Community Attitudes Towards Pilsen Gentrification

By Jennifer Pesole and Claudia Flores

UIC student Abbey Hays lived in the Pilsen neighborhood for nine months and quickly noticed changes.  

She said old buildings are being replaced with new, modern housing complexes that seem out of place.  She noticed an increased police presence, more homeless Hispanic people and more white people.

Hays said she believes that these changes are due to developers buying property at low prices, then rebuilding and selling at “exorbitant” prices with higher property value.

“[Developers] completely disregard the people in the neighborhood in the name of profit,” she said.

As new people move in, they are in need of housing as well, so they are not seen as the cause of the problem.  “It’s a horrible cycle perpetuated by profit-driven developers that would never even think of living in that neighborhood themselves.”

New housing under construction. Photo by Claudia Flores.

Historically, Pilsen, a neighborhood in Chicago’s Lower West Side, is known for its rich Mexican culture.  Since the 1960s, Mexican residents moved into the area and it became Chicago’s first majority Mexican neighborhood. Pilsen has also been an area targeted by developers because of its close proximity to downtown Chicago.

While development constantly aims to improve neighborhoods for residents, but sometimes it creates so much economic change that it leads to gentrification.  As new buildings pop up, property values and taxes increase, pushing out longtime residents who can no longer afford to live there.

Pilsen was targeted for urban renewal in the 1980s, which began when a Czech developer “planted a beachhead of gentrification,” according to Professor John-Jairo Betancur, who works in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Urban Planning and Policy Department.  “This beachhead was followed by spillover gentrification in adjacent areas until much of the area surrounding this cluster was gentrified.”

Pilsen neighborhood. Photo by Claudia Flores.

This gentrification has continued steadily for the next few decades as aldermen and the city approve zoning changes, property conversions, and new developments.  Larger, more expensive housing, properties, and new condominiums are being constructed for new residents who are moving into the area.

At the current pace and in the current trends, it will maintain pretty much the current structures, although gentrified,” Betancur said.

The effects of a gentrified area can be devastating to the community that is already present.  Pilsen has historically been home to mostly Mexican residents, who give a strong, defining culture to the neighborhood.  

According to the United States Census Bureau, the percentage of Hispanic residents keeps declining as more residents of other races are moving in.  In 2000, Hispanic and Latino people made up 62.7 percent of the total population, specifically in the 60608 zip code.  In 2010, the percentage decreased to 55.9.

The displacement of current residents is causing the loss of many aspects of community that Pilsen is known for, like “networks, support institutions and structures, neighborliness, structures of self-help and mutual help, its Mexican flavor and composition,” Betancur said.  “In short, a completely different neighborhood.”


View Flourish graphic comparison of population change by race.


Although housing prices are still relatively affordable in general, with the housing prices only increasing, it will eventually lead to some residents being unable to afford to live there any longer. As of 2016, the average detached home was valued at $308,989, which is higher than the average value of a home in the city of Chicago (priced at $298,915).

According to Byron Sigcho, Director of the Pilsen Alliance, Pilsen has strict zoning as well as a mandate requiring developers to maintain 21 percent of the housing affordable. However, some would argue that this isn’t enough because the affordability defined does not accurately represent the community.

Affordable housing in Chicago depends on the Area Median Income (AMI).  According to City-Data.com, the median household income in Pilsen in 2016 was $37,333, compared to $53,006 in Chicago.  Additionally, 25.9% of the Pilsen population lives below the poverty level.

City standards determine that rental housing is affordable if people who earn 60 percent of the AMI and spend less than 30 percent of their income on rent can afford to live there.  Currently, the Pilsen Land Use Committee (PLUC) reduced the target income for rental housing to 30 to 50 percent of the AMI.


View Juxtapose graphic of a redevelopment in Pilsen.


Jack Chavez, who has lived in Pilsen for two years, feels that people are not moving out just because of the more expensive living costs, but also because ethnic groups tend to want to live among others of their race. Mexicans are leaving Pilsen because they want to live in an area with other Mexicans.

However, some residents are seeing positive aspects of urban renewal in Pilsen.  

“My thoughts on Pilsen have changed from negative to one of community, art, relationships, and growth,” Chavez said.

Pilsen is known for its rich culture and artistic community.  Many painters, writers, poets, filmmakers, and other types of artists find their home in Pilsen.

One of many murals in Pilsen. Photo by Claudia Flores.

“It’s a very artsy community living side by side with blue-collar ethnic people,” Chavez said. “It’s an interesting dynamic in that one sees the old and the new intermingling in the same space.”

Despite these struggles, Pilsen residents maintain strong ties throughout the community and thrive on culture, which is why people are both staying in the neighborhood and drawing new people to move in.  

Hays plans to take part in the community even after moving out.  

“I do not intend to leave this community and never think about it again,” Hays said. “After you recognize the violence behind gentrification, it becomes really hard to ignore.”


