and entertainment scene. The modern homes, green commons and planned layout of the neighborhood provide a pleasant and spacious backdrop that is rather rare in Chicago. Homan Square incorporates curving drives and mini-subdivisions - a nice change to the city's conventional grid-like block arrangement. A public community center is the icing on the cake for Homan Square residents. The campus offers family, health, recreation and education services in a beautiful indoor facility that even boasts an Olympic-size swimming pool and state-of-the-art exercise equipment.
Homan Square Facts
Location: About 5 miles west of the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: Fifth City, Lawndale, East Garfield Park, Douglas Park, West Garfield Park
Boundaries: the Eisenhower Expressway to the north, Kedzie Avenue to the east, Roosevelt Road to the south and Independence Boulevard to the west
Crime Statistics: Go to CLEARMap to search specific streets and areas for crime incidents
Then and Now
The mix of residential streets and businesses in Homan Square neighborhood occupy a distinct section within the larger community of North Lawndale. It had been part of Cicero Township until Chicago annexed the entire area in the mid 19th century. This western part of town first came to the attention of many city dwellers in 1871 when refugees from the Great Chicago Fire streamed into the region, leaving the ashes of their downtown homes for land untouched by the flames. Most were attracted by the well-advertised 'fireproof brick' buildings that were quickly constructed here—a pretty appealing selling point at a time when much of the city to the east lay in charred ruins.
As the city rebuilt itself several major industrial sites sprang up in the area, which in turn drew more and more people looking for work and a new place to live. The McCormick Reaper Works opened nearby in 1873, and Western Electric constructed a huge plant to the west in Cicero in 1903. But the biggest impact on the community came in 1906 with the arrival of a new kind of company founded on some groundbreaking notions about the potential of mail-order retail sales. That was Sears, Roebuck and Company, which established its world headquarters in what is today the heart of Homan Square neighborhood.
In the 1920s the area west of downtown was home to many of the city’s Russian and German Jews. By mid-century, a quarter of Chicago’s Jewish population lived here, creating significant institutions in the vicinity like Mt. Sinai Hospital and Herzl Junior College (Malcolm X College today) as well as establishing a vital business district along Roosevelt Road. But the ethnic make-up of the neighborhood shifted radically in little more than a decade. By 1960, 91 percent of North Lawndale’s residents were African-American, and the East European Jews who once dominated the area had all moved north to Rogers Park neighborhood and outside the city limits to Skokie, Illinois.
Business investment in the area had declined in the 1950s and ‘60s, and without any new construction, North Lawndale grew increasingly overpopulated and impoverished. Residents’ frustration and despair climaxed on April 5, 1968, the day after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. African-American communities across Chicago’s west side rose up in bitter fury, much of it directed at white-owned businesses, and soon the once vibrant section of town had fallen to the wayside. Even the National Guard was called into Chicago in an attempt to quell the riots, but looters managed to smash storefronts and entire city blocks were burnt to the ground. Once the smoke cleared, few business owners had any desire to rebuild here. Even Sears, the area’s anchor for over half a century, pulled up stakes and headed downtown to build its world famous tower overlooking the Chicago River. In the 1970s North Lawndale lost 35 percent of its population. For years it continued to decay, a burned-out shell of its former self. It became a sad symbol of the urban blight that seemed to plague many of the cities in America’s so-called 'Rust Belt.'
Now we’ve painted a pretty grim picture here, but don’t worry because in the late 1980s, things took a dramatic turn for the better. Ed Brennan, chairman of Sears—an original cornerstone of the community—decided to join forces with Mayor Daley and local real estate mogul Charlie Shaw to infuse life back into the long-neglected region on Chicago’s west side. In 1988 they embarked on an ambitious plan to redevelop the site of Sears’ old headquarters in North Lawndale as a residential, retail and family services center to be known as Homan Square.
Where others saw only hopelessness, Shaw and Brennan saw potential. Though much of the neighborhood had been destroyed during the riots of the 1960s, there was one huge and impressive survivor: the solidly-built Sears complex. Many of the buildings first constructed in 1906 and 1907 were still there but abandoned, just waiting to be put back to use. And thanks to reinvestment, renovation, and the concerted efforts of Sears, City Hall and the private developer, this once-famous industrial center is now the site of over a million square feet of new commercial development and home to over 300 middle-income families occupying a range of single-family homes, townhouses, duplexes and rental apartments.
