Wicker Park Small Business Thrive Despite Rising Property Taxes

By Jaqueline Terrazas and Melissa Solis

With property taxes skyrocketing in the city of Chicago, it is easy to see how local businesses might get the short end of the stick. Thanks to community support, this is not the case for small businesses in the Chicago neighborhood of Wicker Park.

Property taxes have steadily increased in Wicker Park. Some notable include businesses Reckless Records, independent music venue Subterranean, breakfast restaurant Bongo Room and Volumes Bookcafe. 

When Reckless Records moved to its current location in 2015, the building’s property taxes drastically jumped from $8.7 thousand to $31.3 thousand in the span of one year. From years 2014 to 2018, Bongo Room’s property taxes increased $10,203 Subterranean’s increased $7,071 and Volumes Bookcafe increased $6,429.

Despite the dramatic rising of these building’s property taxes, local businesses have been kept afloat thanks to community support and involvement.

Back in 2011, property tax rates in Chicago were between 3.75% and 8.87%. Wicker Park business were still up and coming during this time. According to the Wicker Park Chamber of Commerce, a data consumer survey was conducted in 2011 to examine business operations and revenue over the past 2 years. 51 local business in the Wicker Park area participated. 41.5% said their revenue increased by 5%, 34.1% said it stayed the same, 19.5% said it decreased by 5% and 4.9% were open less than two years. 

Despite the time difference of 8 years, there was still a success in the local businesses regardless of the high property taxes.  Although this upcoming year, it is predicted that Chicago could have a possible 11% increase in property taxes. 

Chicago is home to 2.7 million people and Wicker Park is home to about 54,000. Wicker Park has its own aesthetic providing a large diverse spectrum of food, clothing, entertainment, health, beauty and much more. Small local businesses have helped provide these luxuries and amenities to tourists and residents of Chicago and the residents have benefited the business greatly. 

Wicker Park is one of the oldest and popular neighborhoods of Chicago. It is located on the Northside of Chicago, right off the Blue Line Damen station. It neighbors Humboldt Park and Ukrainian Village, providing a large array of diversity amongst its residents. 

Wicker Park was home to many immigrants in the late 19th century providing work and home life. It was named after town alderman, Charles Wicker whose statue stands tall in the middle of the town park, Wicker Park.

A large contributor to the success of small businesses in Wicker Park is the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce. As stated on their website, the WPB Chamber of Commerce “strives to develop innovative ways to increase commerce” in the neighborhoods of Wicker Park and Bucktown. WPCC website even offers “business essentials” that help small businesses grow successfully.

 Alice Howe is part of the Wicker Park Bucktown Special Service Area #33 said businesses in the neighborhood are currently catering to families more than ever before and play a big part in what makes Wicker Park not only a neighborhood but a community as they participate and host events that involve the whole neighborhood.

The WPB Chamber hosts events with local businesses such as Window Wonderland, a month-long event the WPB Chamber hopes will encourage people to shop small and support local businesses. Window Wonderland will take place beginning November 30th through December 30th. Howe also says there has been an influx of restaurants settling into the neighborhood. 

November 30th is 2019’s Small Business Saturday of which all Wicker Park local businesses will be a part of. Businesses such as Mike’s Furniture, a family-owned/ operated business open since 1975 and located at 1259 N Ashland Ave. Lidia Colbert from Mike’s Furniture was available to comment and says she feels the community supports business at Mike’s Furniture and noted that she has noticed a change in customer demographics as before customers used to consist of mostly “Americans” and now there are more Latinos shopping there. 


Aside from small businesses, schools play a big role in the success of a neighborhood. Families look to move where there is a good education for their children. Guidepost Montessori in Wicker Park is a small chain of Montessori schools in the Chicagoland area. The Wicker Park location is their 3rd and newest location, that has only been open for two years. We got to sit down and talk to Brooke Houle, the extended day director who has been at the school since the open date. 

Brooke gave some insight on the schools’ success and their thoughts on having it located in Wicker Park. Houle then went into detail about the things local businesses have done to make Guidepost Montessori feel more welcomed.

She said, “The businesses have actually helped us more than we helped them. These businesses have been cooperative enough to allow us to have field trips to give the children a look inside a local small business and gave us some gifts as well.” 

