Belen Dominguez Digital Workshop 2016

Gentrification in Pilsen

By Belen Dominguez

For the past 17 years Frank Gallegos 53, has worked with the youth at Harrison Park Community Center. Knowing what it’s like to come from an low income family Gallegos is able to relate to the Latino youth in the facility. He has lived through all the hardships and changes in Pisen and believes if he can help at least one kid stay off the streets he will change the lives of a whole generation.

Gallegos reflects on his childhood, remembering that he did not have the programs they now have for the community.

“ I remember  having to run home after school… hiding under cars because there was shootings. There were boundaries, if you didn’t know that area you couldn’t go in that area. I was never in a gang,” but because of the gangs in the area “I could never come here,” referring to Harrison park.  

Gallegos believe that these new programs have helped keep the kids off the streets. “ I have more freedom to walk anywhere… I’m more safe”.

In the late 19th Century, Pilsen was first home to a community of Czech immigrants, but in the late 1960s, an increase of hispanic presence on the community began to flourish. As the Czech began to move out more Mexican immigrant families began to move in.

To this day, Pilsen is prominently Mexican family oriented community. Bordered by 16th Street to the north, Halsted Street on the east, Western Avenue on the west, and Cermak road on the south, Pilsen is home to 36,000 people, of whom 80 percent are Mexican.

Pilsen is surrounded by the Mexican culture. From the family owned restaurants, shops and building apartments. Its rich culture is exposed to the world in its many murals all over Pilsen. The music playing in restaurants are a reminder of home, but so is its low income families. Pilsen is home to many Mexican families the majority first  and second generation who find themselves working hard in a new country for a better life not only for themselves but for their family, especially the children.

Gilberto Sandoval 22, is a general museum educator at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen who has lived here all his life  and explains how rent has raised drastically in the community.

“ I remember when I was 12, we paid $450 and now I pay $750 for a two bedroom apartments,” he said.   

Sandoval  explains that most of the new shops in the community “are owned by people who live outside of the community”. These new franchises in the community  “benefit the young Mexican people but it also sucks because that new bar or shop use to be a grocery store or a mom & pop restaurant and now it’s like a trendy upskill bar,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval explained  how the new Giordano’s restaurant  on 18th Street use to be an educational building for the community which gave kids free art classes.

“But at one point the museum could no longer maintain the property taxes on the building…so they had to sell the building,” he said.

Sandoval said  his family is an example of how Mexican people are affected by these changes.

“My parents lived here because they couldn’t buy property because it was cheaper to rent than to own property,” he said.  

“I myself am moving out of the community after living here for 22 years… because it’s cheaper for my mom to pay the mortgage then pay the rent,” Sandoval said.




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Gilbarto Sandoval, 22, works at the National Museum of Mexican Art as a tour guide. He rents a two bedroom apartment that’s $750 a month, but he remembers what rent was like when he was younger.

“When I was 12…we were paying $450 for a three bedroom,” Sandoval recalled. He also added that his mother would be moving soon due to the  higher rent.

Pilsen, on Chicago’s West Side, is no stranger to gentrification. Originally, it was home to Irish and German immigrants, later Czech, and then Mexican. Now however, white people are moving in.

These individuals are fixing the homes they rent or own, causing the property values to go up. This has led to the rent increasing, forcing some families to move.

Not everyone is upset about this change though. Frank Gallegos, 53, works at Harrison Park and he believes this change is a good thing.

He has lived in Pilsen his entire life and he thinks that the gentrification has actually benefited the community.

The housing change has brought in people who have invested in the community, along with investing in the neighborhood. Not only that, but Gallegos noted that the gang violence has decreased immensely.

“I remember when I was younger I couldn’t come this far… Today I feel like I don’t have to worry about any off that…,” Gallegos explained. “I remember having to run home from school so I wouldn’t get in trouble, hiding under cars because of shootings things like that i remember because they affected me.”

Many residents don’t want the neighborhood to be gentrified, but people like Gallegos have a different idea and he expressed that clearly to us.

“I can’t say that they’re pushing us out. I’d say… they’re teaching us,” Gallegos said. “Because, how would I know the things you like…if I didn’t see you?”

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Gentrification in Pilsen


There are many signs that Pilsen is undergoing change.

For example, the neon orange sign on the new Dunkin Donuts, or the very popular Giordano’s Pizza that was recently built.

Then contrasting images on local churches that read, “Pilsen is not for sale, all signs that portray the tension throughout the community.

The term gentrification, the buying and renovation of houses and stores in deteriorated urban neighborhoods, seemed to have rung a bell through many people’s mind.

Most have been either affected, or know someone who has. However not all 36,000 residents see gentrification has a bad thing for their community.

