A mural by Humboldt Park native Antonio Beniquez facing the intersection of California Avenue and Division Street, near the West Side neighborhood’s namesake park.

A mural by Humboldt Park native Antonio Beniquez faces California Avenue and Division Street, near the West Side neighborhood’s namesake park.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Humboldt Park building will block mural — so artist was asked to create new one

“It was an ode to an era,” said artist Antonio Beniquez, who’s been asked to create a mural for the new building that evokes the old mural.

A long-vacant lot in Humboldt Park will finally be developed, bringing housing and commercial space — but also blocking the view of an iconic mural.

The artwork is simply “Humboldt” in white, Old English letters on a black wall. But at one-story high, it has become widely recognized as a neighborhood landmark — and its loss has, likewise, come to symbolize that neighborhood’s transformation.

“It was an ode to an era,” said Antonio Beniquez, the artist who created the piece, which adorns a building adjacent to the lot at California Avenue and Division Street where the new development will go.

The Hispanic Housing Development Corp. plans to build a nine-story, mixed-use development. The plan was approved by the city about a year ago, and construction permits were issued last week.

Beniquez, a Humboldt Park native, created the iconic mural, an intricate calligraphy piece, in 2017.

“That mural was designed to pay homage to my upbringing in the neighborhood, which was riddled with graffiti and sometimes gang art,” said Beniquez, 38. “It wasn’t to romanticize it, but to say that’s what it was, to say we had made it out.”

A mural by Humboldt Park native Antonio Beniquez facing the intersection of California Avenue and Division Street, near the West Side neighborhood’s namesake park.

A mural by Humboldt Park native Antonio Beniquez faces California Avenue and Division Street. A new development slated for the vacant lot in front of it will block the view of the mural from that intersection.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The black-and-white color scheme was chosen as a deliberate contrast to the red, white and blue of the massive Puerto Rican flags lining Division Street by the namesake park.

“We already had enough representation in the neighborhood,” said Beniquez, whose family is Puerto Rican. He wanted the colors to include the diversity of people living in the West Side neighborhood.

Though the mural will be blocked by the development, Beniquez has been tasked by the developers with creating a mural on the new building.

The new mural will feature a hibiscus flower, symbolic of Puerto Rico, at the center, surrounded by multiple renderings of the letters “HP” that will evoke the old mural.

A planning document for the upcoming development says incorporating the old mural is a “key feature” of the design, adding: “This mural would be a symbol for the community of Humboldt Park.”

A rendering of the building planned for the vacant lot at the intersection of California Avenue and Division Street in Humboldt Park. The mural, featuring a hibiscus flower symbolizing Puerto Rico, was designed by the artist behind the original mural at the lot, Antonio Beniquez. 

A rendering of the building planned for the vacant lot at the intersection of California Avenue and Division Street in Humboldt Park. The mural, featuring a hibiscus flower symbolizing Puerto Rico, was designed by the artist behind the original mural at the lot, Antonio Beniquez.

Hispanic Housing Development Corporation

All 64 units in the building will be offered as affordable housing at 60% or below area median income, with nearly half offered for rent at 30% of that income level. It also will have 3,00 square feet of commercial space, the Department of Housing announced at a Humboldt Park community meeting Tuesday. The building will also have underground parking, according to the planning document.

Construction is estimated to take 16 months and is expected to begin near the end of the month, according to a spokesperson for the Hispanic Housing Development Corp.

Michael Loria is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South Side and West Side.

Murals

Chicago’s murals & mosaics


Part of a series on public art. More murals added every week.

Click on the map below for a selection of Chicago-area murals

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