In three separate neighborhoods in the City of Chicago longtime residents are seeing big changes in their communities. Two of the neighborhoods are on the northwest side and one is on the southwest of Chicago. In the Humboldt Park, Logan Square, and Pilsen neighborhoods there have been new residents moving in, restaurants, and an increase in property taxes. Rents are increasing and displacing families hurting the character of the community. Lower income and the working class are questioning if and how long they can continue to live in their homes. Infrastructure, housing, and economic investments have made these neighborhoods new hot spots and the place to be but they are slowly losing their unique identity.  

            Driving through Division Street in Humboldt Park you will see and travel under two large steel 59 foot works of public art depicting the Puerto Rican flag that arch above the street. The flags were installed in 1995 between Western and California Avenue as a symbol of the Puerto Rican roots in the neighborhood that date back to the 1950s. This section of Humboldt Park on Division Street where the flags proudly stand is called Paso Boricua dedicated to Puerto Rican pride. On June 12, 1966 was the first Puerto Rican Parade and later that same day rioting started when police shot a 20 year old Graceless Cruz claiming Cruz was carrying a gun. The riots escalated and over 80 policemen and the National Guard attempted to restore order with tear gas, nightsticks, and K-9 units. The riots concluded days later on June 14 and the creation of several organizations worked hard to address the concerns and needs of the Puerto Rican community. The Humboldt Park neighborhood is the only officially recognized Puerto Rican neighborhood in the United States. The eastside of the Humboldt Park neighborhood has been seeing increasing gentrification and one thing that may accelerate that trend and in Logan Square was the opening of the 606 trail. The 606 trail is a nearly three mile greenway park constructed on elevated abandoned railroad tracks that opened June 2015. Near the trail on Humboldt Boulevard are two luxury homes listed for 929,000. The citizens of Humboldt Park did score one victory against gentrification when they successfully booted the music festival Riot Fest in 2015. The 207 acre park Humboldt Park was the site of Riot Fest 2012-2014 and the last year caused $182,000 in damages to the park.    

            The Logan Square neighborhood borders Humboldt Park to the north and has seen tremendous change. Over the last 15 years Logan Square has seen the most decrease in Latino residents than any other neighborhood in the City of Chicago. In the year 2000 Latino residents accounted for 65% of the neighborhood and in 2014 that number is now 46.8%. During that same time period there has also been an 8.2% decrease in black residents as well. At 2700 North Milwaukee Avenue the apartment building’s owner recently informed residents about a steep hike in rent. One renter who was previously reported paying around $800 per month was notified her rent for a one bedroom apartment was going to become $1,450 plus utilities. M. Fisher & Co the owner of 2700 North Milwaukee Avenue has been accused of doing the same with other buildings in Logan Square. Renters owned in two buildings by M. Fisher & Co have formed a tenants union hoping to fight the rent increases. Down the street on Milwaukee Avenue is a new luxury apartment development close to the California Blue Line CTA station that’s smallest unit is 463 square feet available for $1,495 a month. At 2211 North Milwaukee Avenue The L Apartments one bedroom apartments start at $1,575 and go up to $3,900 for an upper floor three bedroom. Logan Square is in high demand and was named one of the 15 hottest urban retail markets across North America by Cushman & Wakefield, a national commercial real estate services company. There are many Sixty percent of the adults in Logan Square are college educated, 58% are apartment renters, and the average household income is $84,529.        

       The neighborhood that has best slowed gentrification is Pilsen on the southside of Chicago. Given its close proximity to the University of Illinois at Chicago it’s only natural students would like a more affordable option than living close to campus in University Village. In 2000, 89% of Pilsen’s residents were Latino and as of 2013 it dropped to 81.6% with Caucasian’s population growing from 8.2% to 12.4% in that time span. The median monthly rent has increased in 2000 from $483 to $778 in 2013. New retail, galleries, and restaurants have opened with specialty coffee roaster Bow Truss on 1641 West 18th Street being a symbol of change in the neighborhood. It has been hit with anti-gentrification signs a couple of times. A Giordano’s has opened in the neighborhood as well. On a vacant 7.85 acre piece of land on the eastside of the neighborhood Property Markets Group wanted to develop 500 apartments. Property Markets Group had no interest in meeting Pilsen’s affordable housing quota of 21% and the project was blocked by Alderman Danny Solis. The Alderman has been an advocate for keeping the neighborhood affordable. “A mixed-income community, I think, is the best community,” Danny Solis has said.      

          Gentrification is a complex, emotional issue that sadly has had displaced thousands of longtime residents in lower and middle income neighborhoods. The cornerstone of every neighborhood that makes it special and unique is its people. It is important to keep our families together. No one is saying no one should live where they want to…but as a result families shouldn’t have to be displaced to accommodate the wealthy.   

           

Angel Guzman