Rosemont not all Gucci, Gibsons and glitz

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Traffic drives past the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. | Tim Boyle/For Sun-Times Media

We all know the Rosemont of the Allstate Arena, the Rosemont Theatre, the luxury hotels and the $50 prime steaks at the local outpost of Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse.

People from around the world step off jets and go straight to Rosemont’s convention center and its mall with Burberry, Prada, Gucci and Barneys New York stores.

In the shadows of that Rosemont subsists a much more humble neighborhood of apartment buildings where many of the town’s blue-collar workers live. Known as “The Courts,” it’s where Rosemont’s first murder in nearly a decade took the life of a 14-year-old junior-high student on Friday.


The spotlight on the Courts is likely to renew the debate over whether the largely Hispanic neighborhood gets short shrift from the otherwise glitzy village, which has been run by white politicians since Donald E. Stephens founded it 56 years ago.

For many years now, the full story of the clout-heavy northwest suburb has been a tale of two Rosemonts.

There’s an upscale, gated area of mostly single-family homes where the village puts on a huge holiday lights display that’s visible from the Northwest Tollway.

The gated community is 10 percent Hispanic, according to an analysis of census data by the Medill Data Project at Northwestern University.

Then there’s the neighborhood near the arena — which is 77 percent Hispanic. Renters in the six-flat buildings there long have complained of rats and roaches.

Balloons now mark the spot in The Courts where eighth-grader Patrick Boswell was fatally shot in the head during what prosecutors described as a confrontation between rival gang members.

Mayor Bradley Stephens said both he and his father and predecessor, the late Donald E. Stephens, had worked hard to improve life in the neighborhood.

“These are all great people who work in our hotels here in Rosemont,” Stephens said of the neighborhood’s residents. “Obviously, it’s a major problem for a young person to be shot and killed. There is still work to be done.”

A recreation center in the neighborhood was expanded in the last five years. The brick wall of a single-story industrial building near the center features a brightly colored mural of a rose — the village symbol — flanked by the Virgin of Guadalupe, an Aztec pyramid, singer Vicente Fernandez and other Mexican motifs.

“Anytime you have multi-family buildings, you have landlords who just want to cash out,” Stephens said. “They don’t live in the area. They don’t care.”


Children exit a school bus in an area known as “The Courts” in Rosemont Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. | Tim Boyle/For Sun-Times Media

Stephens said village officials do care about The Courts.

“We’re continuing to increase programming at the recreation center so kids understand there are options and don’t have to hang with unruly types,” he said.

An 18-year-old man who said he knew the alleged killer and did not want his name published, for fear of police harassment, told me life in The Courts is not as rosy as the mayor says.

“It wasn’t surprising,” the man said of the murder. “We still have rats, roaches and bedbugs, and the village doesn’t do s—.”

Police said there was no danger to the public in the wake of the shooting, a block from the arena.

Still, despite murder charges filed against 20-year-old Cesar Garay of Rosemont, the police presence in The Courts appeared heavy Tuesday. Three police SUVs pulled me over as I drove between the apartment buildings, stopping to talk to residents shoveling snow. “Are you lost?” an officer said to me.

In the recreation center, two Hispanic employees said nobody was using the facility after a zumba class ended. The two men said they, like most other village employees, live in the gated community on the other end of town from The Courts.


A security officer waves to a car passing through a security check point to a gated community in Rosemont, Illinois, Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. | Tim Boyle/For Sun-Times Media

Tim Boyle

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