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I see both "ちかく の XXX" and "XXX の ちかく", but I don't see when to apply which pattern. In the latter case, I think the word "vicinity" in my mind. In the former case, I suppose it's more like "nearby". But I'm often getting these two cases wrong.

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You're correct.

「近くのお店」is "a nearby shop." 「お店の近く」is "near the shop." For example:

お店の近くにあるガソリンスタンド

is a gas station near the/a shop.

This rule doesn't always map neatly to English, but think of the noun before the の as the owner and the one after the の as the thing being possessed. So "the nearby area's shop" (近くのお店) vs "the shop's nearby area" (お店の近く).

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