Located on the near west side of Chicago, the Medical District is a superlative center of health technology and a backdrop for bona fide urban living. The medical facilities around which the neighborhood is situated generate $3.3 billion in economic activity and they are the main source of revitalization on they city's west side.
Medical District Facts
Location: about 3 miles southwest of the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: Tri-Taylor, Pilsen, Douglas Park, University Village/Little Italy, United Center Park
Boundaries: Ogden Avenue and the Eisenhower Expressway to the north, Ashland Avenue to the east, 16th Street to the south and Western Avenue to the west
Then and Now
Chicago’s Medical District was established over a hundred years ago after the Great Fire swept through the city in 1871. The destruction caused by the fire—to both property and human life—clearly demonstrated the need for a centralized location of medical care and technology facilities near to downtown but where there was enough space for the mega-complex of buildings that would eventually be added to the campus. The thinking behind this was that the more centrally located a group of hospitals could be, the easier doctors could confer with one another, the easier medical students could consult and study professionals, and the less patients would have to travel outside of Chicago limits for specialized care and treatment. With such clear planning and foresight, this site within the near west side was destined to become a world-class mecca of medicine.
The Medical District began with four key structures. In 1876, the Cook County Hospital was erected. A year later in 1877, Rush Medical College was built. Six years after that, the Presbyterian Hospital joined the campus in association with Rush. During Presbyterian’s construction, the College of Physicians and Surgeons was also founded. It would become known as the University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Medicine in 1913. These four hospitals and educational centers began the strong groundwork for today’s Medical District.
It was a long road from four hospitals to a first-class medical center spanning 560 acres that now occupies the site. Into the second decade of the 1900s, the medical complex continued to expand with the University of Illinois’ acquisition of the former Chicago Cubs Park baseball stadium at Wolcott and Polk Street. And, with the completion of the Cook County Hospital, Director Charles Thorne suggested that the area become a hospital-specific, medically advanced neighborhood. As this notion spread, so did the further construction of health-related structures. During the 1920s and ‘30s, two new medical college buildings and another hospital were erected in the vicinity. This building frenzy continued well into the 1940s, when finally the neighborhood was named by the State Legislature in 1941 as the Illinois Medical District (IMD).
Ten years after WWII, the Veterans Administration opened the West Side Medical Center. The year 1957 saw additions to Cook County Hospital, and by 1960 the Medical District had expanded its borders to 15th Street south of Roosevelt Road—a zone that was wisely set aside for the future development of the Medical District. This installment of sectioned-off city land came in handy throughout the 1970s and ‘80s when Rush-Presbyterian built four new buildings and a parking deck, the University of Illinois expanded with a School of Dentistry and the immense Health Sciences Library, and the Cook County’s Institute of Forensic Medicine was established. In 130 years, the amazing growth and exciting development of Chicago’s Medical District has not waned.
Progress and growth in the Medical District is made through partnerships with the private sector, the State of Illinois, Cook County, and City of Chicago. As the 21st century begins, the Medical District continues its investments with academic institutions, health care options for all, and the expansion of knowledge in the medical field. Amid the hospital expansion and technological growth, a tight-knit residential enclave has developed as well. Residents get the intimacy of a small neighborhood with the flashy edges of true urban living—and the best dang medical care in the city right next door.
Medical District Real Estate
First and foremost, Chicago’s Medical District is where medical technology and the fast-paced health industry thrives. Physicians, surgeons, nurses, technicians, specialists, interns, and patients are the majority of the inhabitants in this distinctive near west side Chicago neighborhood. While they may not live here per se, it’s the bustling medical community that keeps this little subdivision of the city alive. Virtually the entire upper half of the neighborhood is filled to the brim with health technology centers, university buildings, parking, and other hospital buildings. A yard of train tracks runs through the lower section of area which is widely undeveloped—perhaps set aside for continual growth of the Medical District’s campus. So, as you may have guessed, that doesn’t leave much room for many housing structures and residential playgrounds like the majority of the city’s other neighborhoods.
There is small zone of single-family homes situated in the Medical District’s southwest corner, and along Roosevelt Road you can find vintage buildings that have been refurbished to provide loft-style living space with contemporary features. Other than that, housing in this neighborhood is hard to come by. The few single-family detached homes that are available are mostly split-levels and two-story houses that start in the low $200,000s and the ones that have been renovated and fitted with modern upgrades and new amenities are likely to cost in the low $300,000s.
What’s on the Menu?
