The Impact of Development Booms in Latino Neighborhoods

By Christopher Estrada & Areli Quintana

Ranked one of the coolest neighborhoods in Chicago for its food, bars, and overall lifestyle in 2017, Logan Square has been the cornerstone for younger generations as a place to not only hangout at on weekends, but to reside in as well.

According to data from the City of Chicago, a record high 109 building demolitions permits were issued in 2017, followed by 70 new construction permits, a 14 percent increase from the previous year. To the newer residents living in the neighborhood the numbers might not have posed an issue, but to the Latinos who have called the neighborhood home for years prior, it is a reminder of the changing landscape of their neighborhood.

New construction permits group both new development projects and renovations to existing buildings together. An increase in the number of permits issued tend to be an indicator of housing starts and the overall economic strength of a region, so while many residents get displaced and pushed away from the neighborhood, those moving into the new and improved homes, apartment buildings and condominiums get to revel in the economic boom of the neighborhood.

Since 2010, the city has issued over 480 new building permits in Logan Square.

View how the permits are dispersed throughout the neighborhood.

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“The increase in permits to build infrastructure have definitely changed the overall feel of the neighborhood,” said Luis Perez, 20, a former Logan Square resident whose family was forced to move out of the neighborhood due to high rents and the changing neighborhood. “It feels less like a neighborhood and a community and more like a commercial place where people only come for attractions and is no longer a community where people come to build families and live a normal life.”

While Logan Square has struggled amid these issues, it is not the only neighborhood to see their populations and demographics shift. The Pilsen neighborhood on the Lower West Side of Chicago, is seemingly always making headlines fighting back on the dangers of developments and gentrification.

While neighborhoods have increasingly fought back on these issues in recent years, Dr. Rachel Weber, Urban Studies professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said this is not an entirely new phenomenon.

“People have been talking about the gentrification of Pilsen since I moved here 20 years ago and even before that in Logan Square,” she said. “Certain things can accelerate the pace. The growing affluence of young people, who are working downtown, who want to live in the city, but don’t want to live downtown or in the suburbs so these neighborhoods that are more peripheral to the central business district become increasingly popular.”

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View of the controversial MiCA apartments from the popular California CTA Blue Line stop.

The way developers seek out neighborhoods can play a role in how fast a neighborhood can change explains Weber.

“They’re looking for returns, for profits, and they want to have stable and increasing cash flow,” she said. “They have to pick neighborhoods where people are willing to pay more money to live. And if they’re in a hot neighborhood or if they can help make the neighborhood hot, then that is more assured.”

While Logan Square has been a clear “hot spot” for developers as the number of new construction permits show, Pilsen hasn’t necessarily seen the plight that Logan Square has in new construction projects and the overall construction boom in Chicago at the moment.

“Logan is very unique,” said Lynda Lopez, Director at the Pilsen Alliance. “Pilsen hasn’t had those kind of massive luxury towers, [East Pilsen] is very contentious and has the potential especially because of the vacant lots on 18th and Peoria, which would have already been swooped up in Logan.”

pilsen

While Logan Square has seen massive sky rises built near public transportation, Pilsen has seen smaller, modern buildings built near its train stations.

Lopez credits the history and organizations present in Pilsen as contributing factors in slowing down efforts in changing the neighborhood.

“If there wasn’t [formed organizations], Pilsen would’ve gone the way of other neighborhoods,” said Lopez, who also pointed out the impact the groups have had on what actually passes in the neighborhood. “Alderman Solis, because of the organized groups has to be somewhat careful on what he decides to approve because there’s a lot of people here that work to keep him accountable.”

Infographic: View differences between the two neighborhoods.

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The struggle for housing affordability has troubled the neighborhoods in both communities as they fight back on the increasing rent costs and the inability for families to find affordable homes.

However, there are formed organizations in Logan Square fighting back on the issue. At the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, the goal is to reach developers, politicians, and owners to create affordable housing in the neighborhood.

So how do the implementation of new and redeveloped buildings in these type of neighborhoods affect real estate prices and housing affordability? It depends, Weber said.

“The price points of new developments can skew the neighborhood rents upwards. At the same time they are adding more suppl,  and there’s not tremendous amount of demand. It could be that having new supply could potentially lower rents. Though we see little of that happening.”

Perez is one of these residents who has been directly affected by the rent spikes as he’s had to move out of the neighborhood due to the unaffordability. Still being a homeowner in the community has caused stress on how high they set rent prices due to these reasons.

“We’ve had to invest more in our building overall and increase rent prices in order to compete with overall infrastructure surrounding Logan Square,” he said.

While people like Perez have been greatly affected by the buildings and , some Latino businesses have seen a positive outcome to the new buildings and the influx of new residents.

Catalin Zambrano, owner of El Condor, a family-owned South American store that has been around since 1996, has seen a positive outcome. “Business-wise there has been a positive change,” Zambrano said. “Contributing factors are the new bars, restaurants, and apartments in Logan Square.”

Perez explained that this hasn’t been the case for all Latino businesses in the neighborhood.

“There are still a lot of businesses that were forced to leave and relocate due to the cost of living going up,” Perez said. “The amount of business that being successful versus those that had to leave and close up are huge. It’s still a negative impact in terms of businesses and ownership.”

Beloved businesses have vanished from the neighborhood  and many times they are replaced or new ones arise from vacant lots resulting in  new restaurants that fit the feel of the neighborhood better than traditional eateries once present in the community.

“There’s commercial gentrification as well as residential. Small businesses that can’t afford the rent often are displaced and replaced,” Weber said. “It really matters what kind of stores, the marketing strategies and whether or not these stores are able to change with the times with neighborhoods changing.”

Adapting and integrating oneself into a changing community is often heard when talking about issues surrounding gentrification. However, it’s not so easy in a neighborhood on track to inhabit more White residents in a historically Latino neighborhood.

View the changing racial demographic between White and Hispanic populations since 2010

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“We don’t feel connected to the community anymore,” Perez said. “Over the years we’ve had to see our Latino community move out.  We’ve moved to an area where it is more Latino based so we can sit in and feel actually at home rather than feel like an outsider.”

So how can neighborhoods like Logan Square and Pilsen be revitalized without pushing the communities out?

“That’s the big question, the million dollar question” Weber said. “Development without displacement…Developers have no internalized incentive to preserve a neighborhood and they’re the ones making change. It’s hard.”

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