One of the prime movers behind the creation of Homan Square, real estate developer Charlie Shaw, passed away in 2006. Happily, he lived long enough to see most of his hopes for the community achieved, and his memory will be honored in the next step of the neighborhood’s development with the Charles H. Shaw Technology and Learning Center. Due to open in 2008 inside the Sears complex’s former power house, it will share its space with the soon-to-open Henry Ford Power House Charter High School. With the completion of the school and the Shaw TLC, the master plan envisioned for Homan Square by Shaw and his colleagues nearly twenty years ago will be fulfilled at last.
Public park facilities are an important ingredient in all of Chicago’s neighborhoods, but in few cases are these recreational sites so crucially significant to the surrounding community as they are here in Homan Square.
The Homan Square Community Campus (3517 W Arthington St, 773-265-4404) is a community center extraordinaire—a health, family, education and recreation hub that houses some of the city’s top non-profit service providers. The old Sears complex that once occupied this site included a large garden where many an employee would spend their lunch break, and though the garden is no longer, wide open green space remains. Still, this isn’t a grassy expanse of soccer fields and baseball diamonds like so many of Chicago’s other city parks. The amenities here are indoors, and area residents take full advantage of them.
Any day of the week you’ll find the meeting rooms, game rooms and assembly hall bustling with activity. The pounding echo of basketballs as kids shoot hoops in the gymnasium resound, while their folks are busy burning off those extra pounds in the fabulous state-of-the-art fitness center. Most popular of all is the Olympic-size indoor swimming pool, a widely enjoyed resource all year round. From family medical services to computer classes with Internet access, this complex brings help and hope to a part of town long bereft of both.
Homan Square Real Estate
As a planned community, much of Homan Square’s residential streets follow a well-designed layout that strays from Chicago’s typical grid-like pattern. Instead, homes here surround large grass-filled commons and are accessed from private drives that cut across the larger through-traffic blocks. A variety of housing styles and sizes were built to accommodate a range of families and the extra green space between the residential complexes provide plenty or room for the kids to run about and play. A good portion of the detached single-family homes were modeled after the traditional big city townhouse but incorporate the modern amenities found in today’s most desirable real estate—extra-tall ceilings, hardwood flooring, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, and private garage parking. What more could you want?
In addition to the more contemporary structures in Homan Square neighborhood, there are still quite a good number or older brick buildings that have been upgraded and renovated into comfortable, affordable condominiums. These one- and two-bedroom units start around $50,000, but don’t include a parking space. Once you get into the mid and upper $100,000s, you get a designated street parking spot thrown in with the purchase of the property—not bad.
The creation of new housing on the grounds of the former Sears headquarters initially relied on subsidies from the city, which permitted the sale of single-family homes at prices as low as $35,000. As families returned to the once-abandoned neighborhood and word of the beautiful real estate spread, subsidies were lowered and prices increased. In the final phase of new home construction, residences were built without subsidy and sold at market rates as high as $185,000. With the addition of 150 rental units in 1999, the Shaw Company fulfilled its plan to create an even mix of owner-occupied and rental homes for Homan Square.
These days real estate values are a bit higher in this well-maintained west side Chicago neighborhood. For the most part, the newer detached Homan Square homes range from the mid $200,000s to the low $400,000s. And to buy a condo, homeowners are looking at prices between $50,000 and the mid $200,000s.
What’s on the Menu?
Homan Square is such a small neighborhood that has been so focused on residential development, that you’ll find very few restaurants strictly within its boundaries. But is it really possible to venture anywhere in America without at least coming across a Micky D’s? Well, fast food rules in Homan Square, so, yes, there is a McDonald’s (3200 W Roosevelt Rd, 773-533-5336)—and Subway (1118 S Kedzie Ave, 773-638-7827) for a less burger-ish spin on the quick bite. But chain fast food restaurants aren’t all you find around here to assuage the appetite and please the tastebuds, Homan Square has a few other options for dining out on a dime.
The neighborhood’s most popular daytime dining spot is Homan Square Cafe (3333 W Arthington St, 773-638-0136). Located inside the former Sears headquarters, it sits at the heart of this reclaimed community, providing a comfortable place to get to know your neighbors and share an affordable, balanced and well-prepared meal. This cafeteria-style eatery is open early for breakfast but sticks around to serve a hearty lunch, too. Beef, chicken, pork and seafood entrees all come with your choice of vegetable sides and, although the portions are generous, you’d be wise to save yourself room for a slice of that peach cobbler. You won’t regret it.
