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'No High-rises!' Lathrop Homes Developer Releases Summary of Comments

By Patty Wetli | January 11, 2013 12:26pm
 The Julia C. Lathrop Homes, viewed from the Chicago River, has neighbors in a quandary over redevelopment plans.
The Julia C. Lathrop Homes, viewed from the Chicago River, has neighbors in a quandary over redevelopment plans.
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David Wilson/Flickr

ROSCOE VILLAGE — Community members are united in their objections to the density and building height put forth in plans to redevelop the Julia C. Lathrop Homes, but are sharply split on their opinions of the proposed mix of market-rate, affordable and public housing, according to just-released survey results.

Lathrop Community Partners (LCP), a consortium charged with redeveloping the public housing complex, solicited feedback following a series of open houses held last fall at which three proposals for the site were unveiled.

They got what they asked for.

A question about the housing mix — proposals were for 50 percent market rate, 25 percent affordable and 25 percent public housing — produced a wide range of reactions, from "I would like to see 100 percent market rate" to "No market rate."

Survey comments revealed neighbors' deep divide over public housing.

"I believe this is a plan to move lower income residents out of Lakeview."

"Thank you for insisting on including market rate units. They add stability to an otherwise transient population (Section 8)."

"Restore 900 public housing [units]. Why deprive the poor?"

"You will never sell the other units if this is so high in volume of public housing."

"I like a mix: however you need a proposal to keep this sustainable. Peter Holsten's proposal for Cabrini was good but it has not been sustained — the area gentrifies and low-income folks are now forced out or segregated."

More than 250 open house attendees returned opinion surveys (a 70 percent response rate) and another 54 individuals responded electronically. The two-page questionnaire asked respondents to rate each of the design proposals on a number of features including public open space, transit options and location of community facilities.

LCP sifted through the surveys and compiled a summary, which it released on Wednesday. Those who wish to review the complete set of surveys can do so online.

The feedback summary as well as anonymous survey comments suggests LCP has much work to do in crafting a compromise concept.

Response to the overall plans revealed that none of the three proposals received overwhelming support.

LCP's summary showed approval scores for the plans ranging from 3.03 out of five to 2.71.

Combing through the surveys, a number of respondents explicitly stated "I reject all three scenarios" and "Start over."

On the subject of building height — of the three proposals, one included a 27-story residential tower — the summary noted, "the input suggests a strong sensitivity to varying building heights."

Survey comments were more colorful and emphatic:

"No big towers!"

"A high-rise in this area? Huh?"

"CHA finally tore down the high-rise projects, and now you're proposing bringing this back?"

Similarly, LCP identified "resistance" to a density of 1,600 units (Lathrop currently consists of approximately 900 housing units), whereas surveys indicated a uniform sense of dismay bordering on outrage.

"This is an abomination!"

"Please don't gridlock our community."

"By promoting 1,600 units the development team shows itself to be greedy and not listening to the neighborhood. This is wrong!"

Where does LCP go from here?

Along with the feedback summary, LCP also announced a change in the planning process.

At the urging of the Chicago Housing Authority, based on community input, LCP will present just one revised draft plan instead of consolidating feedback into two revisions, as was widely expected.

The revised draft will be presented to the public near the end of February. The developer then aims to have a master plan ready to share in March.