According to project director Maria Bucio, La Casa, under construction at 1818 S. Paulina Street, was created to provide a dorm-like living space for students who otherwise might not have access to one.
Bucio said the idea for the project came about 10 years ago when she and various collegues were returning home to Pilsen from college and realized their community was in need of a space for students to live and learn together.
“A lot of our students here in Pilsen often times don’t have a place to call their own,” Bucio said. “Many of them don’t even have a bedroom of their own. The community really wanted to recognize that there was a need for that.”
Bucio said some students tend to stay close to home, especially Latino students living in Pilsen.
According to Bucio there are a number of factors involved in deciding whether to live in campus housing. Often students are thinking about tuition and don’t fully recognize the high price of student housing, she said.
The Resurrection Project compared the cost of some of the most expensive and the least expensive dorm rooms in the city and concluded that they were all more expensive than living at La Casa.
“We’re trying to keep the cost as low as possible,” Bucio said. “The cost for each student will be $700 a month.”
The six-floor dorm building itself will house 500 students in its 10 apartments. Each apartment has five rooms, equipped for two students per room. Each apartment has a family-sized kitchen and two bathrooms.
According to Bucio, floors two through six will be student apartments, and the first floor will have a fitness center and laundry facility.
“Next door to the dorm building we have our resourse center,” Bucio said. “Here is where we will have after-school programs, study spaces, multipurpose rooms, scheduled visits from authors and college representatives and tutoring opportunities.”
Myra Lopez, a West Side resident and frequent visitor to Pilsen, said she is excited about the prospect of creating a space for Latino youth.
“I know that it’s not exclusively Latino,” Lopez said. “But I think that it’s important that the community is recognizing and responding to the fact that there are many young people here who don’t always have a place in the mainstream university housing, be it for cultural or economic reasons.”
Juan Ramirez, a 25-year Chicago resident who works at small pet store down the street from La Casa, said he thinks the project will be an asset to the community but worries about the future gentrification of Pilsen.
“Pilsen is getting better,” Ramirez said. “It’s a lot safer here than it used to be, but as students move in it’s also getting more expensive. Bigger businesses are moving in, and I don’t know what that could mean for small businesses like ours.”
According to Bucio, La Casa is taking applications from interested students and will be open on Aug. 15. Interested students can obtain an application at the website resurrectionproject.org. Applicants must be working toward their first bachelor’s degree and financially eligible for assistance.