Dave’s Red Hots (3422 W Roosevelt Rd, 773-722-9935) serves up a hot dog any way you like, but if you ask for the works, you’ll get it Chicago-style: yellow mustard, relish, chopped onions, tomato wedges, pickle slice, sport peppers (medium-hot pickled peppers) and that all-important dash of celery salt. Ingredients applied in that order, please. By the way, Dave does have ketchup for you out-of-towners. Just don’t let him see you put it on your dog—it’s a no-no on a Chi-town red hot! For non-purists, you can squirt as much ketchup as you want on your hot dog next door at Star Gyros (3400 W Roosevelt Rd, 773-826-5500), but then we’d have to ask: Why’d you order a hot dog? What you should be doing is spreading tzatziki sauce (that delicious, white garlicky yogurt dressing) on a sizzling, spicy gyro. Gyros were first introduced to America right here in Chicago back in the sixties, so they’re as much a fixture on the city’s cuisine scene as a ketchup-free red hot. Between Dave’s Red Hots and Star Gyros, we may not be talkin’ 'elegant dining.' But, to some of us, this is what true Chicago-style eatin’ is all about!
Best Shopping Stops
The successful urban renewal demonstrated by the development of Homan Square helped draw merchants back into the area. The biggest example of this came in 1999 with the opening of the 104,000-square-foot Lawndale Plaza (3310 W Roosevelt Rd, 773-638-5205) which houses everything from grocers to clothiers to a 10-screen cinema multiplex.
Occupying a 16-acre site near the corner of Roosevelt Road and Homan Avenue, Lawndale Plaza is home to a variety of businesses where Homan Square residents can get their everyday essentials at Dominick’s Finer Foods (3240 W Roosevelt Rd, 773-638-0842), replace that noisy old muffler that’s about to fall off the car at Murray’s Discount Auto Store (3310 Roosevelt Rd, 773-265-1960), or pick up a flick for a little evening entertainment at home at Hollywood Video (3300 W Roosevelt Rd, 773-533-0812).
The Plaza isn’t just a place to run errands, it also provides a fine selection of women’s clothes and fashion accessories with hip boutiques like Simply Fashions (3230 W Roosevelt Rd, 773-638-1565). The trend-setter in your household will find even more brand-name items a few doors down at Freshwear (3258 W Roosevelt Rd, 773-826-5000). This is Homan Square’s one-stop shop for men, women and children on the lookout for the freshest styles in tops and crops, hoodies and handbags, skirts, shirts, fragrances, footwear, jeans and jewelry—and all from top Hip Hop designers like Wild West and Rocawear, Baby Phat and Phat Farm, Ecko and J. Lo. Check it out—you don’t have to be a star to dress like one!
Athletic footwear is the name of the game at Footaction USA (3252 W Roosevelt Rd, 773-722-6120), but it’s also an excellent source for all sorts of athletic apparel and gear like totebags and backpacks, not to mention a fantastic range of fan gear for all you sports nuts. And, no, it isn’t all just White Sox stuff! Pick your team—NBA, MLB, NFL, you name it—and you’ll find the hat, jersey or hoodie that’s right for you. But, for anyone on a budget who is just looking for footwear, you can always save yourself a few bucks next door at Payless Shoe Source (3248 W Roosevelt Rd, 773-265-0519). Most of us have at least seen the ads on TV or heard our friends talking about this store, so we’ll save you the specifics—just know you can get a great deal on cool kicks here.
For years Homan Square neighborhood was lacking in entertainment venues. If residents wanted to see some hot new movie, it meant a hop on the bus or train to spend the evening in somebody else’s neighborhood far from home. But that all changed in 1999 when the African American-owned firm Inner City Entertainment (I.C.E.) joined forces with Cineplex Odeon to construct the Cineplex Lawndale Movie Theatres (3330 W Roosevelt Rd, 773-265-1043). The collaboration took a site in Homan Square that had been derelict and vacant for twenty-five years and turned it into the most lively and popular place around. Featuring ten 95-seat theatres and a convenient 200-car parking lot, Homan Square’s movie fans can at last enjoy the full range of Hollywood’s latest offerings in a stylish, comfortable multiplex they can call their own. Located right next door to Lawndale Plaza, locals from the neighborhood and all over Chicago’s west side come to Roosevelt Road and Homan Avenue to do a little shopping, grab a burger, catch a movie, maybe rent a video, all in one place. Not bad for a corner that was only weeds and broken pavement a few years ago! It’s a sure sign that Homan Square has indeed turned a corner on its way to a brighter future that has got current residents and new homeowners alike excited about making a life in this community on the rise.
