Chicago City Council committee sides with Pilsen community, votes down landmark district proposal

Karen Jordan Image
Wednesday, December 2, 2020
City Council committee votes down Pilsen landmark district proposal
A Chicago City Council committee voted down a proposal to designate Pilsen as a landmark district, listening to feedback from the community.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood will not become a landmark district after the City Council Zoning Committee unanimously voted down the measure Tuesday.

Two years ago, city officials proposed designating part of Pilsen as a Historic Landmark District, which would have made the Southwest Side neighborhood one of the largest in the city and the only Latino neighborhood deemed historic.

Members of the City Council Committee on zoning, landmarks and building standards sided with the community to vote against the ordinance.

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Many people who live and work in Pilsen said that was good news, as the landmark status would have protected buildings but not people, making it more expensive for them to live there.

"Prices just go up," said Mer Mansuria of Casa Indigo. "If you think of any other landmarks in Chicago, that's how those neighborhoods are also."

"It seems like such an outrageous bill to be passed, to make things so inconvenient for business owners and building owners in the area," said Nina Flomp of Crybaby Tattoo.

But rejecting the status means Pilsen is not protected from continuing gentrification, according to Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago which supported the landmark designation. Pilsen has been on the organization's endangered list since 2006.

"In those 14 years we've lost 14,000 people, almost 1,000 a year, 90 buildings and countless families," he said.

25th Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez, whose ward would have included the landmark district, also opposed the proposal and instead called for a demolition free zone to curb rampant development. That was also voted down.

"In a time like this, in the middle of the pandemic, when we have many essential workers having issues paying property taxes, it would have been a big issue," he said.

Ald. Sigcho-Lopez said he has other options he will introduce in the coming months to address development in Pilsen, and community concerns that the neighborhood keeps its character and stays affordable.

The Zoning Committee was to have voted on the measure in July, but the City's Department of Planning and Development requested additional time to engage the community in an effort to help push through the Landmark District.

The plan had outlined the costs the property owners would face if seeking a building permit for repairs. According to a handout from the Department of Planning, costs for repairs will not increase under the ordinance. City Officials also added special provisions to the ordinance. One being an incentive that includes a property tax assessment freeze. According to the city, to qualify for this incentive there is a minimum investment of 25% of the property's market value.