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Residents Voice Concerns About 1,600-Unit Lathrop Homes Redevelopment

The Chicago Housing Authority and Lathrop Community Partners held their first of two community open houses Thursday in which residents were welcomed to give feedback on three different concept designs for redevelopment of the area.

Looking at three concept designs Thursday for the housing projects in which she currently lives, Mary King was fearful, yet hopeful.

"I do like the vision," said the 42-year-old Thursday night at a public meeting at New Life Community Church, 2958 N. Damen Ave. "I'm just hoping that we still have our place here. I hope nothing changes for us. The pictures … It's a little scary."

King was among around 200 people who attended the five-hour open house, which was the first of two intended to solicit feedback from members of the community regarding redevelopment designs for the Lathrop Homes. The project is guided by the Chicago Housing Authority and Lathrop Community Partners—the design team selected to revitalize the 32-acre area.

READ: UPDATE: Residents Asked to Speak Up at New Lathrop Homes Meetings

"This is the first time the project has been presented in its entirety," said Kerry Dickson, the senior vice president of Related Midwest, a member of the LCP development team. "It was presented before as a (two-dimensional) plan. These are the ideas behind that plan."

Each of the three concept designs outlined Thursday had certain commonalities. They included a total of 1,600 homes; 25 percent of which were public housing, another 25 percent of which were affordable housing and a final 50 percent of which were market rate housing.

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Dickson said his team was armed with "very lofty" CHA goals to create the most vibrant, sustainable and appropriate community possible.

Lathrop Homes, one of Chicago’s first public housing projects near the corner of Diversey Parkway and Clybourn Avenue, is situated directly between affluent neighborhoods like Lincoln Park, Roscoe Village, Bucktown and Lake View. Redevelopment at the site has been on the back-burner for more than a decade.

Plans presented Thursday were in three different rooms—each paired with a "feedback cafe," where attendees could chat about designs. They included the "Riverworks," "Gateways" and "Greenscapes" concepts. A questionnaire was given to each person walking through the door so he or she could offer personal sentiments, queries or concerns about potential outcomes. 

The Riverworks design concept includes reusing the historic buildings and unique 1930s-style architecture of the housing development. It proposes two residential towers at the north and south ends of the site to maintain a low-rise character throughout its remainder.

It also "improves connectivity by introducing six pedestrian paths north of Diversey Parkway and three new east-west streets that connect to Damen Avenue, south of Diversey Parkway," according to information distributed at the open house.

The Gateways concept emphasizes modernization of the existing building stock through additions. It proposes the same residential towers but introduces a new street north of Diversey Parkway that connects Clybourn Avenue to Leavitt Street and a separate new street south of Diversey that connects Leavitt Street to Damen Avenue. 

"This is the 'middle of the road' concept," Jeremy Oreland, who works on the developer side of the project, said, noting that all three plans preserve the power house and the CHA senior house. "It's intended to adapt and reuse."

The Greenscapes concept, on the other hand, redevelops the entire site with limited reuse of the existing building stock. It includes creating a significant park incorporating the Chicago River; constructing low- to mid-rise buildings throughout the site with no building taller than the existing CHA senior house; three new streets; and neighborhood retail via small shopping centers with surface parking out front.

"Transportation is one of the big conversations among those on the design team," said Dan Bounds, who works on the engineering and design side of the project.

He mentioned adding left turn lanes in areas where left turns are currently restricted, water taxis, bike paths and more walkable areas.

The explanations simply weren't enough for area resident Deno Jeffries.

"It's too dense," the 62-year-old said, noting that the redevelopment hadn't previously included 1,600 units. "I don't think the infrastructure, the roads, et cetera, support the proposals."

Both he and West DePaul Neighborhood resident Barbara Head opposed the notion of supporting any potential redevelopment of the Lathrop Homes with Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, money. The funding is a public financing method used for subsidizing redevelopment, infrastructure or other community improvement plans.

"These are two for-profit developers," Head said. "I say, go find your own financing. I don't want my property taxes to go to this."

She also detested the notion of any high rises in the complex and worried about displacement of those, like King, who are living in the homes.

King has eight children, four of which currently live with her in the Lathrop Homes. She also has custody of two of her grandchildren, she said.

"I just hope everything comes out right," she said. "I tell myself, 'Everything will be OK.'"

The LCP and CHA are hosting a second open house from noon to 4 p.m. Nov. 17 at New Life Community Church. Feedback gained during November’s meetings will be used by the development team to craft a final plan.

Detailed information on the proposed buildings can be found on 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack's website, including building layouts, retail proposals and parking options. 

More finalized designs will be compiled using community feedback and will likely not be presented until after Jan. 1, 2013, representatives said.

READ: Lathrop Homes: ‘How Do We Put the Brakes on This?'

Joe Negussie November 17, 2012 at 03:12 PM
The Chicago Housing Authority's mission is to provide affordable housing to low- income families and senior residents, but this plan is more about making money for the city than anything else.
Amy Louise Negussie November 17, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Even without the concern for affordable housing, these proposals of 1,600 units in the Lathrop Homes sound disastrous for the community. The traffic would be worse than it already is at Damen/Clouybourne/Diversey & market rate apartments would likely stand empty because there are plenty of units for rent and sale in the area already.
Elizabeth Milnarik November 17, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Julia Lathrop Homes is a beautiful, well-designed community that has provided good affordable housing for 75 years. The fact that it's surroundings have become more desirable recently should not necessitate its demolition. The CHA (and HUD) have transformed themselves into redevelopment agencies, selling away our public infrastructure. Save Lathrop as affordable housing!
Bethany Jean November 18, 2012 at 05:23 AM
The CHA has gone long enough without concerned citizens taking a stand for those who are essentially being evicted without any kind of safe plan for housing after units like these are demolished so that corporations can make yet more money (or worse still, evict people for housing to just sit there empty and unused because it can't sell).
Melissa Frazin November 27, 2012 at 04:42 AM
There is SO little affordable housing on the North side of Chicago already!! Where should families who make inimum wage in Chicago live? It seems like everyone wants to drive them south and west (and out of Chicago). The beauty of Lathrop is that a) it is beautiful because there is so much green space and b) it is does NOT have the density of so many other failed public housing developments in Chicago. Of course if the CHA actually took care of Lathrop, it wouldn't look like it is falling down around the residents, but that is another story. Now the CHA along with a slew of developers is trying to make a fast buck (a few billion) by kicking out public housing residents, making it a high density area and developing more market-rate condos. Anyone who has ever lived or does live in Roscoe Village, Hamlin Park, Lincoln Park or West Lakeview know that the real estate market has enough market-rate condos already.
Ray February 09, 2013 at 02:45 AM
1,600 units with 25% being public housing and 25% being subsidized is a net loss of 100 housing units for lower income residents. I understand the need of the market rate units to subsidize the project, but I think 1,300 makes more sense. I like the "Greenscape" plan that saves many of the current buildings and creates more green spaces. The great lawn is too valuable of an asset to loose to more buildings.

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