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Lathrop Homes Developer: High-Rise Part of Plan Despite Alderman's Dissent

By Serena Dai | September 17, 2013 8:37am | Updated on September 17, 2013 1:38pm
 Lathrop Community Partners presented the final master plan to redevelop the public housing complex into a mixed-used community on July 31.
Lathrop Community Meeting July 2013
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LAKEVIEW — Ald. Scott Waguespack's (32nd) office said he and residents still oppose the Lathrop Homes redevelopment, which includes a high-rise tower, but the developers say they have no intention of getting rid of it.

Lathrop Community Partners debuted a framework for a mixed-income housing project at Diversey and Clybourn in July after months of gathering community feedback that included residents decrying the development's high density and lack of parking. The partners downsized from 1,600 units to less than 1,200 in the final framework but kept a high-rise that they called "iconic."

The project will be submitted to the City Council in the spring, said Jacques Sandberg, vice president of Related Midwest and a member of Lathrop Community Partners.

But Waguespack is unlikely to support the project with a tower still in play, said Paul Sajovec, Waguespack's chief of staff.

High-rises don't make sense in an area with no train access, he said, and few people looking for market-rate housing will want to pay for a place with no indoor secure parking. It doesn't fit in with the rest of the development, Sajovec said.

Opposition to a high-rise is "still a front-and-center issue" for both residents and the alderman, Sajovec said.

"If some private developer came in and wanted to this, it would be an absolute nonstarter," Sajovec said. "We don’t see why the rules should be any different for a development like this."

Sandberg said the bulk of the project was already set in stone, and a high-rise was part of it. 

Only details such as the precise height of the high-rise, the architectural design and the type of retailers that will go in are subject to change, he said. The tower and density are necessary to build the proper number of units, he said.

And because it's mixed-income, the partners claim this tower will not fall into the trap of past Chicago Housing Authority public housing problems.

"There's nothing inherent about tall buildings that says people can't live in them," Doug Farr, another Lathrop Community Partner, said at the community meeting. 

Meanwhile, Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), whose ward encompasses the project, also thinks the Lathrop plan needs some adjusting, said Matthew Bailey, Moreno's spokesman. It still needs more affordable units, Moreno said in an email.

Moreno is undecided on whether he will oppose the project and hopes Lathrop partners will "realize the validity of our arguments" and add more affordable units before the development moves forward, Bailey said.

"Due to the lack of affordable housing on the North Side, I am currently pushing for more affordable rentals and affordable purchase-price homes," Moreno said. "I feel the current plan does not fulfill the need for these types of desperately needed units."

But at the community meeting where protesters demanded more public units, the partners emphasized the importance of keeping 45 percent of the housing for "unrestricted incomes," Michael Jasso, CHA's chief development officer, said at the time.

The current ratio of market rate to affordable and public housing in the framework is "critical to be sustainable," Jasso said.

Sandberg said there may not be another community meeting such as the one in July, but residents and neighbors will have a chance to give feedback again during the development process. 

Waguespack will be looking at the "totality of what's being presented" when it comes time to officially offer his support, Sajovec said. But any building that could be considered a high-rise will be "very, very problematic," he said.

"It’s clear that no one that we’ve talked to feels as though the proposed high-rise is a good idea," he said.