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Lakeview is . . . well, it's easier to say what Lakeview isn't. It isn't as upper-crusty as its southern neighbor, Lincoln Park (though parts of it come close), or as shabby as its northern neighbor, Uptown (though parts of it come close). Its residents will tell you indignantly that it isn't "New Town," although most of what is commonly known by that name lies within its borders. What is it, then? It's everything that isn't something else, an area that's continually changing, transforming itself, in the process becoming . . . becoming what? There's the question again?
Moving from east to west, Lakeview's development has followed a familiar Chicago pattern: congestion and reckless overbuilding near the lake, where the concentration of highrises finally became so intolerable that local citizens banded together and won a zoning change to make further development impossible; a transitional zone west of Broadway, where middle-class people are buying and rehabilitating older buildings, or just slapping on a new coat of paint and doubling the rents; and a neglected area further west, where three small industrial areas provide a declining number of jobs. There's a large Latino community in West Lakeview, along with pockets of Germans, Scandinavians, Koreans, Phillippinos, and Japanese, but whether they'll be able to survive the onslaught of real estate speculators is an open question.
As hip young capitalists took over storefronts on Lakeview's commercial streets, neighborhood establishments like dry cleaners, druggists, and small grocery stores were forced out by rising rents. Singles bars, restaurants, discotheques, clothing stores, record and hi-fi equipment stores, plant and novelty stores—all the glitzy, fast-buck businesses that came to be known, collectively, as "New Town"—took their place. Much of their glitter has since worn off, but they continue to proliferate; last year 60 additional shops were crammed into the Century Shopping Mall, an old movie palace on Clark Street that has been converted into six floors of frantic consumerism.
Where will it all end? Will Lakeview go the way of Lincoln Park, becoming a homogenous, white, upper-middle-class community? Most residents—even those who are helping to further the process—agree that this would destroy most of the area's charm, and much of its vitality. But no one seems to know how to prevent Lakeview from becoming a victim of its own success.