Since Homan Square is several miles west of downtown, taxis aren’t plentiful, but you’ll certainly see them around, and if you have your own wheels you’ll find that street parking isn’t too bad. You’re also right next to the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290), which provides a straight shot to the Loop for a quick commute by car.
Public transportation here is excellent, too, with the Kimball-Homan #82 bus providing for north/south travel through the neighborhood and the Roosevelt #12 bus traveling east and west along Roosevelt Road. Best of all is the Chicago Transit Authority’s 'El.' The Kedzie/Homan station on the Blue Line provides Homan Square commuters with a smooth 15-minute ride to the Loop. While the Blue Line itself runs between the western suburbs of Oak Park and Forest Park on one end and O’Hare Airport on the other, by passing through the Loop it connects you with all the other lines in the elevated train system, making Homan Square a neighborhood with tremendous access to the entire city and beyond.
School’s in Session
Despite its small size, Homan Square neighborhood has a couple of public and private schools where families can send their children to class, just down the block from home. In addition to the following list, you can find more information on Chicago area schools at our Chicago Guide Schools page.
Gregory Elementary School - 3715 W Polk St - (773) 534-6820
Learn Elementary Charter School - 1132 S Homan Ave - (773) 826-6330
Basic NeedsTo help you out, we’ve compiled a list of where you can find the bare necessities and handy resources in and around Homan Square neighborhood, from bread and butter to Band-Aids and books
Chicago Transit Authority (888) 968-7282
Chicago Public Library/Fredrick Douglass Branch - 3353 W 15th St - (312) 747-3725
4222 W Madison St - (773) 722-3740
Dominick’s Pharmacy - 3240 W Roosevelt Rd - (773) 638-0842
Kaplancare Pharmacy - 3600 W Roosevelt Rd - (773) 638-3600
Sears Pharmacy - 825 S St Louis Ave - (773) 722-7040
Advocate Bethany Hospital - 3435 W Van Buren St - (773) 265-7700
Dominick’s Finer Foods - 3240 W Roosevelt Rd - (773) 638-0842
Parkway Foods - 620 S Central Park Ave - (773) 722-0400
Hip Hopercize - 3333 W Arthington St - (773) 826-8469
The following are just a taste of the dining, shopping and entertainment Homan Square has to offer. Discover the rest as you explore the neighborhood for yourself.
ENTERTAINMENTCineplex Lawndale Theatres - 3330 W Roosevelt Rd - (773) 265-1043
Footaction USA - 3252 W Roosevelt Rd - (773) 722-6120
Fresh Wear - 3258 W Roosevelt Rd - (773) 826-5000
Hollywood Video - 3300 W Roosevelt Rd - (773) 533-0812
Murray’s Discount Auto Stor - e 3310 Roosevelt Rd - (773) 265-1960
Payless Shoe Source - 3248 W Roosevelt Rd - (773) 265-0519
Simply Fashions - 3230 W Roosevelt Rd - (773) 638-1565
Homan Square Cafe - 3333 W Arthington St - (773) 638-0136
Chinese Kitchen - 1114 S Kedzie Ave - (773) 533-1828
Starbucks - 3350 West Roosevelt Rd - (773) 826-0547
Dave’s Red Hots - 3422 W Roosevelt Rd - (773) 722-9935
Jack’s Fish Chicken N More - 1116 S Kedzie Ave - (773) 533-5225
McDonald’s - 3200 W Roosevelt Rd - (773) 533-5336
Star Gyros - 3400 W Roosevelt Rd - (773) 826-5500
Subway - 1118 S Kedzie Ave - (773) 638-7827
There’s a lot of mystery involved in searching for a new home-it starts with the property and expands outward to encompass the street, the block, the neighborhood, the entire city! Every little thing matters from the color of the walls to the attractions of the town. That’s why a guide like this one on Homan Square is so helpful to potential homebuyers. Without leaving the comfort of your desktop computer or laptop, you’ve got an extensive pool of information on all of Chicago’s neighborhoods that includes first-hand descriptions of dining, entertainment, shopping, bars, and events, in addition to lists of schools, hospitals, post offices, and gyms. We’ve done all the research to carefully craft this one-stop online spot, and create your hub for the real deal on Homan Square. So as soon as a Chicago loft, condo, townhome or house catches your eye, you know where to come for the low down on the digs around that prime piece of real estate.