NEAR WEST SIDE — From a grotesque mural to a hip new bar and restaurant space, the Pilsen and Near West Side neighborhoods had a fair amount of controversy in 2013.
1. Thalia Hall Reopens as Dusek’s Board and Beer in Pilsen: Longman and Eagle/Empty Bottle’s Bruce Finkelman and Craig Golden carved out their vision to make Pilsen as trendy as Logan Square at 18th and Allport streets. In addition to Dusek’s Beer and Board, the hot spot also features the gear fab basement bar Punch House, vintage furniture shop Modern Cooperative and health food store Belli's. Rumors of a Thalia Hall music venue in 2014 still linger.
2. Ire Over the Pilsen Possum/Rodent Mural: Is it a possum? Is it a rat? Whatever it is, its gored out innards still successfully grossed out many a Pilsen-ite a year after its creation. After the Pilsen Portal posted a photo of the disemboweled mural creature in June, Facebookers came out in droves, calling the mural “disturbing” and “not a positive image for Pilsen.”
3. Tri-Taylor’s King Elementary School Closes: Despite pleas from faculty, students, community members and 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti, Tri-Taylor’s King Elementary closed along with the 49 other schools on Chicago Public Schools’ mass closure list. Principal Shelton Flowers had maintained the school was not underutilized and even a CPS hearing officer opposed its closing, citing poor planning and potentially dangerous conditions for students. Despite these objections, King graduated its last eighth-grade class on June 10.
4. Bishop Street McMansion Moves into Little Italy: Many neighbors were not having it when new homeowner Kevin Skarbek unveiled his plans to expand his row house along Bishop Street — an older side street in the ‘hood with connected front yards uninterrupted by fences. Several neighbors even brought a lawsuit against Skarbek, alleging he’d caused damage to their properties via his construction on the property. Ultimately, the construction continued, but not without neighbors’ continued jabs, including a giant “McMansion” pumpkin left near Skarbek’s Bishop Street property.
5. Roosevelt Square Shoota Mac Rap Video Raises Safety Questions: The Chicago Housing Authority moved to evict a woman from her Near West Side home in Roosevelt Square in part because property managers discovered a YouTube rap video that showed her son, rapper Shoota Mac, waving guns in her apartment. Residents in Roosevelt Square — part of the CHA’s “Plan for Transformation” say the video only adds to their worries about the complex, parts of which are located on a street that the Near West Side police commander called the most violent in the district.