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.”

Erin Schultz

Pilsen’s new persona

When Charles Roberts moved from Boston to Pilsen 10 years ago, he was drawn to the low rent prices. He was an artist and it was one of the only neighborhoods he could afford, so he’s lived there ever since.

However, because Pilsen is becoming more of a tourist destination, which Roberts attributes to the fact it’s covered in murals, the price of rent has increased.

Roberts, 40, is the manager of Knee Deep and will soon have to move because his rent is too expensive.

“[I’m trying to stay here] as long as I can. I’ve tried to stay here because I like it a lot, and I like the community,” Roberts said. “There will always be places that are affordable; it’s just getting harder to find them.”

Though the price of living has gone up, Roberts and Pilsen resident Aurelio Barrios, 69, agree that the crime rate has decreased.

According to Barrios, when he moved to Pilsen in 1959, there were killings every weekend. He now feels safer and like the area has come a long way.

“It used to be a ghetto; now it’s full of townhouses,” Barrios said.

On the contrary, the colorful town of 36,000 has signs plastered and graffiti painted all over that say, “Pilsen is not for sale.”

Some people believe that the changes have hurt the Hispanic culture and want Pilsen to stay the same. They’re fighting for St. Adalbert, a historic church in the town, to stay open.

Barrios also would like for the church to stay open, and even volunteered to help raise money for the church with a concert.

“It’s a shame,” Barrios said. “That thing — they should keep it open. It’s beautiful.”

However, Barrios believes that, at the end of the day, it’s too expensive to keep open for the small number of people who attend the church on a regular basis.

Others believe the fact that Pilsen has gained popularity has strengthened its Hispanic heritage.

“It didn’t kill the culture,” Roberts said. “I’ve actually seen more of it. A lot of it is done for the sake of tourism — When I moved here, there weren’t sugar skulls in the bakeries.”

Sugar skulls, sweet skulls sold to celebrate the day of the dead are traditionally sold in bakeries or open-air markets.

“Now they’re all over the place,” Roberts said.

Fashion in Chinatown


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Rachel Marr



By Rachel Marr

Visitors to Pilsen see colorful murals showing the culture of its people.

They also see a Dunkin Donuts.

This neighborhood, located on the West Side of Chicago, is facing gentrification.

The neighborhood population of 35,769 is mostly comprised of people of Hispanic descent. Pilsen is filled with Mexican culture, but is now starting to be taken over by franchises.

With the local church, St. Adalbert, being shut down, gentrification is now confronts the people of Pilsen. Signs and graffiti have now emerged over town stating, “Pilsen is not for sale.”

Carwash owner Ty Kolup, 53, likes the fact that money is coming to the community because it is helping bring crime levels down. “When the gangs was here, I’d go to a funeral once or twice a week,” Kolup said, ““Gangs like poverty.”

With the new companies and wealthy people moving in, gangs are moving out.

With the new revenues coming in, rent is going up and people have to leave to seek out cheaper rent.

Charles Roberts, 40, is the manger at Knee Deep, and has been living in Pilsen for the past 10 years. He is being priced out and must move soon.

However, Roberts is not against the gentrification and said, “(the gentrification) didn’t kill the culture… I’ve actually seen more of it.”

Roberts believes it has actually made the culture stronger for the town is bringing in new tourist and the people of Pilsen want to show off their Mexican roots.

The people of Pilsen have different stances on the gentrification. Aureilo Barrios, 69, likes the gentrification and how it has brought money to the town and the crime rate down.

However, he does not like it when the people of wealth try to change Pilsen. When a corporation wanted to put in zone parking Barrios said, “(the people of Pilsen) cut their tires, broke their windows on their car, and then they moved out.”

Barrios said,” I was calling this friend mine said ‘Where do you live at?’ and he said ‘Pilsen Heights’…I said where did you get all these stupid names from… it’s Pilsen and that’s it!”



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Liz Bigham High School Digital

Gentrification in Pilsen

By Liz Bigham

Pilsen is known as a gateway for Mexican-Americans full of detailed murals, empowering posters, and family owned markets.

