Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood debates the future of development in the area.
Public participation is necessary
to ensure communities benefit from change and development. The Pilsen neighborhood,
near Chicago's southwest side and bounded by Cermak Road to the south, 16th Street to the
north, Canal Street to the east, and Damen Avenue to the west, is especially
sensitive to the importance of community input because the neighborhood is attracting more and
more development. Looking at the big picture before deciding where, what and how
development in Pilsen should occur requires getting all the options on the
table, so that development will enhance Pilsen and the city.
Most people who live in Pilsen are excited about the prospects for improving
their community. But understandably, they don’t want to be left behind or lose
their voice in the community as it grows.
In the March 2006 election, local voters overwhelmingly passed a
referendum asking 25th Ward Ald. Daniel Solis to downzone the neighborhood.
Downzoning, which limits the height and/or number of units in a development, reduces
home choices and, thus, affordable home options. Downzoning would decrease the
supply and variety of homes being built, which means that the remaining homes
will become more expensive, especially if new construction is almost exclusively
big single-family homes. Pilsen’s need for a larger supply of more modest homes and
apartments within reach of families with low and moderate incomes cannot be met
The Pilsen neighborhood and the city as a whole need development that offers
many choices for living, and invites and meets the needs of people from all walks
of life. Other than modest growth between 1990 and
Chicago has been
losing population since the 1950s. Opening the market, rather than closing it
through downzoning, will provide the wide variety of housing choices that
create opportunity for neighborhood stores, local school improvement, and
new businesses – welcome progress for all residents.
downzoning also is no substitute for sustained community participation; the
needs of the community are simply too complex to be solved by a one-time
decision. Most people who live in Pilsen are excited about the prospects for
improving their community. But understandably, they don’t want to be left behind
or lose their voice in the community as it grows. Continued public participation
in the planning and visioning for the future of Pilsen is the best way to ensure
a voice; this means being willing to plan ahead and consider each new proposed
Residents in neighborhoods fortunate enough to attract new development, like
Pilsen, are faced with tradeoffs. Genuine public participation, carefully weighing
all the options, and making sure new development will provide the greatest
benefits to the community as a whole – that’s really all the people of Pilsen are