Pilsen and Little Village Preservation Strategy

UPDATED Nov. 20, 2020

The Pilsen and Little Village Preservation Strategy is a ongoing, comprehensive, community-based effort to preserve the culture, character and affordability of the Midwest’s largest Mexican community.

Planned for the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods on Chicago’s Southwest Side, the multi-faceted strategy includes:

  • Enhanced affordability requirements for market rate housing developments
  • New housing resources to help existing residents avoid displacement caused by gentrification
  • A designated landmark district to preserve a portion of Pilsen's unique architecture and existing housing stock
  • An industrial modernization strategy to increase sustainable, head-of-household jobs
  • Open space improvements that enhance neighborhood character and livability

The first portions of the strategy were introduced to City Council in November 2018.

Over the last 50 years, Pilsen and Little Village have evolved as the center for Mexican life in Chicago, following previous waves of immigrants that included Poles, Czechs and Bohemians beginning in the late 19th century. More than 80 percent of their 115,000 residents identify as Latino, compared to 29 percent citywide, according to the American Community Survey.

More recently, Pilsen, and to a lesser degree Little Village, have been subject to gentrification pressures from upwardly mobile, non-Latino residents attracted to the area’s culture and urban authenticity, as well as from business investors catering to visitors and tourists.

Several of the strategies are identified in the Pilsen and Little Village Action Plan, completed in 2017 by the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) through extensive community participation.

Pilsen Preservation Meetings

DPD staff will provide an update on these strategies in Pilsen at a series of upcoming virtual forums for community residents and stakeholders. The bilingual meetings will include opportunities for comments, questions and discussions, and take place at the following dates and times:

6 p.m., Monday, Oct. 5 | Video or Presentation
12:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 14 | Video or Presentation
4 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 27 | Video or Presentation

Preservation Q&A in English
Preguntas y Respuestas de Preservación en Español

Additional details about the strategies and their progress are outlined below.

Affordable Requirement Ordinance (ARO) Pilot

The five-year pilot program increases the City of Chicago’s required affordability component for large residential projects within a 7.2-square-mile area in Pilsen and Little Village. The affordability requirement will increase from 10 to 20 percent of total units, with new provisions to incentivize the number of family-sized units in each project.

At least half of the required affordable units, or 10 percent of the total unit count, must be built on site. The remainder could be covered by in-lieu fees, which in turn rise by $50,000 to about $180,000 per unit in Pilsen and about $102,000 per unit in Little Village.

The pilot area in Pilsen is generally be bounded by Peoria Street, 16th Street, the Sanitary and Ship Canal and Western Avenue. The pilot area in Little Village is generally be bounded by Western Avenue, the Metra (BNSF) tracks, the Stevenson Expressway and the Chicago city limits. A map outlining the precise boundaries is available at this link.

The pilot was approved by City Council in December 2018. It will remain in effect until the end of 2023.

Affordable Housing Resources on Behalf of Existing Residents

In conjunction with the ARO pilot, the City is looking to target several preservation programs in Pilsen and Little Village to preserve affordable rental and for-sale housing for existing residents.

The strategy will also prioritize outreach to area homeowners by the Chicago Community Land Trust, which provides reduced property taxes in exchange for long-term affordability, and to low-income tenants by the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund, which provides rental subsidies on their behalf.

Pilsen Landmark District Designation

In addition to preserving a portion of Pilsen's architecture, the proposed landmark district would curb the ongoing displacement of current residents by requiring the Landmarks Commission's review of demolition proposals of residential and mixed-use structures along portions of 18th Street, Blue Island Avenue and adjacent blocks. Only the exteriors of contributing buildings would be subject to the designation, and only projects that require work permits from the Department of Buildings would be subject to review. 

The proposed district is characterized by Baroque-inspired buildings constructed between 1875 and 1910 and Mexican-American public art from the latter half of the 20th Century. A map of the proposed district is available here.

Recommended for landmark status by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks in May 2019, the district is tentatively in effect while a vote is pending with the City Council Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards. In July 2020, City Council approved a six-month extension of the vote to provide time for additional community engagement. A final vote is required by February 2021 or the district will go into effect on the Landmarks Commission's recommendation alone.

In August 2020, DPD staff provided a district update to the Landmarks Commission. The presentation from that meeting is available for review, and the meeting itself can be viewed on YouTube.

Draft Framework Plan Cover

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Download the staff report (English)

Industrial Corridor Modernization

The ongoing initiative seeks creative strategies to enhance employment, transportation and other amenities within the neighborhoods’ two industrial corridors to foster job-intensive uses that support families and the regional economy.

The process was initiated in the Little Village Industrial Corridor in April 2018. A framework plan is now available for review and public comment.

Open Space Enhancements

The strategy will work to complete the Paseo’s planned route along an underutilized rail line from 16th Street in Pilsen to 31st Street in Little Village while connecting new and existing parks through community-based designs that embrace local culture through art and programming.

An ordinance was introduced to City Council in November 2018 that will authorize the City to acquire four-miles of the route from BNSF Railway.

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