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The excerpt below is from Cloee Cooper from WTTW. Link to the full article is at the bottom.

In March 2016, Mayor Rahm Emanuel formally announced a plan to transform the abandoned BNSF railroad into a multi-use path called the Paseo, similar to the Bloomingdale Trail, or 606, on the city’s North Side. Part of a citywide “rails-to-trails” initiative, the Paseo would transform four miles of abandoned railway running from the east side of Pilsen to South Lawndale.


At least $1.7 million from local tax increment financing districts, or TIFs, has already been allocated for feasibility studies, land acquisition, and construction costs for the trail, “pursuant to each district’s formal redevelopment goals,” according to Peter Strazzabosco, deputy commissioner for the Chicago Department of Planning and Development. Most of that money will come from the Pilsen Industrial Corridor TIF.


Residents and Pilsen-based organizations — including The Resurrection ProjectPilsen Neighbors Community CouncilEighteenth Street Development Corporation, and Alivio Medical Center — originally proposed the Paseo in 2006 as part of the Pilsen Planning Committee Chicago Quality of Life Plan. Their hope was that it would encourage “a larger presence of people using the streets for positive activities” and help “reduce crime and the perception of danger.”

Teresa Fraga was a part of that committee. A resident of Pilsen for 52 years, Fraga takes pride in being able to tell stories about every home on her block, as well as name every homeowner. She also takes personal credit for proposing the Paseo

“The vision of the Paseo is that it will be a gathering place for families, creating safe and sacred spaces where people can come together,” said Fraga.


But 21-year-old Javier Ruiz, a lifelong resident of Pilsen, has a different view.


"It's going to raise the rents, raise property values, and displace a lot of people,” he said at an open discussion called “Development Without Displacement” at La Catrina Cafe, just down the street from the proposed Paseo. The event was organized by Pilsen Alliance, a social justice organization committed to building grassroots leadership and fighting displacement in Pilsen. 


He worries that the Paseo will impact the housing market in Pilsen much as The Bloomingdale Trail, or 606, affected the majority Latino neighborhoods of Humboldt Park and Logan Square. A 2016 study by the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University found that The 606 significantly increased property values within a mile of the trail, particularly in lower-income neighborhoods. On the western side of the trail, which passes through predominantly Latino and low-income neighborhoods, housing prices have increased 48 percent since construction on the trail began in 2013, according to the study.


Winifred Curran is an associate professor of geography at DePaul and has been collaborating with Pilsen Alliance since 2004. She says plans for the Paseo are "driven not by community demand, but by what the city and real estate interests think make the city more attractive."


"No one is against green space for the sake of being against green space,” she said, “but they recognize that it is going to have negative effects, that is going to displace people. A park doesn’t do you any good if you can’t afford to live near it."

Byron Sigcho, the director of Pilsen Alliance, said the city has not properly informed Pilsen residents how the Paseo will impact affordable housing in the neighborhood.


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