Tribune finds winds of change in Pilsen

An article in today’s Tribune identifies a new group that is settling (or gentrifying?) Pilsen: “muppies,” or Mexican yuppies. Since Alderman Solis took office 12 years ago, the Near South Side neighborhood has seen a decent amount of new development, sparked largely by the return of the muppies, but all of that will soon be overshadowed with the construction of Renaissance Village, a massive development that is slated to bring 500 residential units and 45,000 square feet of commercial space to the neighborhood in 2011.

Although many Pilsen residents voice opposition to “gentrification,” it isn’t happening here en masse. Scattered, new condominium buildings are priced higher than the older buildings they replaced but are far outnumbered by houses and flats that are 80-plus years old.

“The older places are bought by muppies and yuppies who know they can get a good deal on a place and have rental income, too,” says Miguel Chacon, Pilsen resident and real estate agent with Sheldon Good Brokerage in Chicago. “They grew up here or nearby. They aren’t the people who won’t go south of Madison [Avenue] without an armored car.”

“Some people say, ‘I don’t want the neighborhood to change,’ ” says Chacon. “But then they raise their rent, which of course brings in more professional people.”

Ald. Solis told the Trib that he’s planning some infrastructure improvements for Pilsen, and encouraging restoration of existing buildings.

In a separate story appearing in today’s Gazette, the owner of the controversial Maxwell Street hot dog stand on the corner of 18th and Halsted streets, which Solis and other neighborhood groups have opposed, has said that he would be willing to sell the site for $900,000 to $950,000.

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