Chicago’s Pilsen Neighborhood May Get Landmark Designation | WBEZ
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Chicago’s Pilsen Neighborhood May Get Landmark Designation

Part of the Pilsen neighborhood is one step closer to designation as a Chicago landmark.

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks voted Thursday to advance a proposal for that designation. Pilsen has two periods of significance for the historic designation, according to Matt Crawford from the Bureau of Planning, Historic Preservation and Sustainability in Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development.

Crawford said the area’s architecture from 1870 to 1969 built by Eastern European immigrants is the first period. The report called the style of buildings “Bohemian Baroque.” He added that the neighborhood’s current, predominantly Mexican population adapted those buildings and enhanced them by creating murals.

At Thursday’s commission meeting, Crawford said Pilsen meets four criteria necessary to receive landmark distinction. Those included its “contribution to the city’s social and cultural history” and the idea that “all the buildings in the district work together to tell a story of the city’s history.”

But, despite the board’s unanimous approval, not all Pilsen residents support the designation. Kyle Frayn said he’s lived in Pilsen for 10 years, and has owned a three-flat building for the last nine years.

“You say that this has been a community-involved process. It hasn’t,” Frayn said during the public comment period of Thursday’s meeting. “There’s been exactly one community meeting in Pilsen.”

After the meeting Frayn said he would like to add on to his property to accommodate his family, but the designation would restrict that.

Allison Toonen-Talamo introduced herself as an architect-in-training and a member of Landmarks Illinois’ young professional committee. She said she supports the designation because of the neighborhood history it would preserve.

“My mom immigrated to Pilsen with her family from Mexico City,” Toonen-Talamo said. “Unfortunately the historic home where she has lived has been demolished, just like many others.” Toonen-Talamo said without landmark protection for homes like her mother’s, “the physical ability of our stories to hold will be gone.”

The proposal (pdf) to make part of Pilsen a landmark district now advances to Chicago City Council’s Zoning Committee.

Carrie Shepherd is a news reporter for WBEZ. Follow her @cshepherd.

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