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Sun-Times’ editorial defending landmark district plan for Pilsen is ‘pie in the sky’

The city simply cannot afford what it would take to help Pilsen residents afford to live in a landmark district. I sought, instead, a middle-ground solution.

Thalia Hall at West 18th and South Allport. | Courtesy llinois State Historic Preservation Office.
Thalia Hall, at 18th and Allport, is one of Pilsen’s two official landmark buildings.
llinois State Historic Preservation Office

On Tuesday, the Sun-Times published an editorial arguing that a historic landmark district could be imposed in Pilsen with the proper financial incentives for property owners. The editorial board also called the proposed solution I put forward, with input from multiple community discussions, “toothless” because I did not try to legislate unilateral authority for myself to control demolitions in the proposed district.

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One of my core principles as an alderman is collaboration. Collaboration with my community is paramount, but so is collaboration with the city and its departments, even when we disagree. I proposed a community process that the city would have to honor before granting a waiver for a demolition or other major project. If the city chooses to ignore the will of the people, as it has done throughout the ongoing Hilco disaster, the community will continue to hold them accountable.

Given that the city has continually argued for building preservation — and pushed for the landmark district even when it lacked workable financial incentives — it would be a huge reversal for them to grant a waiver to demolish an architectural gem, especially over the objection of the community. Pilsen residents deeply value and cherish Pilsen’s history and culture, and have long been the sole advocates and protectors of our neighborhood, its people, and, yes, its buildings too.

Unfortunately, your suggestion that a landmark district would be the best solution if only the city worked out better financial incentives is a pie in the sky. I did not reject the landmark without careful consideration and nearly a year of negotiations with the city.

The reality is that the city simply cannot afford what it would take to help Pilsen residents afford to live in a landmark district. My solution sought the middle ground in absence of money. However, people can still landmark individual buildings, and my office is ready to help owners navigate that process.

With the introduction of my community-backed substitute ordinance, the landmark district is officially off the table, and according to their rules cannot be proposed again in the same geographic area. Here in Pilsen, we are ready to move on and find real solutions to preserve our community from gentrification and displacement.

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, 25th Ward

No basis for blaming top cop

A letter in Wednesday’s Sun-Times, by retired Chicago Police Lt. Bob Angone, taking exception to the mayor’s blaming of Police Supt. David Brown for last weekend’s violence, was spot on. And I’ll add that Mayor Lori Lightfoot shouldn’t be compromising his resources by stationing police along the lakefront all day long. What a waste of manpower this has been as the officers sit in their cars doing nothing. I’m sure the superintendent knows of other duties these officers could be performing. Instead, they are guarding the lakefront against 77-year-old runners and walkers like me.

Bob Milhizer, Belmont Harbor