CHICAGO — Susan Flaga witnessed her neighborhood’s evolution by looking out the window of her hair salon.
Sparrow, a sophisticated yet unassuming salon at 2545 North Milwaukee Avenue, whose clients include everyone from blogger Tavi Gevinson to musicians Tom Krell of How To Dress Well and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy to the Creatures of the Wind designers, is steps away from the now-shuttered Milshire Hotel, at 2525 North Milwaukee Avenue.
“The foot traffic changed. When we started construction on Sparrow, it was people who lived at the Milshire, which was a vagrant hotel. And now, the crowd is just younger and stylish,” said Flaga, who opened the salon in 2009 with her partner Bathsheba Nemerovski.
At that time, Logan Square wasn’t the in-demand locale it is today — Redfin named it the eighth hottest neighborhood in the country in 2013 and the national real estate broker said its appeal shows no signs of slowing.
“Sheba and I both lived here and we both didn’t want to commute anymore. I had an intuition that it was going to be a good idea,” Flaga said.
Logan Square’s tree-lined boulevards, turn-of-the-century mansions, acclaimed eateries like the gastro pub Longman & Eagle, craft cocktail lounge Billy Sunday and Lula Café — the first restaurant to put this northwest-side enclave on the culinary map, as well as a plethora of bars, coffee shops and a Sunday farmer’s market, have helped cultivate Logan Square as one of the city’s most desirable places to live, eat, drink or visit.
According to Redfin, real estate home sales in Logan Square have increased 56.6 percent over the last five years, compared to 27.7 percent increase in Chicago. The median sale price for homes has jumped 29.3 percent since 2009, versus a 9.4 percent in the city.
Longman & Eagle, a Michelin-starred restaurant and hotel, recently celebrated its five-year anniversary. No question, it’s helped establish Logan Square as a foodie destination — Bon Appetit listed it as one of its top-ten “food lover’s” hotels and GQ called it a best new restaurant.
Bruce Finkelman, a partner in Longman & Eagle, said the restaurant opened under simple pretenses.
“It was just an extension of what we liked,” he said. “Why couldn’t you walk into your neighborhood place and get the best ‘insert dish’ here? Get the best service? If you create a place that you would want to go to, there’s bound to be people that would want to go there, too. It’s an honest approach.”
Peter Creig Toulson, also a partner at Longman & Eagle, said the sense of community makes the neighborhood unique. “We were fortunate in that we received a lot of national attention early, which has brought in folks from outside the neighborhood from the start,” he said. “That said, though, we’re definitely neighborhood oriented.”
While Logan Square has no shortage of eateries and watering holes, retail has been slow to develop — even though one of Logan Square’s oldest businesses is a retailer, the legendary Viking Ski Shop, open since 1966.
Newcomers include high-end men’s retailer Meyvn, which opened last March, and Rocky + Luella, offering an affordable mix of women’s wear and men’s wear, opened in September.
“This is definitely a destination neighborhood, but there’s no boutique culture here,” said Kate Bunton, who owns Rocky + Luella with Julia Korol. The duo previously worked at Anthropologie. “We both live here and love the community and wanted to bring something that wasn’t available to the residents here.”
Set in a raw, industrial-looking 1,300-square-foot space with exposed beams — “Chicago Fire” had burned out the storefront for an episode, leaving the retailers with a clean slate to build upon — Rocky + Luella features independent American designers and local jewelry designers. Prices range from $35 for a cotton top to $255 for a silk dress.
“We want to keep it affordable. The neighborhood is up and coming, but it’s no Bucktown,” said Bunton, whose rent for the store, located at 3207 West Fullerton Avenue, is about $17 a square foot, or $2,000 a month.
As the neighborhood continues to grow, there are signs of a shakeout.
“Telegraph was the first place I saw a bottle of wine for $300 in the area,” said Paul Levin, executive director of the Logan Square Chamber of Commerce and resident of the neighborhood since 1973. “It closed, not because it wasn’t good, but the competition at that price point was more than they were able to attract.”
Like the influx of restaurants, Levin said he hopes retail starts trickling in, too.
“Fifteen years ago, I was living here, and Bob Olson [owner of Viking Ski Shop] would say to me, ‘Paul, I have a problem, people are coming here to buy the bindings and skis and I need 45 minutes to do the bindings. I don’t have anywhere to send them,’” he recalled. “What’s happened now, is they come down and buy the skis and bindings and they kill an hour, go to the Square, go to Lula Café or wherever. These are people from outside the neighborhood, coming into the neighborhood and spending money. They are here for Bob Olson, voted the best ski shop in the Midwest. He’s been the one constant. We need more of that and it’s starting to happen.”