Pilsen residents struggle to keep neighborhood local

ByMeghan Kluth WLS logo
Monday, May 13, 2019
Pilsen residents struggle to keep neighborhood local
Pilsen residents and businesses say they are struggling to keep up with gentrification as corporate money takes over.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Pilsen resident Mer Mansuria's dream was to open a restaurant in his neighborhood and use local ingredients. Now he is the proud owner of Cafe Indigo.

Mansuria said he's been trying to grow his business, but said it's hard for him to compete against corporate money coming into the neighborhood. Now he is asking for help from his neighbors to stop gentrification of the area.

"We want everyone in the neighborhood to be able to afford here and come to eat," said Mansuria.

Not only does he want to provide great, affordable food, he said he's also looking to expand to create more jobs for Pilsen residents. The problem is, he said he's competing with the world largest coffee shop chain for a new place.

"The struggle is real and I've lost thousands of dollars on places I thought we were about to get and then at the last minute they took a higher bid from someone else," Mansuria said.

As new developers come, the once predominantly Mexican neighborhood is changing.

"These developers are just asking for too much that a small business really can't afford and take that risk," Mansuria said.

That campaign to keep Pilsen local stretches far beyond the local businesses looking for storefront properties. It also impacts the families who have been fighting for decades to stay in the neighborhood.

"If you can afford to live somewhere else in the city then live somewhere else in the city," said Pilsen resident Tyra Davis Jenkins.

"Part of the culture is still alive within the city, but a lot of it is changing, becoming a lot more Americanized," said Iliana Mendoza,who also lives in Pilsen.