Yet a Dunkin Donuts sits right in the center of the community.

Pilsen is a prime example of the gentrification.

Just a train ride away on the Loop from downtown Chicago is the cultural community of Pilsen.  It’s a traditional neighborhood between Little Village and Bridgeport with a population 36,000.

Since 2010, there has been a 26 percent drop in Hispanic population and a 22 percent increase in white population, according to DNA Info.

One reason for the growth of whites is the neighboring students from University of Illinois at Chicago are lured by the cheap rent prices.

Marvin Marines, 22, is a UIC student who has been living in Pilsen for the past three years due to the close proximity of the campus.  He said he is familiar with the changes occurring in the city.

“In a way the change is good because it is bringing in more people that can contribute to revenue for the neighborhood,” Marines said. “It increases modernization.”

He also sees it as gentrification because the town is losing some of the culture it has, he said.

“It use to be big on art, you can still see that, but it is definitely changing,” Marines said.

The change in Pilsen is causing clothing store manager Charles Roberts, 40, to move out of the town because of the high rent.

“It’s unfortunate that people are getting priced out of the neighborhood,” Roberts said.

He has witnessed the revelations bringing the crime rate down and offering more variety in stores. He doesn’t agree that the change has killed the culture, he said.

“A lot of it has been for the sake of visitors and tourism,” Roberts said.

When he moved to Pilsen ten years ago there weren’t any sugar skulls, which are Day of the Dead decorations. Now they are all over the place, said Roberts.

“I really like this neighborhood and the community, but it’s getting harder and harder to find places that are affordable,” Roberts said.



Fashion in Chinatown

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Our week in review

Alex Harring


When Ty Kolup, 53, bought his auto garage in 1981, the streets alongside it were riddled with gangs and fighting. Now, 35 years later, the housing market is up and violence is down.

“I took a gamble when I came to the neighborhood,” Kolup said. “The people who are protesting (gentrification) do not own property in Pilsen. Fifteen or 20 years ago, the city was bad. When the gangs were here, I’d go to a funeral once or twice a week.”

Kolup’s garage is in Pilsen, a Chicago neighborhood located on the West Side between Little Village and Bridgeport. The city has become a melting pot of culture and a home for many Hispanic families. Graffiti covers buildings, and “Pilsen is not for sale” is written over walls and signs.

But the Pilsen melting pot is being stirred with a silver spoon. The city’s white population is rising, and gentrification, the renovation of a district to fit middle-class standards, is at an all-time high. According to a 2013 study by University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), there are 4,385 white people in Pilsen, a 22 percent jump from 2000. The total population: approximately 36,000.

Store manager Charles Roberts, 40, moved from Boston to Pilsen because of its thriving artist community, murals and vintage shopping. Now he has to leave the neighborhood because of high rent.

When he came to Pilsen 10 years ago, it was the only neighborhood he could afford. Since then he has noticed a drop in crime but a rise in house costs.

“I have people coming through here all the time asking where the murals are and I tell them ‘they’re everywhere,’” Roberts said. “I really tried to stay here because I really like the community a lot, but I have to find somewhere more affordable.”

Students are choosing Pilsen because of its close proximity to the UIC. Families and young adults are finding good house prices compared to suburbs closer to downtown.

Kolup understands the protests. However, he finds the positives of gentrification outweigh the negatives.

“What will happen is that Pilsen will change with the students because it is good for UIC,” Kolup said. “My prediction is that in 20 years Pilsen will no longer be Hispanic, it will be mixed.”




Pieces of history remain in Chinatown

By Annie Schugart

Each of the 100,000 pieces of glass on the Chinatown mural—pieces touched by both the hands of those in China years ago and the hands of the those in current Chinatown—form something greater than just a decorative mural.

The pieces serve not only a visual representation of the Chinese immigration, but also as a metaphorical representation of each of the pieces of modern day Chinatown fitting together to form a metaphorical image of the sense of family evident in Chinatown.

“In Chinatown Chicago, everyone is friendly,” said Rui Ma, 25, hostess at the Lao Sze Chuan restaurant. “Everyone gets along together.”

