Samuel Koller

Pilsen Article

By Sam Koller

Ty Kolup came to Pilsen in 1981 at the age of 17. Kolup came to Pilsen so his son could enter the Chicago Public Schools early start program, where children can get help developing from an early age. Although “Everyone was in a gang…we stuck it out,” Kolup said.

His patience has paid off: Now Pilsen is experiencing gentrification, with new shops, restaurants and homes.

“Before there were gangs, now there are no more,” Kolup said in his self-owned mechanic shop.

The neighborhood of Pilsen can be found on the West Side of Chicago and is noted for its vibrant murals. It is a colorful community with many shops and restaurants, most being influenced by Mexican culture.

Almost 36,000 people live in Pilsen, many who are from Mexico or from Hispanic descent.

The neighborhood is bounded by 16th Street on the north, Cermack Avenue on the south, The Dan Ryan Expressway to the east, and Western Avenue to the west.

Pilsen was not alway like this, before there were Czech immigrants who came to work in the steel mills and the canals. Their legacy can still be seen through the  Czech names on the buildings.

For a while, the neighborhood had trouble with drugs and gang violence, according to Aurelio Barrio, 69, a longtime resident.

“There was a killing every two weekends,” said Barrio, who claims to having been shot multiple times. Barrio witnessed the rise of rent, but it doesn’t effect him since her owns his home.

“Those who own their property are happy with the rising property values,’ Barrios said. “Those who rent aren’t happy.”

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