Our History

Established as an industrial area in the mid-1800s, Pilsen has long been a thriving immigrant community. As the population evolved from Bohemian to Polish to predominately Mexican, the community retained its working-class roots. However, during the past ten years, significant development has occurred in the area, leading many Pilsen residents to fear that the forces of gentrification would soon displace the thriving community they had worked so hard to build.

In 1998, as the University of Illinois-Chicago expanded southward and the City of Chicago created the Pilsen Industrial Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District, local leaders recognized the need to organize. They hosted a Community Congress for Pilsen residents, community-based organizations, and businesses to develop a strategic plan for community preservation. The creation of the Pilsen Alliance was part of that plan and the organization is now responsible for convening an open community congress every two years. The Pilsen Alliance has achieved considerable victories in the communities of Pilsen, Marshall Square, Little Village, North Lawndale and Cicero.


Accountability in Education As a member of Grassroots Illinois Action, collected over 900 signatures to add an elected school board referendum to the 2015 Municipal Elections ballot; “Should the City of Chicago have an Elected School Board?”.  With a strong voter registration and elected school board awareness campaign the 25th Ward voted in an overwhelming 88.5% in support of an elected school board. On July 2017, and after years of organizing around an Elected Representative School Board for Chicago, both houses of representatives passed a bill to have an Elected School Board in 2023. Pilsen Alliance was proud to lead efforts to keep Pilsen Academy and Jungman Elemenatry off the closing list in 2013. Pilsen has not experienced any school closings since then, thanks to grassroots efforts.

Children’s Health and Education Won state ordered lead and asbestos abatement at Whittier Elementary School, summer of 2003. After several public actions, members of Lideres (Whittier Parent Committee) pressured the Chicago Public School administration and Alderman Danny Solis, 25th Ward, to abate contaminants.

Community Education Pilsen Alliance has served as lead partner at Whittier Community School since 2004. The partnership has serviced over 500 youth and adults and currently offers more than 20 innovative enrichment programs. Today Pilsen Alliance has a Annual Summer Leadership Institute for our youth and regular educational and leadership workshops for our parents and students.


Pure Metals LLC Metal Shredder Led community opposition against a dangerous project expedited by Alderman Danny Solis.  Residents were at each zoning hearing to voice environmental concerns and safety of nearby students of Benito Juarez High School with regard to the project, delaying the project over 6 months.  Pure Metals LLC lost one of two major funders due to delays and a “due process” lawsuit filed against the project, and ultimately Pure Metals LLC went out of business striking a big victory for our grassroots organizing efforts.

Fisk and Crawford Coal Plants Organized residents of Pilsen and activists city-wide to participate in demonstrations against the coal plants.  Represent the Pilsen community on the Fisk and Crawford Reuse Task Force assembled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  We continue to develop community consensus and fight for community demands as the redevelopment of the site moves forward.

Living Wage Jobs

 Raise the Wage Canvassed 1,000 doors in Pilsen three times to raise awareness and “Get Out The Vote” in support of the Raise the Wage referendum on the 2015 General Elections ballot; “Shall the minimum wage in Illinois for adults over the age of 18 be raised to $10 per hour by January 1, 2015?”.  Cook County voted 81.1% in favor.

Women’s Economic Justice Program In the summer of 2008 Pilsen Alliance kicked off the Women’s Economic Justice Program, the only program of its kind in Pilsen. It provides hands-on business skills with artisan workshops to create economic opportunities and self-sufficiency to Pilsen’s women and their families.


Affordable housing mandate of 21% Pilsen Alliance successfully pushed for an increased to the Affordable Requirement Ordinance of 10% affordable housing for any new projects of 10 units or more. The Quality of Life Plan in 2006 approved a Pilsen mandate of 21% which is still in effect today.


Property Tax workshops Pilsen Alliance has worked with Cook County Assessor Houlihan’s office to provide free Property Tax Homeowner Exemption & Property Tax Appeal workshops to the Greater Pilsen community! We have helped dozens of families receive thousands of dollars in property tax reimbursements as well as successfully appeal increased property tax assessments-helping Pilsen families hold on to their homes!

In addition, Pilsen Alliance Partners with the Metropolitan Tenant Organization (MTO) and the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) to address tenant right issues. For more information, please visit their sites:




Public Transportation Equity Served as a lead agency of the Blue Line Transit Taskforce that fought a successful 7-year battle to restore night and weekend rail service on the Douglas Branch of the Blue Line. The Line serves the communities of Pilsen, Little Village, and North Lawndale – all predominately low-income communities of color.

Accountability & Transparency

Government Transparency Helped pass the first Public Advisory Referenda in Chicago’s 25th Ward, which called for open community hearings on all zoning changes. They are meant to provide the community with a means of voicing their concerns over the growing number of high-end loft and condo conversions. The Referenda passed with 95% of the vote.

Coalition Work

Pilsen Alliance is member of the Grassroots Education Movement, a citywide coalition fighting for quality public education in Chicago.

Pilsen Alliance is also member of the Chicago Housing Initiative (CHI), a citywide coalition fighting to make housing a human right in Chicago. Fore more information please visit: https://www.chicagohousinginitiative.org/

Pilsen Alliance is a member of the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) proposal  that provides kids and families the tools they need to live healthier lives through a penny per ounce excise tax on sugary drinks.

Pilsen Alliance is a member of “Lift the Ban” coalition which is advocating to repeal the ban on rent control in the Illinois Constitution.