While the mural represents the pieces of Chinese history, it also represents the pieces of Chinatown today that form together to create a mural of a family-centered and culturally united community.

“The philosophy of filial piety—absolute loyalty to the family, that the family is number one—is (depicted in the mural through) Confucius,” said Rahsaan Liddell, Chinatown Chamber of Commerce Business Development employee.  “That same concept still governs China today.”

The importance of family is indeed evident throughout the streets of Chinatown.

Chinatown visitor Emily Dang, who is visiting with her father, is one example of this strong bond of family and culture.

“We’re here (in Chinatown) for a Father’s Day surprise,” said Dang, 21. “Our family likes the food here.”

Clayton and Denisse Huebner, husband and wife, also experience Chinatown through the sense of family.  Denisse was taking Clayton out for his birthday.

“We’re here for both (food and culture) and getting to experience interesting shops,” Denisse Huebner said.

Chinatown has continued to grow as a community since its formation in 1912 when the Chinese population was forced to move into a consolidated area due to the rise in rent prices.  Now with a population of 7,254, according to the 2010 United States Census, the sense of family and a pride of culture still remain strong.

Another piece of the overall image of Chinatown is the sign overlooking Chinatown— “Under the heavens for everyone,” written in Chinese—again portraying the strong community bond.

Shops and restaurants are another piece tying past Chinese culture together with the present.  There are currently over 60 restaurants in Chinatown, with one being Lao Sze Chuan.  Each serves a unique purpose of uniting not only past and present China culture, but also tying together all languages and separate cities of China.

“(In the past) there were more Cantonese people (in Chinatown), but right now there are more and more Chinese from different cities,” Ma said.  “(Chinatown) is kind of like a small China.”

Welcome to Chinatown

Yazmin Solis

Christie Leomg,30, spends most of the year in Wisconsin. But once a year, the  Chinese American feels the tug of Chicago Chinatown.

“Every year I go visit my family members and tour around Chinatown…  I miss them so much,”Leomg said.

Leomg is an example of type of person who feels drawn to Chinatown, a neighborhood of 7,254 residents near South Side of Chicago.

Chinatown is bounded by the Chicago River of the north, 26th Street of the south, Halsted Avenue on the West Clark Street on the east. It is home to restaurants, shops and cultural land marks replicating China.

The Chinese started coming to Chicago in 1800s because of the transcontinental railroad and gold rush. The men would leave their wife and kids at home and go to the other side of the world to provide for their family, because in China, they did not have a good economy.

The first place that the Chinese would have to go to gain citizenship would be the Pui Tak Center to register to be come a Chinese American.

In Chinatown there is an attraction called Nine Dragon Wall. It was made in China, but sent to Chicago for the people who live in Chinatown.

In addition, the Allen Lee Square is a place that all the people from Chinatown go to see the Chinatown life unfold.

Chinatown gate was made in 1975 to be the original entryway for Chinatown. On the top of the Chinatown gate reads:“Everything under the heaven, for the people.”


Tasneem Ouyoun

Chicago’s Chinatown is contemporary community rich in ancient Chinese culture.

China is one of the oldest civilizations in the world.

Chinatown was the product of the largest influx of Chinese immigrants coming to America during the Gold-rush era.

When it was discovered that the gold was gone the Chinese formed began to form a community in the loop area before relocating to the southside of Chicago.

By the 1920s, Chinatown extended from west Cermak Road and south Wentworth Avenue to south Wentworth and south Princeton Avenue.

The Chinese stayed true to their beliefs when they migrated, bringing with them vases, Chinese dragons, lions and the colors red and yellow give luck.

The Chineses’ spiritual beliefs not only affect their art and culture but also their architect.

Balance and symmetry play large roles in Chinese architecture and are evident in some of the building in Chinatown; curved roofs, the color and tiers of the eaves, and roof decorations are believed to ward off evil spirits and instead bring in good luck.

Today Chinatown can be found centered on Cermak and Wentworth Avenue with a population ranging around 7,254.