Guidepost Montessori has attended  field trips at 4 local business in the area. Big Star; a beer-focused, taco-lovers honkey tonk restaurant, Jeni’s Ice Cream a trendy popular ice cream shop filled with exotic flavors, and Myopic Books, a cozy vintage bookstore filled with over 80,000 books and has been in Wicker Park for decades. 

It is clear that the businesses in Wicker Park help each other and serve the neighborhood and visitors which make it more of a community. Having an array of culture definitely benefits this because bringing families together is what gives Wicker Park its success since it is converting to a more family friendly neighborhood. 

In the beginning of 2019, Hollywood Cleaners, open since 1948, and Real Good Juice were forced to shut its doors. Rakki Cafe, known for its Japanese desserts, also closed its doors in early November. While Wicker Park has lost some local gems, they are constantly gaining new businesses. 

In 2016, Dox, a restaurant providing Greek fare, opened its doors and soon after shut down for remodeling. After this it was quickly replaced by Bonci, a famous Roman pizzeria making the Wicker Park location their second ever location in the United States. After a 4-year-run in Wicker Park, Scone City permanently closed leaving room for Graze to relocated from the Loop’s Revival Food Hall. 

Without its small businesses, Wicker Park would not have its reputation. These independently owned businesses cater to all types of people who reside, work or visit Wicker Park. Only time will tell if these new businesses will become long-lasting members of the Wicker Park community. 


Lake Poopó: Bolivia’s Second Largest Lake Dried Up

Bolivia is a country located in northern South America, bored by Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Argentina. It is a mountainous western region, which makes it one of the highest inhabited ares in the world. Bolivia is home to many rivers which belong to three major systems, The Amazon River, The Pilcomayo-Paraguay system and the draining systems on Lake Poopó .

Throughout the course of over 30 years, Lake Poopó has dried up and flooded over and over again. Although, in the recent decade, it has been reducing it size, and is now completely dried up. It is threatening the livelihood of fishing communities and an ecological disaster for hundred of species. The government is blaming climate change and dry weather caused by El Niño, although there could be other factors. Misuse of the water supply by the government also plays a role.

This is not the first time the lake experiences a complete drought, in 1994 it lost all its water and took several years to recover. Today, it is completely dried out, and it may not be able to regain water or its ecosystem.

Check out this Google Earth Timelapse to see the drought over the past 35 years.

The Rise of Craft Breweries in Illinois

Craft beer is a large industry in the United States with huge amount of economic growth. Beer is offered almost everywhere to provide leisure and a good buzz for those 21 and older. In 1765, Illinois opened its first craft brewery and today there are 229, according to the Brewers Association. 400,473 barrels of craft beer are produced a year which comes out to 1.3 gallons per adult 21 and over. People of the popular midwest state enjoy their beer.

In a small 7 year span, there was a significant increase of craft breweries in Illinois. In 2011, there was only 54, by 2015 it jumped to 157 and most recently in 2018, there are 229. This ranks Illinois 13th compared to the other American states. As time progresses and beer becomes more popular, it can be safe to say that The Prairie State has more breweries to come.


Warming Centers throughout Chicagoland

Illinois has some of the coldest recorded winters in the nation. This past winter, the midwest experienced a polar vortex, causing Chicago to hit a freezing -26 degrees with a wind chill of -51 degrees. According to the most current census data, Chicago has about 87,000 homeless people, leaving them with no heat for winters like this. As housing costs continue to rise in Chicago, especially with the increase in Illinois taxes, more and more people are forced to live on the streets or with no heat.

To help prevent these Chicago natives from freezing or sustaining frostbite, many warming centers have been created. These warming centers are buses, police stations, schools and many other ares that provide temporary warmth and shelter. Winter is coming and according to the Chicago Data Portal, here are plenty warming centers to beat the cold. 

Google Trends: Chicago Public Schools Strike and the vote to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day

Chicago Public Schools Walkout

It is without a doubt that public school teachers have always had low incomes. Considering they are shaping the youth of America, their wages should be much higher.

Chicago Public Schools have a total of 642 schools, 118 of them are charter schools and 524 are district schools. In the Chicagoland area, that’s around 32,000 publicly employed teachers. This Thursday Oct. 17, the Chicago Teachers Union plan on doing a walkout strike affecting about 400,000 students and their families.

The strike was organized by the CTU because of failure to agree on a contract with Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Mayor, Lori Lightfoot. The CTU is the nation’s third largest school district. They want a written contract for their requests, not verbal commitments as they have already been promised, but not received, from the district.