“I remember when I was younger I couldn’t come this far … but there were boundaries like we know if we didn’t know that area then we couldn’t go,” said Frank Gallegos, 53, a worker at the Harrison Park Field House.

The term gentrification, the buying and renovation of houses and stores in deteriorated urban neighborhoods, has sparked controversy in Pilsen.

Pilsen, bounded by 16th Street on the north and Cermak Road on the south has been home to immigrants for many years. In the late 19th century, the wave of Eastern European immigrants that then led into the Latino.

The affluent population is now pushing out families that have lived in Pilsen for all their lives. Rent for many residents 10 years ago was around $500 now it has risen to an average of $750 a month.

“To fight the change that means you have to buy the property, to buy the property that means you have to be in the economic bracket that’s moving in. So it would be really difficult to fight the change that’s happening because it’s kind of out of our control.” said Gilberto Sandoval, 22 a tour guide at National Museum of Mexican Art.

For some however, gentrification has been good for Latino traditions.

“ When I first started working here [National Museum of Mexican Art] Day of the Dead and all those big Mexican Holidays weren’t all that celebrated and now it has become a big thing” Said Ariana Porras, 29, Museum worker.

Gallegos believes some gentrification is a good thing because it brings many different cultures.

“ I think that every neighborhood in Chicago is being gentrified… people want to explore different cultures,” Gallegos said. “I can’t say they’re pushing us out I say they’re teaching us.”

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Alex King-Loyola Digital Workshop 2016


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Pilsen is Not For Sale: The Forceful Displacement of a Community

As visitors get off the Pilsen red line stop, instantly, colorful murals of skeletons and Mexicans are seen, as they travel down the steps carts full of food and people can be seen everywhere. But as the years pass, more and more corporate buildings appear.

Pilsen’s neighborhood residing on the West Side of Chicago is as vivacious and culturally authentic as the people living in it, but increasing gentrification creates concerns for residents.

Home to roughly 36,000 people and located on the West Side, Pilsen’s lively neighborhood’s boundaries are 16thStreet, Cermack Road, Halsted Street and Ashland Avenue

Frank Gallegos, 53, born and raised in Pilsen, works at the Harrison Park Community center which provides a plethora of programs intended to give students something to do. Growing up, Gallegos notes that the once dangerous area is not what it used to be

“I have more freedom to go anywhere,” Gallegos said. “Before it was if you don’t know that area, don’t go in that area.”

He mentioned the precautions his family took growing up and the positive changes that have occurred.

“I knew I never wanted to be in a gang… and now that the housing has changed more people care,” Gallegos said. “It was [my father’s] legacy to make sure that I was safe, and now I have to pass it on.”

Gilberto Sandoval, also born and raised in Pilsen and tour guide at the Mexican Art Museum, notices a different kind of change occurring. Sandoval, 22, said his relationship with the change is complex.

“I benefit from a lot of things that are happening,” Sandoval said. “Whether the changes are in our best interests is still unclear.”

Living in a neighborhood with increasing numbers of corporate establishments created for younger audiences like Dunkin’ Donuts and Giordano’s, Gallegos tries to find a balance between supporting trendier spots while still staying true to his roots.

“People crave to be in an environment such as Pilsen that provides such a strong, cultural aesthetic,” Gallegos said. “It’s easy to displace the people… it’s harder to displace the people without displacing the culture.”


Katherine Tortorella- Loyola Summer Stories




By: Katherine Tortorella


Frank Gallegos, 53, a resident of Pilsen his whole life, remembers the fear he felt as a child.


“I remember having to run home from school so I wouldn’t get in trouble, hiding under cars because they were shooting,” he said.


Now he feels safer, as the neighborhood is undergoing changes.


“I have more freedom to walk wherever without a problem knowing that for me it’s safe,” he said.

Throughout the past 10 years, the neighborhood of Pilsen, located on Chicago’s West Side, has been facing gentrification.  Gentrification has increased value of the property in the neighborhood, however, it also has driven up rents. This has forced the displacement of some families who can’t afford the rent.


Pilsen is a neighborhood which originally was home to immigrants from the Czech Republic.  Gradually, the neighborhood turned into an enclave for those of Mexican descent. In the beginning of their residency, the neighborhood was a way for Mexican immigrants to find cheap living expenses and be surrounded by their culture. Now with gentrification, they see their culture slipping away from them due to the addition of “trendy” shops and cafes.


Pilsen, with a population of 36,000 people, is bounded by 16h Street on the north, Cermak Road on the south, Halsted Street on the east, and Western Avenue on the west.


Located next to the CTA Pink Line as well, Pilsen is in a prime location for young residents to live while still being just a train ride away from the heart of Chicago.  


Students from the University of Illinois at Chicago also have an interest of being in Pilsen due to the still cheap renting costs compared to the cost of on-campus dorms.