View Venngage graphic below:

Top Pizza Places in Chicago

Native Chicagoans take pizza very seriously, and there are always many debates about which pizza is best. Although New York and other places may boast about their pizza, many people will agree that Chicago is home to some of the best pizza in the U.S.

Below is a map based on an article by Adrian Kane for The Infatuation, ranking Chicago’s best pizza places. Surprisingly, this list does not mention Giordano’s, but it does include some great pizzerias. These pizzerias feature different styles of pizza, from classic New York style thin crust to deep dish to Neapolitan.

The map also includes driving directions between each location for those pizza fanatics interested in hitting all the top spots.

Google Earth Engine Timelapse – Surat, India

Large U.S. cities are constantly seeing population growth trends, but based on economic growth, the predicted fastest growing cities are in India. India has the second highest population in the world, following China, with over 1 billion residents, according to World Population Review.

In terms of economic growth, Indian cities are quickly increasing based on annual gross domestic product (GDP). According to World Economic Forum, Surat, India, “will have the fastest economic growth in the world.” Surat is a large city in the state of Gujarat known for its diamond processing and trading, as well as its IT sector.

Surat is expected to have an average annual GDP growth rate of 9.2% by 2035. In 2018 pricing, this is an increase from $28.5 billion in 2018 to $126.8 billion by 2035. India is even expected to grow faster than China in 2019 at a rate of 1.2% higher.

“India’s dominance of the list of fastest-growing cities illustrates the broader theme of the tipping of economic might from West to East,” the article states. “India now makes up 15% of global growth, fueled by reforms, foreign investment and strong domestic demand.”

This Google Earth Engine Timelapse of Surat, India, shows geographic change from 1984 to 2016. It illustrates the population growth of the city, which has led to its massive economic growth.

Surat, India

Chicago Pride Parade Attendance

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Chicago’s Pride Parade is an annual celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. It has been held in June every year since 1970 and originally began as a march. For several years, the parades were held in the Lakeview neighborhood, but have recently extended routes into Uptown due to increasingly high attendance rates. The four mile route consists of music, exhibitors, food, and drinks. The party continues afterwards at bars in Boystown.

This year’s Pride Parade will be held on Sunday, June 30, 2019. Attendance is expected to increase as more and more Chicagoans gather to celebrate and support the LGBTQ+ community.

The chart below shows yearly attendance rates at the Chicago Pride Parade from 1985-2014.

View yearly attendance rates at the Chicago Pride Parade

Chicago’s 10 Oldest Restaurants

By Jennifer Pesole & Christina Welky

The Berghoff

The holiday season is in the air and people are frantically running around to finish their Christmas shopping. This is a time not only just for gift giving, but it is also a time when many people get together to go out to dinner.

Society has an assumption that restaurants have a difficult time thriving in an industry where a new restaurant is only around the corner. However, Tian Luo and Philip B. Stark concluded in 2014, that only 17 percent of independently owned restaurant startups closed in their first year of business, compared with 19 percent for every other service-providing startups.

Chicago is home to 10 of the oldest restaurants and the oldest, Daley’s Restaurant, dates back to 1892. Unfortunately, the reporters were not allowed to incorporate this restaurant into the list due to Hyde Park’s crime rate. Therefore, this list dates back to The Berghoff, which opened in 1898.

Chicago independent food critic Michael Nagrant, a previous writer for the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye, was asked which of the restaurants had the greatest historical presence. Nagrant states, “I love that The Berghoff has a Chicago liquor license number one. I love that the Beatles once visited Margie’s. The family behind Italian Village is extraordinary and the second generation built an incredible wine cellar.”

Continue reading “Chicago’s 10 Oldest Restaurants”

Top 10 Chicago Museums

As the third largest city in the U.S., Chicago is full of famous attractions for both tourists and locals. Among these are many well-known museums popular for their historical and cultural exhibits. Ranging from art to history to science, Chicago’s museums offer beautiful and informative exhibits. Many of these museums offer free days or discounted tickets for Illinois residents, so take advantage and visit these top museums.

The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is America’s second largest museum and home to many famous works of art.

Museum of Science and Industry

The Museum of Science and Industry features exhibits on technology, space, energy, transportation, history, and more.

The Field Museum

The Field Museum is known for exploring natural history and the famous dinosaur named Sue in the lobby.

Museum of Contemporary Art

The Museum of Contemporary Art features modern works of art by artists like Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons.

Design Museum of Chicago

Chicago’s Design Museum is located in the Block 37 shopping center and is mostly run by volunteers.

Chicago Architecture Center

The Chicago Architecture Center recently opened in August 2018 and features skyscraper exhibits and an interactive model of Chicago.

Adler Planetarium

The Adler Planetarium features everything related to astronomy and hosts an “Adler After Dark” program for adults.

Chicago History Museum

The Chicago History Museum is full of both temporary and permanent historic exhibits about Chicago.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is dedicated to nature, biology, and interactive ecosystems.

National Museum of Mexican Art

Located in Pilsen, the National Museum of Mexican Art features colorful murals, Mesoamerican artifacts, and modern art.