Abandoned Buildings Could be Converted into Art Studios and Apartments in Pilsen

WBEZ staffer Micah Maidenberg reports that a Pilsen alderman may convert block of abandoned buildings in his neighborhood into apartment units and studio spaces for artists.

“In June,” Maidenberg writes, “Alderman Danny Solis, who represents the area in Chicago’s City Council, introduced an ordinance that calls for allowing “work-live units” in the buildings, where artists and small-scale producers would be able to collapse their home and professional lives into the same space.”

“It’s an idea he says is tied to the changing nature of Pilsen itself, a historically immigrant neighborhood that once helped form the core of Chicago’s industrial economy. Now, there are fashion stores and art galleries amidst the cement makers and light industry.”

Pilsen has become increasingly commercialized in recent years, but have the neighborhood’s residents welcomed this change? Or have they resented it? And how do they feel about this new development? We spoke with Jessie Winthrop, a long-time Pilsen resident, to get her take on the project:

How do you feel about these “work-live units”?

I have mixed feelings about them. On the one hand, I like to see young, artistic types moving into the neighborhood. On the other hand, I worry about how the units might affect Pilsen’s older population.

Do you think the units will displace some of Pilsen’s poorer residents?

Yes and no. The units seem to be designed to appeal to young, artistic types interested in inexpensive housing, and I don’t really think that a bunch of young bohemians are going to immediately displace Pilsen’s working class population. But they could certainly galvanize gentrification in the area, and that could ultimately drive up housing prices. So, as I said, yes and no.

Do you think that the artists who move into these units might be able to jumpstart Pilsen’s economy?

Quite possibly. I know from experience that the economy of East Pilsen has improved tremendously since Podmajersky put up a bunch of galleries in the area. So it’s definitely possible, and maybe even likely, that the same thing might happen in the area immediately surrounding these “work-live units.”

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Image Credits: Mark Susina

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