By Lynda Lopez
Riding the bus on the north side of Chicago is a tour of the past, present, and potential future of Logan Square and the northwest side of Chicago. When I am on the Fullerton bus heading west from California Avenue, I gaze at the joggers and white people walking their dogs. Storefronts are in transition, as new bars and restaurants settle into previous empty storefronts. Milwaukee Avenue between California and Fullerton Avenue seems to be nearing saturation as every storefront has been swooped up. After all, there is no room for empty storefronts in a gentrifying neighborhood. Empty lots that remain nearby will be home to one of the several luxury developments that have been approved, with some proposed rents varying from $1,500 to $3,200.
From California to Sawyer Avenue, there are very little emblems of a previous working-class culture. Everything looks shiny and new. Even the boulevards seem to look greener. From the Mark Fishman office on Kedzie Avenue to the boutique next door, I can’t help but feel I’m witnessing the Wickerparkification of Logan Square. As you go further west, a sharp divide occurs. Passing Kimball on Fullerton Avenue, the environment and storefronts don’t bear much of the signs of the changing neighborhood, as do the streets closer to California Avenue.
From Central Park to Pulaski Avenue, the vibrant Latino culture is still strongly evident. From stores selling quinceañera dresses to bakeries selling conchas, the streets still have a mom-and-pop spirit. Despite the story the storefronts tell, a closer look reveals a neighborhood in transition. Several new condo buildings were just built near Central Park Avenue and Palmer Street. Going west, another lies near Monticello Avenue and Palmer Street. 15 townhomes priced at over $400,000 were built along Ridgway Avenue and Schubert Street. More white people shop at Jimenez and await the bus near Dulcelandia on Springfield Avenue. With the homogenizing nature of gentrification in neighborhoods like Lincoln Park and Wicker Park, I fear the loss of the Latino presence throughout the community. It’s not a hollow fear as it’s already a reality in other parts of Logan Square. “My family is one of the last Latino ones on the block,” tells me one of my friends who lives near the California blue line station, “But we aren’t leaving anytime soon.
For now, I just continue to look out the window of the Fullerton bus and slowly see the changes moving west, but hope they don’t completely transform the community. One of the aspects I have cherished from living on the northwest side is the feeling that my culture is reflected in the people I see walking around and in the businesses that serve the community. Gentrification is often a way to erase the remnants that don’t fit into the dominant culture. A look at Chicago’s history is a testament to that.