Developing standards for businesses in gentrifying Pilsen

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Lo Rez Brewery opened last year in Pilsen.

By Lynda Lopez

I have been thinking a lot about the culture of alcohol consumption in gentrifying neighborhoods, particularly Pilsen. How do we grapple about the role of alcohol in gentrifying neighborhoods and the culture around it? What does an anti-displacement lens look like in relation to this?

While I think that there is a place for the young, Latinx culture in Pilsen, I also think in the midst of that has to be critical analysis of the places we frequent and room to disagree as what standards we want to adhere to.

I don’t think it can be as simple as saying “don’t go to these breweries” or “don’t go to these bars.” That is a start to a larger conversation of standards for the places we think represent the values we would like for a community embodying an anti-displacement framework. I want to start unraveling some of these standards, so I am going to pose questions that may help in that endeavor for whoever would like to be part of this undertaking.

Standards for businesses in gentrifying neighborhoods

Locally-owned/operated: Are the owners or investors from the community? What does it mean “from the community?”

Rooted in community: How does the business fit into the fabric of the community and contribute to existing needs from the most marginalized people? If not locally-owned, how does a newcomer approach interacting with people in the neighborhood to ensure it is rooted in community?

Employment: What percentage of jobs should go to local residents (how do we define local?)? What kinds of jobs should be brought in and who should they target (demographics, skills, etc)?

Accessibility: This one can be up to interpretation, but is it accessible to diverse members of the community? For example: What is the price range of items on the menu? Is it language accessible? Who is the target audience of the establishment? What audience do we want these places to be catering to? Is there an expectation that it will be geared to Latinx people?

Community benefits: What is the expectation for new businesses in the ways they give back to the neighborhood? Do we expect engagement with local organizations, access to space, etc.?

Types of businesses: Zoning and land ownership complicates this, but does the community want to express desires to recruit businesses beyond bars and breweries? If so, what types of places would we want to come into the neighborhood? This also broadens the scope of accessibility, as many of the new places are geared towards young people.

Accountability: How would businesses be held accountable? Would we require a community benefits agreement? What other kinds of agreements can there be? Is there an entity they would have to report to? How does the alderman and other local organizations tie into this?

Politics: Do we expect businesses to be aligned with local struggles, particularly to be allies against gentrification?

I am sure there are many more standards to unravel, but this are some of the ideas I have as a start to this long conversation.

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