With so much space taken up by the Medical District’s institutions and buildings, where’s a person to get a bite to eat? Well, there’s always hospital cafeteria food, but that might get old after awhile.
There aren’t many restaurant options within the neighborhood, but luckily, a short walk to streets just outside the Medical District borders will bring a plethora of choices. However, if you’re squeezed for time, check out the See Through Chinese Kitchen (1651 W Roosevelt Rd, 312-733-3888) which is located right here on the Medical District campus. If you want a quick sit-down meal or just need to grab something to go, this is the perfect little Chinese joint. With daily lunch specials and crispy eggrolls, See Through will tame that craving for Szechwan beef or veggie fried rice. The menu is vegetarian-friendly, with the kung pao vegetable being our favorites. If you’re a carnivore, the Mongolian beef is pretty fantastic for an early lunch or late dinner. The tables here are often sprinkled with patrons dressed in doctor’s coats and scrubs, but if you get everything to go, be careful with the containers…they will be pleasantly filled and almost overflowing.
Best Shopping Stops
When folks aren’t in the neighborhood for a physical exam or follow-up visit with the doc, they’re probably hitting up the little strip malls around the Medical District. There are a select few stores around these streets that attract shoppers’ attention—anything’s better than the hospital gift shop, right? Don’t hold your breath, but there are whisperings of more commercial revitalization to come in the near future.
When it’s time to do some interior decorating in the bathroom and bedroom, stop by Anna’s Linen (1600 W 13th St, 312-829-1801). Anna’s has everything from silk sheets to bathroom towels. The shelves here are stocked with luxury linens at bargain prices and so many options it’ll make your head spin. We can spend the whole day in the children’s section alone with all the bright colorful pillowcases and themed kid’s quilts, but we wouldn’t want to deprive ourselves of the incredible collection of bedding, now would we? There’s nothing more comforting than coordinating master bedroom sheets with throw pillows and finding the corresponding dust ruffle to go with the entire ensemble.
When you’re looking to dress yourself instead of your home, it’s easy to get lost among the racks of clothing at Ashley Stewart (1250 S Ashland Ave, 312-491-0710). Into bangles and accessories? There is everything from inexpensive yet stunning costume jewelry to trendy headbands and bracelets here. Got a thing for shoes? Ashley Stewart a wide range of kicks from athletic footwear to evening heels. Professionals like the selection of business suits at bargain prices, and you can also get that perfect change of clothes for the after-work drink with coworkers as well. Whether you need duds for going to the club or the gym, you’ll find Ashley Stewart has your outfit, and for a decent price. You can continue your fashion rampage a door down at Dots Fashion (1250 S Ashland Ave, 312-733-8260). Dishing out the trendiest clothes at the cheapest prices, Dots serves the needs of fashion-forward teens to business professionals and every gal in between. We recommend sticking to the racks of clothes and cool accessories, though, the quality of shoes can be hit or miss.
For that department, you can stop into Foot Locker (1600 W 13th St, 312-563-0095). This isn’t the kind of store to get the perfect pair of heels, but if you’re looking for gym shoes you won’t find a better deal in the Medical District. Nikes, Converse, and Reebok are a few of the top brands on hand, but there are also big old stomping Doc Martin’s and über-hip Lugz, too. Every kind of shoe accessory, whether it’s cleaning kits or tube socks, cling to racks and displays here. And the helpful employees make sure you get footwear in right size with the perfect fit.
The Medical District is one of the most conveniently connected neighborhoods in all of Chicago with transportation options around every corner. Located a little less than three miles southwest of the Loop, and nestled between a major highway and three different CTA train lines, access is key here and they sure to make it a snap to get to—you know, in case of an emergency or something.
Bikers are often seen darting through the Medical District. There is plenty of traffic to navigate through while riding, but bike lanes make it easier to weave your way around. And, even though there is a hospital on almost every corner here, don’t forget to wear that helmet for safety.
It’s not hard to get a cab in the Medical District neighborhood; they are always coming in and out of the hospital facilities. So just wait a second and you should be able to flag one down pretty easily; the best bet would be to go one of the major intersections, like Ogden and Roosevelt. If you have your own car, driving to and around the Medical District won’t be a problem, until you want to park it. With so many people in and out of the neighborhood at all hours of the day and night, vacant metered parking is scarce and parking garages become the only option. Neighborhood-specific stickered parking passes allow for street parking overnight.