Gilberto Sandoval, 22, general museum educator at the National Museum of Mexican Art, was raised in Pilsen and is still a resident. He expresses some concerns about the gentrification of the community.


“It’s easy to displace people”, he said, “but it’s really difficult to displace the people without displacing the culture.”



Nick Caputo – Loyola Summer Stories

WLUW 88.7

China Town Cuisine

Gentrification in Pilsen


By Nick Caputo

Frank Gallegos, a 53-year-old worker at a Pilsen park, has been a resident of Pilsen for his entire life. He has noticed a great deal of positive change occurring in the neighborhood over the years. As a child he was constantly in the presence of gangs and violence; now he feels that his daughter and himself “have more freedom to walk wherever without a problem … I feel safe in this neighborhood. ” Gallegos wants to help the children of the neighborhood experience new things and help them grow as people. Gallegos thinks that the new residents coming to Pilsen are “teaching [the residents] not pushing [them] out.”


Many others do not support the change as Gallegos does. Pilsen is a traditionally hispanic neighborhood in the West Side of Chicago. It is the community surrounded by 16th Street, Cermak Road, Halsted Street, and Western Avenue.


Recently, there has been conflict in Pilsen surrounding the increase in white people moving in and Hispanic people moving out. Unlike Gallegos’ view on the reformed community, 23-year-old museum worker Gilberto Sandoval feels as if the new community has had a negative effect on the culture and tradition in Pilsen.


“A big selling point of [Pilsen] was its Mexican community. When you push out that Mexican community it is bad for business, you loose the selling point. . . it is easy to displace the people but not easy to displace the culture,” he said.


This increase in the white population is known as gentrification; gentrification can be described as a trend in urban neighborhoods, which results in increased property values and the displacing of lower-income families and small businesses. Within the last few years, there has been a 27 percent increase in the white population compared to a 26 percent decrease of the Hispanic residents.


Sandoval described how older businesses in the community were being replaced with franchises. He recalls that a non-for-profit art program that he attended as a child was forced to close and is now a Giordano’s Pizza. Sandoval said that it was a good investment for the businesses to come to Pilsen but “whether the changes are in [Pilsen’s] best interest or not is unclear.”




Andrew Schoonover – Loyola Summer Stories


Andrew John Schoonover

Saint Thomas Aquinas High School

-Overland Park, KS-

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Pilsen Writing

By Andrew Schoonover 

Frank Gallegos, 53, has spent a lifetime in Pilsen. From running home from school in his youth to avoid gangs, to raising a family in the historical neighborhood, Gallegos has witnessed the highs and lows of Pilsen. 

“There’s a lot of strong families who have survived the neighborhood through all of the problems that have passed,” Gallegos said. 

Despite all of these great victories, Gallegos and the whole community of Pilsen is bracing for yet another battle: gentrification. 

The neighborhood has received battle scars from this war. Big name chains have invaded buildings once owned by locals. The Catholic church, once a key staple of the community, scheduled to be knockdowned and crumbling. In many spots on the streets, people have spray painted the phrase “Pilsen is not for sale”

Pilsen is working to adapt to the gentrification. Despite the relationship and memories people have made with the community, many cannot do anything to save their neighborhood where they were born, raised, and have worked to make a better place. However each resident has a different perspective as to whether this gentrification is benefiting or hurting the neighborhood. 

Pilsen is on the West Side of Chicago with a population of roughly 36,000 residents. Although it is predominantly a Mexican community, the area has Czech roots. Bordered to the north by 16th Street, the south by Cermak Road, the east by Halsted Street, and to the west by Western Avenue, the residents have worked to make Pilsen a better place for them to live and work.  

Each culture has left a mark on the neighborhood, whether it be the Czech style of architecture or the artwork from the Mexicans. During the 1950s and 1960s, the Czech immigrants were replaced with Mexican immigrants. Today the Mexican majority still reigns, but yet another shift may be coming. Pilsen is becoming gentrified once again, this time by upscale, modern restaurants and housing. 

“This summer is the worst change that we have seen,” said Gilberto Sandoval, 22, worker at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen. “For the past 10 years, it has been happening visibly.” 

Sandoval said that the Mexican culture is changing with the new people. However, Sandoval said that this change is definitely benefitting him as a 22 year old. He said that he enjoys the new, trendy bars and restaurants coming in, even though he misses the old “mom and pop” restaurants.  Whether the change is helping the community as a whole is still unclear. 

Despite all of the people being forced from the community, long time residents are still doing what they have always done: helping the community. 

“I always say you have to give back to the community, you have to give back somehow,” Gallegos said. “I can’t say they are pushing us out, I would say they are teaching us. I embrace people, and that gets me really far.”



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