Wheaton is known as one of the most affluent suburbs in all of ChicagoLand. But, it hides its own ghetto in plain sight that has come to be known as “apartment row”.
Apartment row is situated along the busy and bustling Roosevelt Road.
Just past the intersection of President Street at Roosevelt begins a long stretch of dilapidated buildings bursting at the seams with poverty and everything that comes with it: cockroaches, bed bugs, armed robbery, drug sales in the blatant light of day, loud music, fights and garbage dumpsters full of bed bug infested furniture.
Many of the residents here are elderly, disabled, hard working immigrants and refugees. Even with this vast difference in background they all share one common denominator: rising rent costs as landlords pass on the cost of inflated taxes. Also in common is the fact that they do not have any control over the changing neighborhood.
Rent hikes cause poverty, and when the rent hikes continue year after year, the impoverished are pushed deeper and deeper into a hole that they cannot dig out of.
Enter desperation bringing crime.
The Mobil gas station at Roosevelt and President was the victim of yet another armed robbery just a few short weeks ago.
Businesses dotting along “apartment row” are beginning to close their doors as the neighborhood continues to disintegrate.
7/Eleven at the corner on Lorraine and Roosevelt is the latest victim. Having been robbed several times, night employees began putting a sign in the door at night that read “Be Right Back”. Customers could be seen waiting outside until the clerk seemed to get a feel of each person waiting at the door and would then choose to unlock the doors and let customers trickle in.
Today, while open just days ago, 7/Eleven has removed their street signs, overhanging signs and all signage from the building. The once product filled windows are now covered with brown paper. The busy entrance door now remains locked with a simple sign that says “this store has been closed”.
Across the street once stood Mega Bites Pizza. The once bustling sell-by-the-slice pizza restaurant now looks as if someone locked up at night and never came back to open the doors, sitting vacant for 4 months.
Boasting the desired “60187” zip code, apartment row offers tenants “affordable” rent starting at nearly $800 a month and reaching all the way to $1,300. Tenants seem to come and go and it is not at all unusual for one apartment to see as many as four tenants in one year.
For some, poverty has pushed them out into the abyss. For others, they simply have up and left out of frustration and living conditions.
Discarded office chairs line the overgrown lawns that border Roosevelt Road as thousands pass this busy thoroughfare each day. Much like the forgotten furniture, society and City Code enforcement seem to have also forgotten and abandoned the residents of the area.
“For Rent” signs dot the area accompanied by ads boasting apartments for rent- within the ever so “valuable” Wheaton zip code.
Apartment Row stretches from President Street at Roosevelt in Wheaton to the “Welcome to Glen Ellyn” sign. It can be seen as proof to other communities that good suburbs can develop “bad” pockets at the hands of landlord and Tax Man greed.
Are the landlords to blame or is the city? The answer is both. The city does little to nothing to make sure the buildings are fit for human life. The county raises taxes on less desirable properties, forcing landlords to pass on high costs to those that cannot afford them.
At 1100 W. Roosevelt, a vacant car lot stands as a memory of better times when the community boasted bustling businesses and truly affordable living.
Some residents of apartment row have been in their apartments for many years, while others fell on hard times and ended up in a ghetto environment.
Random pictures taken tell the sad story of the lives of hardworking Americans of all colors and nationalities. It’s a story of despair, being cast aside as second-class citizens. A suitcase sits alone against a fence barely standing, as if to say “I wanted to leave here, but I couldn’t get out.” It’s a fitting metaphor of many residents of apartment row.
Chicago has seen a large outbreak of bed bugs over the past few years. Not only do bed bugs infest and suck the life blood out of humans, but so does the greed of DuPage County’s Capitalist system. The bed bugs are an added disgrace to the once beautiful area.
A popular website, http://www.bedbugregistry.com notes many reports of bed bugs in the area. Just like the bed bugs sucking the life out of innocent victims, so does Apartment Row.
Even though thousands pass by the area every day, the Republican controlled Capitalist system has caused the drivers of shiny new BMW’s passing by to turn a blind eye to an elderly man on an old bicycle attempting to ride on sidewalks that go unrepaired, or a child picking dirty mulberries up off of the ground to eat.
The questions are:
Can this area be saved? Do the Politicos want it saved? Or do they want taxes and rent to rise so high that it will drive Wheaton’s impoverished away?
It is all too evident that Wheaton as a whole wants to forget about apartment row.
Within walking distance is College Avenue, where Billy Graham had a vision of hope and lives flourish with a high priced college experience.
But that vision does not extend to Roosevelt Road’s “Apartment Row”.
Cross the tracks, walk several blocks to Roosevelt Rd. and look East for a lesson in life.
Capitalist greed causes poverty that not only destroys buildings and aesthetics; but more importantly, lives. It forces residents of that valuable “60187” to witness a hopeless cycle.