The CTU requested more support staff like social workers, nurses and librarians to provide assistance that teachers cannot always supply. Also, limits of class sizes which have gone up to high 30s and in some cases, mid 40s. This is not allowing teachers to provide specific needs to every child.

According to Google Trends on Wednesday Oct. 16, the searches for strike action were higher than Chicago Public Schools but they both had a strong connection.

Here is another graph from Google Trends displaying the searches of Chicago Public schools in Illinois.

Indigenous Peoples Day: the new Columbus Day

In 1492, Christopher Columbus came to America from Europe and invaded the land and all of the Native Americans who resided in it. Native Americans did not have the technology and weaponry that the Europeans had which caused them to have the inability to fight back, allowing them to be conquered.

Christopher Columbus was glorified for finding America, regardless of the horrible things that were done to the Native Americans. In 1937, Columbus Day became a national holiday admiring Columbus.

Current Native Americans do not agree with the recognition Columbus has been given. He took away the land of their ancestors, forcing them to live on reservations as if they do not belong to the country.

In 1977, the idea of changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day came about, and in 1989 a few American states decided to celebrate it instead of Columbus Day. On Monday Oct. 14, the nations capital celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day in hopes of making it a permanent switch in all of the country.

According to an analysis by Google Trends , this past Columbus Day, searches hit their peak. Indigenous Peoples’ Day searches were not as high as Columbus Day searches but in the hopes of changing the holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, it will gain more popularity and recognition.

Chicago MLB Cubs Fan Attendance from 2007-2016












This line chart describes the Chicago Cubs fan attendance during baseball season from 2007-2016.


The Chicago Cubs have been representing Chicago since the early 1900’s. They won the world series in 1908 and didn’t get to Fly the W again until 2016. Despite the long awaited victory, the Cubs have a very prideful and heavy fan base, especially in the north side of Chicago .According to Fox News, when the Cubs won the world series in 2016, the Chicago Cubs Parade had an audience of 5 million people, making it the 7th most attended recorded event in history.

As the line chart states, in 2007 the fan attendance was at a height of 3.25 million. The fan attendance started to decline between 2009 and 2013 when it hit a low of 2.65 million. The number was still high, but that was considered low for die hard Cubs fans. In 2016, the Cubs were playing rather well and pushing themselves towards the finish line, which shot up their fan attendance to 3.2 million, still not as high as 2007 but definitely an improvement.

Practice Story

Patt Quinn Photo

Gov. Pat Quinn talks about MAP grants at DePaul University. (Photo by Josclynn Brandon)

Editor’s note: This story was originally posted on Dec. 12, 2012 and is housed at RedLineProject.org


By Bob Smith

Gov. Pat Quinn visited DePaul University’s Loop campus on Wednesday to discuss how pension reform is harming the Monetary Award Program (MAP) college scholarships and access to higher education in Illinois.

“This is so important to our state, not only in the past, but certainly now and in the future,” Quinn said.
“We want everyone to have the opportunity to go to college that has the ability to go to college.”

MAP grants are need-based college scholarships that allow merit students who are in need across the state and do not need to be repaid by the student. Quinn said that due to cutbacks and having to pay more money in the pension amount, almost 18,000 students lost their MAP grant scholarships this year.

“We do not want anyone denied that opportunity because of finances,” Quinn said. “We can’t afford to lose all the talent that exists, all the ability that exists for higher education to help our economy and to help all of us, because there are financial challenges that deny someone the opportunity to go to community college or a four-year university — public and private — in our state.”

Quinn was joined by several Illinois college students, including DePaul Student Government Association Vice President Casey Clemmons.

“Every year over 5,000 DePaul students receive MAP grants, and just like the students who have already spoken here today, all of these DePaul students rely on this funding in order to continue their college careers,” Clemmons said.

“Because the number of Illinois students eligible to receive MAP is currently increasing, existing funding does not allow the state to assist all the eligible students. As a result, without action by the Illinois state leadership, more DePaul students than ever will see their MAP funding disappear this year and more

DePaul students than ever will be forced to give up their education due to finances.”

More than 150,000 students nationally receive MAP grants each year.

Clemmons told the audience that on Tuesday, DePaul’s SGA unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Illinois general assembly and the governor to ensure the longevity of the MAP program.  He read the resolution aloud and presented a copy to Quinn. 

