CHICAGO — Megan and Justin Davis thought they had found the perfect apartment in a cool gentrifying neighborhood, but little did they know they had just moved into the ghetto. “We had been to Chicago several times to visit friends from back home in Minnesota, so we felt like we had our bearings when we came to the city, but apparently not everyone here is on the up and up,” said, Justin, the 24 year-old bicycle mechanic. He was referring to the fact that the ad for their garden apartment near California Avenue and Cermak Road described the neighborhood as up-and-coming “West Pilsen.”

They were excited to secure the 2-bedroom apartment at only $2100 and considered it a deal since it was still Pilsen, which is so close to the city. “We had partied in Pilsen and really enjoyed it because we got a big dose of culture while still being around enough white people like us to feel comfortable…you know what I mean?” said Megan, 22, a grad student who recently started working at Cermak Produce.

The perfect situation of their dream apartment, however, would soon take a dark turn. On their first night in the garden apartment, the young couple was awoken by what sounded like firecrackers. “At first we thought it was strange to hear police sirens a few minutes after the loud bangs, and then we had a funny feeling they might not have been firecrackers after all” recalled Justin.  “Megan got really scared and called her mom crying.”

Megan continued, “The next morning we wanted to shake it off and explore our new neighborhood, but something was off. There were no carefree tattooed millennials, no funky cafes, and way more dollar stores and poor people, than I remember seeing around Dusek’s.” “So we decided to Google ‘Pilsen neighborhood boundaries’ and were shocked to see that our apartment was actually not located in Pilsen at all, that West Pilsen isn’t even a thing,” she recalled.

The couple is now hoping to break their lease and wanted to share their story, so that other innocent people become aware of these rental tricks. They hope by doing so that nothing horrible like this will happen to any one else.

by Jaime De Leon

Jaime de Leon is a Chicago-born stand-up comedian and writer who performs around the city. He also produces Pilsen Stand Up, a monthly stand up comedy show at Simone’s Bar.


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