Suburban Transit-Oriented Development

    Highland Park, IL, USA-May 7, 2015: A late springtime late afternoon view of a Metra train stopped at the Highland Park station, with clock tower and white tree blossoms.

    Recently, we took a look at transit-oriented living in Chicago proper. But the suburbs are in on the action too, offering modern new developments with a slightly different flair.

    Transit-oriented living in the suburbs is actually nothing new. Dozens of “railroad downtowns” in the region have been established for over a century. And the renaissance of transit-oriented living in the last couple decades has brought buyers more options than ever, including new amenitized and luxury options.

    Millennials and downsizers alike are flocking to transit-oriented developments (TOD), both urban and suburban. Two key components differentiate city and suburban TOD:

    Metra access

    Suburban TOD is typically found within walking distance of the Metra, instead of the CTA, providing an easy commute into downtown. Between the building and the Metra station is a pleasant, walkable environment. While most Metra lines run throughout the day and on weekends, this kind of living is best suited to the 9-to-5 downtown commuter, as that’s when Metra offers more frequent trains, including expresses. Off-peak service is only every hour or less, in most cases.


    While transit, rideshare, and biking can make owning and parking a car not worth it in the city, most suburban TOD is found to be much more car-friendly. While someone living at The Residences at Wilmette, for example, has Metra and a handful of shops and restaurants steps away in downtown Wilmette, they’ll still need to drive for a lot of their errands. Luckily, easy parking access makes that a breeze.

    Here are a few places modern suburban TOD, with plenty of restaurants and shops immediately nearby, can be found from north to south:

    • Highland Park: built in 2017, the McGovern House is one of the newer additions to one of the North Shore’s biggest downtown business districts.
    • Evanston: while downtown Evanston offers all kinds of luxury apartment options, there are also 1620 Central and Central Station a little further north on Central St. near Ryan Field.
    • Glenview: Reserve at Glenview puts you within a two-minute walk of both the Golf Metra station and a Mariano’s grocery store, while Midtown Square is located adjacent to downtown Glenview’s restaurants. The Glen, a hub of retail, entertainment, and residential development, is a short walk from the Glen Metra stop.   
    • Arlington Heights: Hancock Square at Arlington Heights was technically built in 1988, but an extensive interior refresh enticed residents of its 410 units to move there and take advantage of downtown Arlington Heights, one of the largest thriving suburban downtowns in the region.
    • Des Plaines: ReNew Five Ninety Five and Kingston Pointe, two recession-era midrise developments, are joined by the balconied Ellison, which delivers later this year.
    • Oak Park: Looking at the building alone, you’d have no idea that the 275-unit Vantage Oak Park is technically suburban, and it’s hardly the only major new TOD in the area.
    • Elmhurst: A little further west is The Marke at Elmhurst, which features an amenity deck that rivals many city properties.
    • Naperville: The Naperville Metra station has a seven-year waiting list for parking permits, but living at Ellsworth Station can get you a parking spot even closer to the station, instantly. Of course, you’ll no longer need to drive to the station itself, as it’s about a one minute walk to the platform.
    • Downers Grove: The thriving Main Street corridor in Downers is now nicely flanked by the newly-completed Burlington Station and Maple and Main, two excellent suburban TOD choices.

    Orland Park: While certainly not as walkable as many of the older Metra suburbs, convenience of living near the 143rd St Orland Park station comes from the nearby Orland Park Crossing strip center. Ninety7Fifty is directly adjacent to the Metra station and a quick hike away from the strip center, while The Residences of Orland Park Crossing is essentially the opposite.

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