LOGAN SQUARE — Logan Square neighbors were shocked to find anti-gentrification graffiti scrawled on a new condo building on their block last week.
The building in the 1900 block of North Albany Avenue was spray-painted with the messages: “f— you,” “you don’t belong here” and “gentrification” sometime on Wednesday. The graffiti was removed Thursday.
Neighbors said the modern glassy building went up recently and no one lives there yet. The three condos, with asking prices in the $500,000 to $600,000 range, are currently on the market.
An attempt to reach the property owner was unsuccessful.
Emotionally charged debates over gentrification are nothing new in Logan Square, but the strongly worded graffiti took neighbors by surprise.
“We get along great with all our neighbors, no matter if they’e been longtime neighbors of 30 years or just moved in five years ago,” said neighbor Anne Marie McNamara, who bought her home in 2005.
“I truly hope [the graffiti] is an anomaly and not a trend. But if it’s a trend, it’s the start of a trend because we haven’t seen a pattern of anything.”
Ramon Lozano, a resident of the block for three years, agreed, saying, “It was new to me.”
Why the vandals struck that specific condo building is a mystery, especially considering the block is home to a mix of vintage flats and modern buildings.
“This is not the first new build on this block,” McNamara noted.
The owner of the apartment building directly north of the condo building, who declined to be named, raised the same point.
“It sounds like a racial thing, but I don’t think so because you see all of the [new] houses here and there,” the property owner said. “It’s good because my value goes up. I have no problem with none of these people. Why didn’t they do the rest of the new houses around the corner? Why that one? That doesn’t make no sense.”
Beyond that, neighbors said the graffiti sends the wrong message.
“[The neighborhood] was Puerto Rican at one point. That has changed. … That’s one of the reasons I like living here — the diversity,” Lozano said.
Said nearby resident Emelson Salazar, who posted photos of the graffiti on Facebook: “I think their anger is very destructive no[t] only to properties but to people to[o].”
Salazar is originally from Venezuela. From there, he moved to Virginia and then to Logan Square, where he’s lived for the last 15 years. He said Chicago is welcoming to immigrants like him.
Salazar said this is the third time in recent weeks the building has been tagged, but the first time the messages are related to gentrification.
None of the neighbors interviewed by Block Club said tensions are high among new and old residents.
“They don’t bother us. We don’t bother them,” longtime resident of the block Thomas Estrada said.
Estrada, 71, routinely hangs out next to the condo building, at the corner store Albany Food Market. He said a few decades ago, when he first started hanging out in the area, the block was rife with gang activity.
“A lot of bad people, a lot of gangsters on the corner. Sometimes we chased them out of here,” Estrada said.
In recent years, Estrada said he’s watched the gang activity dwindle and modern condo buildings rise, which he’s glad to see.
“Now look at how different. … because the neighborhood changed with different people. The neighborhood is good,” he said.
Logan Square’s demographics have shifted dramatically in recent years.
The neighborhood’s Latino population has fallen by more than 20,000, while the white population has grown by more than 12,000, according to a WBEZ analysis of census datas spanning a five-year period ending in 2017. The white population has now surpassed the Latino population, the analysis shows.
McNamara, the neighbor who bought her home in 2005, works from home and walks her dog on the block three times a day.
“I certainly don’t feel awkward or weird or that people are turning a side eye at us because we moved in. … ” she said, before adding, “We’ve been here a long time now.”
Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.