Ken Thomas, a University of Illinois Board of Trustees student member, MAP recipient and University of Illinois Chicago student, told how he wouldn’t be where he is today if it wasn’t for the MAP grant.

“My mom, when I was in high school, had to work two jobs just to keep food on the table,” Thomas said, “and if we didn’t have [the] MAP program like we do today, I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today; graduating with a degree, hoping to be a productive member of society.” 

Having a productive and functioning society and economy is what Quinn says it’s all about.

“Jobs follow brainpower,” he said. “We want to make sure we have smart people in Illinois. Well skilled, well-educated students coming out of college with graduate degrees and diplomas so they can create jobs, create new businesses,” he said. “Our goal in Illinois is to have at least 60 percent of the adults in our 

state with a college degree or college associate degree or career certificate by the year 2025. In order to achieve we have to make sure we have a good scholarship program.”

Clemmons said that in order for that to happen, state legislatures need to reflect upon the question, “What must be done?” and do what’s required. 

Popular Pilsen Restaurants Filled with History and Murals

By Jaqueline Terrazas and Niki Saviano   There are so many places in the city of Chicago to eat fine cuisine.  For example, Pilsen which is located on the lower west side of Chicago is filled with a cultural experience.  They have places of all kinds here on the lower west side that is full of a variety of delicious food and so much history.  Pilsen does not just contain delicious restaurants, but beautiful murals to admire as you walk off that delightful food you ate.  Along with Mexican “Loteria” cards painted with vibrant colors on the doors of shops and restaurants etc. There are eleven different doors throughout Pilsen and five different artists as well.
  1. Canton Regio
  When craving Mexican food, Pilsen would be the right place to visit. Canton Regio, an authentic mexican restaurant located in Pilsen and comes from a tragic story.  Before Canton Regio came about, the Gutiérrez family owned a small storefront called Nuevo Leon. Nuevo Leon first opened in 1962 and in 2015 it burned down. Nuevo Leon was one of the most popular places to eat in Pilsen, even though it was just a small storefront.  Nuevo contained food made from scratch and everything handmade, this was the place to get your taco and guacamole fix. After Nuevo Leon burned down, the family decided to invest in something new.   Canton Regio, which opened in 2015 by the same family owners of Nuevo Leon.  Canton Regio still has an authentic mexican feel to it, along with award winning recipes and housemade salsa.  Canton Regio is filled with great mexican culture and the best part is that Canton Regio is a BYOB spot. Canton Regio is just as popular and delicious when it was Nuevo Leon.     Information :   1510 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608 Monday – Sunday : 7am- 10pm