“[Chinatown] Kinda of like a small China… Very friendly and everybody gets along with each other.” said Rui Ma (25) a hostess at a popular restaurant in Chinatown.

Visitors to Chinatown still see parts of vibrant Chinese culture, tradition, and belief shining through.

Along the streets of Chinatown you will find a numerous amount of Chinese family owned shops.

“Chinatown is a major attraction and is very attractive to people living outside of southside, people feel at home in Chinatown” said Yat Wunt (53) a resident and business owner in Chinatown for 30 years.

The Chinatown Pavilion, located on south Wentworth Avenue and west Cermak Road, is a perfect example of Chinese architect with the curving roof, colors, decorations, and tiers embellishing this glorious landmark.

Right next to the Chinatown Pavilion is the Nine Dragon Wall, an intricate work of art made piece by piece in China and sent to Chinatown.

One of Chinatown’s most identifiable and memorable landmarks is the Chinatown Gate standing proudly at the entrance of Chinatown for 38 years.

For a complete list of all the attractions and events going on in Chinatown visit

Chinatown provides diverse cuisine

Julia Wolf
Searching for a safe place to reside, the frightened Chinese found Chicago and transformed it into a place of their own: Chinatown.

Chinatown is bordered by the Chicago River on the north, Clark Street to the east, 26th Street on the south, and Halsted Avenue to the west. More than 6,400 are residents in Chinatown, with 7,254 overall in the neighborhood, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

With the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, Chinese immigrants were out of a job. Chicago was one of the places the workers settled. Because they weren’t trusted, they created jobs to help them get by. They mainly opened up laundromats and restaurants.

Authentic restaurants are one of the many features found in Chinatown that make the Chinese cultures and beliefs visibly dominant. The restaurants provide the visiting and resident Chinese with a feeling of home. Rashaan Liddell, docent for Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, gave insight to Chinatown’s finest and most popular restaurants.

“This is the Phoenix restaurant…its very well-known for dim sum cuisine… This is the food that is very popular in Hong Kong”, said Liddell.

When walking through Chinatown, visitors will see an array of diverse restaurants.

“It has a wide variety… all of the dishes have things to distinguish them”, said Cynthia Young, 21, a worker at Loa Sze Chuan.

Booming culture defines Chinatown

By Sheila Raghavendran

Chicago’s Chinatown is a contemporary community steeped in ancient Chinese culture.

Chinatown is located on Cermak and Wentworth Avenues on the South Side Chicago, with the Chicago River to the north, 26th Street to the south, Clark Street to the east, and Halsted Avenue to the west.

Language, food and history are parts of Chinatown culture.

Chinatown acts as a home-away-from-home for approximately 7,254 residents, according to the 2010 United States Census Bureau.

Chinatown is an accurate mini-China because the cultures of different cities are highlighted, according to Rui Ma, a 25 year-old employee at Lao Sze Chuan who has been living in Chicago for three months.

“There are many different types of Chinese food offered in Chinatown…” Ma said. “We’re all from very different kinds of foods, different cities… Sze Chuan-style food [is the] most spicy food.”

While Ma said that cuisine is a major part of Chinatown, Chinatown Chamber of Commerce docent Rahsaan Liddell said that Chinese-American history functions as part of Chinatown’s definition.

When the Gold Rush struck in 1849, Chinese immigrants flocked to the United States as laborers who worked to build the Transcontinental Railroad, Liddell said. He said that the railroad passed through Chicago and brought livestock for slaughtering, storing, processing, and shipping.

“It’s very significant to have the railroads coming through this area,”Liddell said. “And that’s how Chicago became famous for its meat-packing  and the center of meat-packing for the United States.”

The Phoenix, a Chinatown restaurant specializing in the dim sum cuisine, is a hot-spot Cantonese location, Liddell said. He said that the Nine Dragon Wall and Chinatown mural are significant historical tourist sites.

According to Ma, Chinatown is becoming increasingly diverse, and more like China.

“Right now there are more and more Chinese people [in Chinatown],” Ma said. “They’re from different cities [and are] very diverse.”