By: Keith Calloway
Is Pilsen the next Lincoln Park?
“Pilsen is located on the flip-side of where Lincoln Park would be. You could live there for lots of money, or you could live here and have it a little more affordable,” said Carlos Lourenzo, 38, owner of the Knee Deep thrift shop on 18th Street.
Pilsen, located on Chicago’s west side, is becoming a target of gentrification. This can be described as when affluent people move into a working-class neighborhood and increase property value. Consequentially, the original inhabitants of the neighborhood who rent cannot afford to live there and are forced to leave because of the inflated price of rent.
“It’s hard to see my friends have to leave the neighborhood because their families can’t afford it,” said Zarai Zaragoza, 20, who has lived in Pilsen her whole life.
Some may say that the gentrification of Pilsen is causing a loss of authenticity, but Pilsen has undergone changes like this before. The neighborhood’s distinct historical landmarks and history are what makes it authentic in itself, no matter its demographics.
Bordered by 16th Street, Cermak Road, Halsted Street, and Ashland Avenue, Pilsen is one of the most distinctive neighborhoods of Chicago. Historically, Pilsen was a largely Czech neighborhood, named after the Bohemian city of Plzen. But since the 1960s, mainly Mexican immigrants have populated Pilsen.
Today, with 35,769 inhabitants, Pilsen is still Mexican, but is on the verge of another change in demographics. Because of its close proximity to the CTA Pink Line, the Stevenson and Dan Ryan expressways, and downtown Chicago, Pilsen is a prime location for those who want to live close to downtown Chicago without the downtown cost.
Alternatively, some have found upsides to the gentrification of Pilsen. National Museum of Mexican Art tour guide Gilberto Sandoval, 22, said that Pilsen has become increasingly safer since the introduction of University Village, which is used to house students of the University of Illinois at Chicago in the neighboring West Loop. Even though the cost of living is increasing, there is now “night-life” and less violence in Pilsen.
“If this was 1995, I wouldn’t be able to go to a bar on 18th street because I’d get jumped or something,” said Sandoval, reflecting on the gentrification’s impact on crime in Pilsen.