Should You Move from the Suburbs to the City?

Are you ready to downsize or just shake things up?

Some former North Shore residents have made the move to Chicago and are riding high on living downtown.

In April, Jon and Lorraine Kaplan moved from their large Wilmette home of 16 years to a stunning new lakefront condo in Lincoln Park. With their twin daughters finishing college, their house was just too big for their empty-nester lifestyle, and both were craving something new.

Lorraine, who runs her own home-based clothing business, says, “I kept feeling like I needed a career move, but I think I needed a personal change. This was a way to keep moving forward.”

“I’ve always had a passion for city life,” says Jon, a partner in a consulting firm. “I think it’s very special.”

Once the Kaplans found their ideal condo, they didn’t just sell their house; they sold everything. All of their new belongings in their Lincoln Park pad are designed for flexible living and to complement their stunning lake views. Their condo is half the size of their Wilmette house, but it’s still spacious.

Their building features so many amenities—health club, entertaining space, pool, gardens, dog run—that the Kaplans don’t feel like they miss a thing, not even their yard. And they definitely don’t miss the maintenance. They’ve made many new friends in their building and love the convenience and accessibility of Lincoln Park.

As Jon says, “It’s zero work to go to dinner here. We just walk out the building. Food is a very social activity and the casual nature of it here–it’s phenomenal.”

For forty-somethings Claire and Pete Caragher, who lived in Evanston for 13 years, access to great restaurants was one of things that motivated their move to the Lake Shore East area two years ago.

Pete, head coach and Aquatics Director of the Evanston YWCA Flying Fish swim program says, “In the long term we knew we wanted to be downtown. Since we didn’t have kids we thought, ‘Why wait?’ We were doing stay-cations and hotel rooms constantly. We wanted to experience the city on a regular basis.”

Pete’s job is based in Evanston, but Claire’s entire family—her mother and all her siblings—live there, which was perhaps the hardest thing to leave behind. But they’ve stayed close since the move.

Like the Kaplans, the Caraghers started city life fresh. They sold most of their possessions through Craigslist and now rent a chic one-bedroom apartment in a high-rise building with amazing city and lake views. They don’t miss the space of their old four-bedroom house (or the property taxes) one bit.

Divesting themselves of their stuff “was quite liberating,” Pete says. “You realize you can get by with 10 to 20 percent of what you have.”

“Including clothes and shoes!” adds Claire, a stylish Change Management Consultant who used to have an entire bedroom as her dressing room, but now shares a walk-in closet with her husband.

After two years, Pete and Claire make full use of the city.

“We go to a ton of street fairs, to the park for music, we walk a lot,” Claire says.

“We go out for dinner too much,” Pete says.

“But we are so much more active,” Claire says. “We have the gym in the building, go biking and running along the lakefront, go swimming at Ohio Street beach.”

Pete even likes his commute back to Evanston. “It’s enjoyable me time that I never had before. I enjoy it like you can’t believe.”

Things to consider moving to the city:

  • When you don’t have to worry about the yard or home maintenance, you’ll have a lot more free time.
  • Downsizing isn’t necessarily cheaper. Even if your living expenses are lower, you’ll find it easy to spend more on entertainment and activities.
  • Expect to take most of the initiative to stay in touch with friends and family in the suburbs.
  • You’ll drive a lot less. Plan to share a car and take public transportation, or better yet, walk.
  • Finding the right neighborhood is critical. Choose a place that’s near the things you want to do.
  • Consider renting an apartment to test drive city living first.