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Analysis: Why a neighborhood rejected a "progressive" plan for historic preservation

In 2018, Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development felt that they had a progressive plan to preserve one of the city’s most rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. Pilsen, on the city’s southwest side, was home to Eastern European immigrants in the 19th century; in the 20th century, it drew newcomers from Mexico. The overlapping waves of arrivals left enduring marks on the neighborhood’s architectural fabric, where ornate “Bohemian Baroque” buildings carry brilliant murals painted to express the area’s Latinx heritage. But residents of Pilsen were facing growing affordability pressures: According to the Chicago Sun-Times, median home prices went from $76,000 to $198,000 from 1990 to 2015, and the median sale price in 2019 was $430,000, per Chicago Magazine.

To protect more than 850 buildings in Pilsen, the city proposed establishing a historic district, primarily focused on simple, vernacular building types.

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