Can Pilsen pull off responsible development?
“I don’t think we’re actively displacing anyone; we hope to place people by employing them,” says Hammel, who speaks Spanish. He and Tshilds plan to hire about 25 Pilsen residents this month, and when the kitchen’s ready, they’ll issue “a really big invitation” to locals, offering them the opportunity to “test the place before it opens.”
“I love to hear about restaurants coming into the area,” says Maya Solis, a lifelong Pilsen resident who studied urban planning at UIC. The 33-year-old distinguishes between independent businesses and chains, which she says sap an area of its character. “You will never see a Starbucks in Pilsen. Over my dead body! That’s what I tell my dad,” says Solis, who works for her father, 25th Ward Ald. Danny Solis.
Growing up across the street from a gang house, she remembers when Pilsen was “very dangerous. I asked my mom, ‘Can we move?’?” Solis recalls. “But she said, ‘This is going to be a nice place for you and your kids.’?”
Mother knows best. Today, Solis and her husband are Pilsen homeowners and expecting their first child. Overall, she’s pleased with the neighborhood’s changes. “It’s safer,” she notes. “More restaurants. The parks are nicer; the streets are cleaner. There’s more diversity. I hear, ‘Oh, you live in Pilsen. I love that neighborhood!’?”