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From Multifamily To Industrial, Pilsen Is A Sleeping Giant

From its beginnings as a settlement for Czech immigrants to its current standing as one of the centers of Chicago's Mexican-American community, Pilsen has always been a colorful, inclusive community. Now developers and investors are taking notice and seeking opportunities in the market. We've identified the foundations for this activity and the sectors seeing the most growth.

1. Arts and Entertainment


Thalia Hall (pictured), part of the successful partnership between Blue Star Properties' Craig Golden and Empty Bottle proprietor Bruce Finkelman that also gave us Longman & Eagle, The Promontory and SPACE in Evanston, successfully repositioned this long-vacant concert hall into one of Chicago's most popular concert venues. But Pilsen was teeming with noteworthy art studios and galleries before Thalia Hall opened. In 2002, the Podmajersky family established the Chicago Arts District in East Pilsen; it's now one of Chicago's most popular art walks.

2. Retail


The success of Thalia Hall carried over into the building's adjacent storefronts. Dusek's is one of the most popular restaurants in Chicago. The basement-level Punch House is a great watering hole before or after a concert. 18th Street is lined with a growing number of independent retail such as Open Books (shown), one of our favorite bookstores in town, and established restaurant and bars like Simone's and Honky Tonk BBQ that were open way before Thalia Hall but have benefited from the venue's success. Farther east, restaurants and retail found another foothold within the Chicago Arts District.

3. Multifamily


The ghosts of Pilsen's industrial past are slowly being repurposed into tomorrow's multifamily developments. Baum Development is planning to build 111 apartments in a former warehouse at 931 West 19th St, and Fox Chicago received a zoning change allowing it to build 99 apartments in an empty warehouse at 21st Street and Laflin Avenue (pictured). And there would be more apartments in Pilsen's pipeline, but community groups are insisting any new project have set-asides for affordable housing. Property Markets Group's plan to build 500 units on eight acres does not have the OK from Ald. Danny Solis (25th) over differences in affordable housing minimums.

4. Industrial and Data Centers

QTS Realty Trust's data center in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood

Manufacturing was long a staple of Pilsen's economy, with warehouses and factories lined up for blocks along Cermak Road and Blue Island Avenue. That's changing. The Fisk Generating plant, a coal-fired electrical generating facility, was shut down four years ago. Community groups have lobbied to turn it into parkland and open space. QTS, meanwhile, opened a new 317k SF data center at 2800 South Ashland Ave (shown) that provides 24 MW of critical power. (It's also where Bisnow's 5th Annual Chicago Data Center Boom event will be held Sept. 13.)  Moody Tongue Brewing Co opened a production facility at 2136 South Peoria and is adding a tasting room. The city established a tax increment financing district to encourage retail and service-oriented development along the 907-acre Pilsen Industrial Corridor.