|Downtown Evanston, IL. Beyond downtown, Evanston is walkable, transit supported, includes a wide range of housing types and mixed uses and houses a diverse population. It’s a SINO (suburb in name only). Source: evanstonnow.com|
“I’ve written a lot about how a lack of understanding about the South and West sides limits their investment potential, or even any empathy toward their revitalization, but a case could be made that communities like Mount Greenwood suffer from this as well. But more realistically, Mount Greenwood might relish its relative anonymity. If there is one word to describe this community, it’s “enclave”. Separated from the rest of Chicago by several cemeteries on its eastern boundary, and from several suburbs by cemeteries to the south, Mount Greenwood is set apart. It’s a community of modest 1950s Chicago-style ranch bungalows…
Mount Greenwood is one of many Northwest and Southwest side neighborhoods that hold large numbers of city workers, particularly police officers and firefighters, who must maintain their city residence. Joining them in the neighborhood are well-off skilled laborers — plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians, and the like. Despite the modest homes, Mount Greenwood is fairly wealthy. The median household income in 2014 was nearly $90,000, almost double that of Chicago’s.
Mount Greenwood might also be one of the whitest communities in Chicago. In a city divided almost equally between whites, blacks and Latinos, Mount Greenwood is about 87 percent white — rivaling the high percentages of black residents seen on the South and West sides.
Mount Greenwood is a classic modest yet mature bedroom community. It’s home to solid single-family residences, very few multifamily complexes, wonderful Catholic schools to supplement the public neighborhood schools, and a strong sense of community. It’s been able to hold onto that status far longer than most communities.”
The Mount Greenwood description prompted a comment from reader John Carlisle, in which he pointed out the existence of suburbany city neighborhoods like Mount Greenwood, as well as city-like suburbs:
“My friend and I have a running joke: We have two lists, “CHI-NOs” (Chicago in Name Only) and “SINOs” (Suburb in Name Only). I probably don’t have to say they’re modeled after RINO and DINO. Anyway, here are our lists:
Forest Glen / Edgebrook
Debatable: Elmwood Park, Maywood, and several of the budding ethnoburbs of inner Cook County, of which there are a bunch.
This isn’t meant to be intense, deep planning analysis or commentary, nor is it meant to pass judgment on communities, but it’s just a couple of fun groupings to point out that the city-suburb chasm in terms of lifestyle is a lot more fluid than many would like to believe. You could probably come up with some kind of data-driven index based on things like density, transit access, diversity (or a lack thereof), urban challenges, but we haven’t. Feel free to add to the lists or steal this for your own use.
I suppose New York could have NY-NO neighborhoods, Philly could have PHI-NOs … every major metro could have SINOs.”
Well played, Mr. Carlisle.
He’s right — there’s nothing especially deep about these groupings, but it does meld our understanding of what exactly is “city” and “suburb”. In a region of the country where the split between city and suburb might be at its starkest, there are still plenty of exceptions. There are neighborhoods within city limits that are full of split-level single family homes built on an auto-oriented system, and there are suburbs beyond the city limits that are diverse, developmentally complex with a mix of uses, and have a significant reliance on public transit where available.
Here’s an idea: I’d love for the U.S. Census to refine their urban area parameters. Some readers might be familiar with the fact that the Census identifies contiguous areas within metro areas that house in excess of 1,000 people per square mile. What if the Census did a similar identification of areas with populations in excess of, say, 5,000 people per square mile? If so, we might be able to define areas as “urban” (>5,000/sq. mi.), “suburban” (1,000-4,999/sq. mi.) and “exurban” (<999/sq. mi., but still within the metro area). Density is hardly the only thing that distinguishes city and suburb, but such a change would force us to look at all places a little differently.
In closing, here’s what I would say are a “hot take” of top CINOs (City In Name Only) and SINOs (Suburbs In Name Only) spots in the Chicago area:
Many southeast Cook County suburbs might fit the SINO profile, but I left them out since there are so many.
What say you, readers? Chicago people, does this make sense? For those across the nation, I’d love to see your takes on CINOs and SINOs.