We asked real estate agents, builders and buyers for some recommendations: Here are just a few:
Hernandez searched for something easier on her budget and discovered the Lakeview Club, a condo conversion in Bronzeville. She bought a two-bedroom, two-bath unit.
"I didn't know very much about Bronzeville, but it's right next to the South Loop," she said. "The building was reasonably priced. It had security; that was important to me. And I could have a dog."
The 240-unit Lakeview Club, developed by Northern Realty Group, consists of three towers in a 70-acre park. Prices start in the $140,000s.
"Now I'm hoping Bronzeville will become an extension of what the South Loop has become," she said.
"We have some of the most attractive turn-of-the-century buildings -- beautiful graystones and brownstones and mansions and courtyard buildings," said Ald. Toni Preckwinkle, whose 4th Ward includes Bronzeville. "A lot have been rehabbed, but some are still available."And the area is home to attractions that include a new beach at 39th Street, the Museum Campus and an annual four-day African Festival of the Arts.
The median price for a single-family home in Bronzeville was $404,000 in 2007, according to data from Re/Max Northern Illinois, up from $387,500 in 2006. Condos and townhouses in the neighborhood fetched a median price of $229,000 in 2007, compared with $235,000 in 2006, the date showed.
One new-construction project in Bronzeville is the 90-acre Oakwood Shores by Granite Development Corp. on Cottage Grove Avenue, a redevelopment of the former site of the Chicago Housing Authority's Madden Park Homes, Ida B. Wells Homes and Clarence Darrow Homes. When completed, it will include 3,000-plus condos, town homes and single-family homes and rental units. Prices of the market-rate for-sale units start at $179,900.
Tri-Taylor: Carmen Gallucci is the fourth generation of his family to live in Little Italy on the Near West Side, starting when his great-grandparents arrived from Sicily. His son, who walks to class at the University of Illinois-Chicago, is the fifth generation.
"It's a great neighborhood," said Gallucci, broker/owner of Gallucci Realty on Taylor Street. "It's always felt like a small town even though you're in the big city."
Undergoing transformation in the area are 135-plus acres, formerly the site of the CHA's ABLA Homes, as a mixed-income community of Roosevelt Square. The plan includes 2,450 residences -- town homes, duplexes, condos and unattached homes -- for sale and rental at market, affordable and subsidized rates.
Affordable condos start at $149,000 for a one-bedroom, and the market rate ones are priced from $285,000. The six-phase project, now in phase two, is scheduled for completion in 2015.
Roosevelt Square "allows firemen and teachers who can't afford a half-million-dollar home to come in or the person who doesn't make a lot of money to not be forced out of the neighborhood," Galluci said.
The development includes Fosco Park, with a 57,000-square-foot community center, indoor pool, water park, gymnasium, day-care facilities and softball field. Nearby are the Illinois Medical District, Italian Sports Hall of Fame and several historic churches.
Existing housing stock is mostly turn-of-the-20th Century -- two-flats, four-flats and six-flats, some built as single-family homes that have gone through various conversions to apartments and back again.
Last year, the median price of a single-family home in the Tri-Taylor area was $414,000, up from $355,000 in 2006, according to Re/Max Northern Illinois. The median price of condos and townhouses was $284,900 in 2007, up from $279,000 in 2006. .
Greenbrier: This Arlington Heights subdivision is an enclave of 600 single-family homes and a 150-unit condo conversion that borders Palatine. Built in the 1960s, the homes are mostly ranches and split-levels.