MTV’s long-running reality show “The Real World” decided to shoot a season in Chicago in 2001 - and naturally chose the artsy enclave of Wicker Park, home to their target demographic.
They moved into a former industrial red brick building on North Avenue (just one block east of the Flat Iron Building), which from 1989-1998 had housed Urbis Orbis, a pioneering coffee house and gathering spot during the neighborhood’s rougher days.
However, far from embracing the show, the young residents of Wicker Park found the MTV exposure unpalatable, and a summer of raucous Occupy-style protests ensued, disrupting production. The house was vandalized, with red paint being splashed across the door and window broken.
Many neighborhood observers concluded that the presence of the TV show and the attendant protests may have signaled the moment when the gentrification of Wicker Park “jumped the shark.” The space was later transformed into a Cheetah Gym.