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Replace Lathrop CHA Units on North Side or No Housing Deal, Moreno Says

By Paul Biasco | February 4, 2016 6:25am | Updated on February 5, 2016 10:23am
 Lathrop Homes Plan
Lathrop Homes Plan
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LATHROP HOMES — After 15 years, a final plan for the Lathrop Homes housing project was unveiled Wednesday night, but questions remained about the fate of hundreds of residents who have been kicked out of their homes over the years.

The team behind the mixed-income development laid out a plan for 1,116 residential units in a development that includes 400 public housing units.

A large number of the approximately 300 people who attended Wednesday night's meeting questioned that total, as there were 925 public housing units when the historic development was built in the 1930s.

About 100 residents remain in the public housing development, but the majority of units are boarded up, and residents who have left over the years were put on a right-to-return list.

Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st) blasted the CHA during Wednesday night's meeting about the years of inaction to get those residents either back in Lathrop Homes or in public housing on the North Side.

Moreno stressed multiple times during the meeting that he would not allow the redevelopment proposal for Lathrop Homes to move forward at February's Plan Commission meeting if the CHA did not guarantee a one-to-one ratio that would put those remaining units on the North Side.

"I’m assuming I’m  going to get that in writing," Moreno said of the promise to return units to the North Side. "That’s the real fight we have been fighting for. Quite frankly, the old CEO of the CHA did not want to give that commitment. They wouldn’t even engage it. We are going to have that in time for the vote."

A CHA spokeswoman at the meeting declined to comment on Moreno's demand for a pledge.

The Lathrop Homes revitalization plan that the development team laid out also includes 222 affordable and 494 market-rate residences that would be spread out over a mix of rehabilitated historic buildings and new construction, including a 13-story residential building.

"You want 13 stories? Then give me the 523 units of public housing, and we will talk about the 13 stories," said Robert Davidson, current resident and president of the Lathrop Advisory Council. "You can't give me 400 units, and you take 523 units and put them somewhere else. We aren’t talking about somewhere else, we are talking about Lathrop Homes.”

Moreno said adding that many public housing units on the site would lead to a lawsuit due to a lack of mixed-income use.

"I'm not going to sit here and continue to kick the can down the road," Moreno said.

Eugene Jones Jr., the newly appointed head of the CHA, was at Wednesday's meeting, but was sitting in the crowd and did not take questions.

A staffer with the Chicago Housing Initiative, Leah Levinger, called Jones out, asking him to give a commitment to build the remaining units of the original 925 on the North Side as Moreno suggested, but Jones did not respond.

Instead, he left shortly after the question.

"If CHA has a commitment to one-to-one, why aren't they saying it publicly at this meeting?" Levinger asked.

The plan details

The plan also calls for creating a new tax increment financing district that would be used to pay for the affordable units as well as infrastructure on the 32-acre site.

Neither representatives from the development team nor Moreno had a figure for the cost of the project or how much would be paid through TIF funds.

Lathrop Homes is one of the country's first public housing developments and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

As part of the redevelopment, the team will preserve 20 of the 31 historic buildings by returning their exterior to the original 1938 look, while renovating the interiors.

The public housing, affordable and market-rate units would be spread evenly throughout the site.

"We recognize it’s a community, currently," said Jacques Sandberg, a vice president with Related Midwest, the lead developer on the project. "It has been in the past. Our notion is to improve things so people can have community moving forward."

That includes significant improvements to the landscape and riverfront of the site bordered by the river, Diversey Parkway and Clybourn and Damen streets.

Landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, who designed Maggie Daley Park as well as the 606, has been hired for the project.

Features include a 2-acre "great lawn" in the center of the development, a half-mile riverwalk with pathways, bridges, a kayak launch and a restoration of the river's edge to its natural state.

The plan also includes creating a new street through the development that would feature retail storefronts.

The project is slated to be built in three phases. The first includes 497 units and would entail large-scale historic preservation on the north side of the property.

The second and third phases would include demolishing nine buildings south of Diversey and replacing them with four- to eight-story buildings and the 13-story mid-rise at the southern tip of the project.

The developers anticipated finalizing financing this fall and breaking ground shortly after.

The project would be complete by fall 2018, according to the developers.

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