Living in the Medical District, but traveling elsewhere? The Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) spans the northern border of this Chicago neighborhood with entrances and exits all along Congress Parkway, which runs parallel to the highway. I-290 intersects with I-90/94 (Kennedy Expressway) that runs past the Loop and stretches to outlying Chicago suburbs and beyond. When you don’t feel like driving yourself, hop on the bus. There are plenty of CTA bus lines with routes through the Medical District that lead everywhere in Chicago—given that you might need to make a few transfers here and there. The #38 Ogden Avenue bus hugs the northwestern edge of the Medical District, the #50 Damen Avenue bus heads north and south, and the #12 bus follows Roosevelt Road all the way to the museum campus.
Whether you’re driving or the bus driver is doing the work, there are times when we’d rather not be on the road. Fortunately, rapid transit trains are plentiful in the Medical District with lots of stops throughout the neighborhood. The CTA Pink Line travels north/south through the vicinity, stopping at Polk Street before it turns east towards the Loop. The CTA Blue Line train has two separate branches, one of which also stops at Polk Street and the other stopping at Illinois Medical District directly in the heart of the neighborhood before heading east to the city’s center.
School’s in Session
Chicago’s Medical District has plenty of academic institutions to match every level of student’s needs. While there are scholarly options for students in the field of medicine and related studies, a handful of elementary schools provide the basic curriculum for the little ones. With a quick search everyone in the family can find a proper educational facility to suit their scholastic situation.
The University of Illinois College of Medicine (808 South Wood Street, 312-355-4000) is the largest medical school in the United States. The University began as the College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1881. The student body is ethnically diverse with over 2,600 medical students and trainees hailing from all over the world. Today, one in six Illinois physicians graduated from the UIC College of Medicine.
For the younger folks—kindergarten to 8th grade—William E. Gladstone Elementary School (1310 S Ashland Ave, 773-534-7825) promotes academic excellence on the near west side of Chicago. Students learn to focus their energy on the virtues of education and technology. For the young men in the family, Montefiore Elementary School (1310 S Ashland Ave, 773-534-7825) specializes in education services for boys age 10-15. Founded in 1929, Montefiore believes that there are no unreachable students. They specialize in educating male students with Social and Emotional Disorders (SED). During the beginning of the teenage years when children are teetering on the edge of at-risk behavior, Montefiore not only provides academic growth to their students, but emotional and moral stability as well.
In addition to the following list, you can find out more information about Medical District and Chicago area schools at our Chicago Guide Schools page.
Holy Trinity Elementary School 1900 W Taylor St – (312) 243-8186
Montefiore Elementary School 1310 S Ashland Ave – (773) 534-7825
William E Gladstone Elementary School 1231 S Damen Ave – (773) 534-7266
University of Illinois College of Medicine 808 South Wood Street – (312) 355-4000
Here and there everyone needs a hand when learning about a new Chicago neighborhood. Well, here are the ins and outs of the Medical District, from where to pick up the bus to where to buy cough drops.
Chicago Transit Authority – (888) 968-7282
Jesse Brown VA Medical Center 820 South Damen Avenue – (312) 569-8387
John H Stroger Junior Hospital 1900 W Polk St – (312) 864-4462
Rush University Medical Center 1725 W Harrison St – (312) 942-5000
University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago Hospital 1740 W Taylor St – (312) 355-4000
Jewel-Osco 1220 S Ashland Ave – (312) 733-0153
Library of Health Science 1750 W Polk St – (312) 996-8974
West Side Medical Center Library 820 S Damen Ave – (312) 569-6116
Osco Drug 1220 S Ashland Ave – (312) 733-2837
UIC Hospital Pharmacy 1855 W Taylor St – (312) 996-6540
1941 W Roosevelt Rd – (312) 433-8000
1859 S Ashland Ave – (312) 733-4750
More than anything else, the Medical District is the health center of Chicago, but everyone needs a break sometime. Here’s a starter’s list on where to get some shopping done and the best place to find DVDs. Don’t forget to go out exploring on your own though!
Quickvid DVD Rental 1855 West Taylor Street (877) 474-0038
Anna’s Linen 1600 W 13th St – (312) 829-1801
Ashley Stewart 1250 S Ashland Ave – (312) 491-0710
Dots Fashion 1250 S Ashland Ave – (312) 733-8260
Foot Locker 1600 W 13th St – (312) 563-0095
Radio Shack 1600 W 13th St – (312) 666-5599
Second Time Around Lounge 2259 W 13th St – (312) 733-7148
See Through Chinese Kitchen 1651 W Roosevelt Rd – (312) 733-3888
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 the Medical District 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 the Medical District. 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.