Gentrification before gentrification

ABC 7 Chicago’s recent news segment featured Hermosa’s Walt Disney home.

By Lynda Lopez 

Recently, I saw that two new Hermosa breweries are hosting tours of their facilities for local residents. The Facebook event reads “Hermosa Tours.” My first reaction was one of concern. Others were quick to comment on the event page wall as well. “Isn’t this gentrification?”

Upon seeing this, I took some time to reflect. It’s important for me not to judge intent but implications. Hermosa residents are just as entitled as any other to enjoy new amenities in their community, but that also becomes a question of who amenities are meant for. It’s also important not to ignore context. Hermosa is the next neighborhood west of Logan Square. Breweries have become somewhat of a precursor to gentrification, and other signs aren’t lost to me.

Young white people are ubiquitously starting to rent in some of the apartment buildings west of Pulaski. The neighborhood is not too far from the western trailhead of the 606. The western part of Logan Square is experiencing rapid development. There are new luxury townhomes being built on Central Park and Monticello along Bloomingdale Avenue. Other single-family homes have been built or are being built on Dickens and Hamlin. Hermosa isn’t (yet) undergoing gentrification, but there are signs that point to rising interest from outsiders.

Most recently, Hermosa has been on the news because of the restoration of Walt Disney’s childhood home on Tripp and Palmer by people from Los Angeles’ entertainment industry. News cameras and tourists have made their way to this humble corner of Hermosa.

With this in mind, something called “Hermosa Tours” can contribute to the creation of a narrative of the community that fits the interests of developers and speculators.

It’s just the reality of the city we live in. Communities are seen as investments and dollar signs. How do we make sure we don’t make it easy for narratives to be reframed within communities of color? We have to make sure we are being intentional of our language and actions. In this case, perhaps it was best to have kept the tour private to local members of the Hermosa Neighborhood Association. Otherwise, who are we really inviting? It surely isn’t the working-class people of Hermosa, so WHO are we really inviting?