Timeline: View the History

  1. Frida Room
  Frida Room is a trendy spot in Pilsen located right off the pink line that opened three years ago in August.  Angel Diaz, the owner of Frida Room stated it is a “comfortable atmosphere, there is a lot of art and music.” They serve your traditional Mexican breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The most popular items at Frida Room is “breakfast enfrijoladas, enchilada and molletes” said Diaz. They’re also are known for their tasty drinks too, you can also BYOB for mimosas.  Frida Room allows music artists to come and perform or artists to come show of their art work. Diaz was asked how he markets his restaurant. “They only have Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter but rely on the customers loyalty.”  Diaz stated “he is very satisfied on how Frida Room already made memories and it taste like Mexico. It reminds them of home in Mexico City.”   When walking into Frida Room you might notice the door to the left that has the Mexican “Loteria” on it as well.   Information:   1454 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608 Monday – Sunday : 8am -3 pm     Mexican Loteria outside of Frida Room
  1. Xurro
  After eating a delicious Mexican dinner, dessert is always needed afterwards.  Xurro, which is located on 18th street in Pilsen is filled with crazy desserts.  They’re famous for their churros which can be filled with all different kinds of fillings.  Not only do they have your traditional churro, but you also can get ice cream or milkshakes with the churros.  Xurro started out as a dessert truck in 1996 and in 2009 the founder opened the first standing Xurro in Pilsen, along with two other store fronts as well in Chicago.      “Xurro is not your average dessert parlor, it is unique and brings a new flavor to the area.”  said Rosa Gonzalez, a former resident of Pilsen. “My favorite filling is Nutella, it is so sweet and delicious.”     Information:   1710 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608 Monday – Friday : 8am – 8:30pm Saturday & Sunday : 8am- 8pm   Rosa grew up in the area but when she went off to college her parents moved to the suburban area.  She still has family in the area and visits from time to time. When asked if she has ever been to Nuevo Leon or has ate at Canton Regio Rosa said, “Nuevo Leon was one of my favorite places to go to, I was sad when it burned down but was glad they were able to discover Canton Regio.”  She also added that when it comes to Mexican food “Canton Regio has real Mexican food and you are able to taste the freshness of the food.”  
  1. S.K.Y
  Even though Pilsen is filled with delicious mexican food, Pilsen also has a variety of American style food as well.  S.K.Y which is located on 1239 W 18th street, is more of a upscale restaurant in Pilsen. Originally, the owner of S.K.Y wanted to open in LA but decided to go with Pilsen in Chicago.  Unfortunately, residents of the area were painting graffiti on S.K.Y with sayings such as “get out” and “get white people out of Pilsen.” Even with a lot of hostility towards the restaurant, S.K.Y still managed to get high ratings for their great food such as fried chicken, sea bass, and steak as well.     Information: 1239 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608 Monday – Tuesday : Closed Wednesday – Thursday : 5pm-10pm Friday : 5pm-11pm Saturday : 10am-2pm, 5pm-11pm Sunday : 10am-2pm, 5pm-10pm  
  1. Memo’s Chicago Style Hot Dog
  When people come to Chicago normally tourists look for the best pizza place or your traditional chicago style hot dog.  Memo’s Chicago Style Hot Dogs could be a great place to try the traditional Chicago style hot dog. Memo’s is located at 1447 W 18th street in Pilsen.  Along with the delicious american style food, Memo’s is one of the many restaurants in the area that has the Mexican “Loteria” painted the door as well.       Mexican Loteria outside of Memo’s By: Niki Saviano   Information:   1447 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608 Monday- Sunday : 11am-8pm  
  1. Honky Tonk BBQ
  Craving Barbeque food?  Honky Tonk BBQ in Pilsen is known for its Memphis style real roasted barbeque food.  Honky Tonk BBQ can be found in Rosemont Illinois, but in Pilsen as well. Their first location was in Pilsen because it is known to be a “vibrant family community.”  They have live music, food and drinks. Honky Tonk BBQ is the perfect place to go for a dinner and night out.   Information:   1800 S Racine Ave, Chicago, IL 60608 Monday : Closed Tuesday : 4pm- 12am Wednesday – Friday : 4pm – 2am Saturday : 4pm- 3am Sunday : 4pm – 2am  
  1. BomBon
  Have a sweet tooth?  BomBon may help with that.  BomBon is located on 18th street in Pilsen and opened back in 2001.  BomBon is known for their signature cakes, chocolate cakes, cheese cakes and tres leches.  Everything here is made from scratch and is the perfect place to get a delicious cake for any occasion.  BomBon is another building that also has a beautiful mural on the side of the bakery as well. Mural located right outside of BomBon By: Niki Saviano   Information :   1457 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608 Monday – Friday : 9am- 7pm Saturday :  9am – 8pm Sunday : 10am – 7pm   Pilsen is trying to build up its area to attract to people of all generations to come and visit.  Pilsen is filled with rich history and culture and can be a great pit stop for tourists or even families just visiting the Chicagoland area.  “Pilsen is indeed very arts-heavy” said Daniel Cazares a Pilsen resident. Daniel stated that to him “one of the coolest things is how the CTA allowed the Pink Line station on 18th street to be completely painted with art.”  Even though Daniel hasn’t been a long time resident of Pilsen, he still believes “there has been a noticeable change” since he has lived here.  

Chicago’s Top 10 Gardens

Back in the mid 1800’s, Chicago was considered a “swampy outpost” but later called “Urbs in Horto” which translates to “City in a Garden.” As the years passed by, Chicago took advantage of its drastic changes in weather to create some of the most beautiful gardens. Despite the challenges of the harsh winters, intense winds and clay soil the city began advancing in landscape architecture.

Gardens provide a place serenity, wonderful smells, vegetation, botany and horticulture. Chicago has hundreds of gardens in the city and suburbs that are open year round with in season plants and gorgeous views. Gardens are a nice getaway to just relax and enjoy nature. Here are 10 gardens in Chicago that are a must to visit.

Do you have any comments or suggestions on gardens? Make sure to leave a reply.

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