After years of advocacy, the Julia C. Lathrop Homes redevelopment will begin this summer with a combination of historic preservation and some limited new construction. The final plan has a much higher percentage of preservation than was initially proposed due to a multi-year advocacy campaign by Preservation Chicago, our preservation partners including Landmarks Illinois, the National Trust, and neighborhood groups such as Logan Square Neighborhood Association. Additionally, the development risked losing millions of dollars of federal historic tax credits if more historic fabric was lost.
The final redevelopment will deliver 1,116 mixed income residential units, 11 acres of green space and a new riverwalk. The proposed new construction mid-rise gateway buildings at Diversey, Damen and Elston were dropped from the plan which allows the historic corner buildings to be retained and restored.
Lathrop Homes has twice been a Preservation Chicago 7 Most Endangered in 2007 and then again in 2013. The Lathrop Homes are one of the first and best public housing developments built in Chicago and was home to a racially mixed and remarkably stable community for generations. The 32-acre park-like site is located along the Chicago River with mature landscaping. The low-rise and gently ornamented buildings create an intimate and human-scale atmosphere.
Among the “all-star” architects who worked on the original design included Robert S. De Golyer, a designer of upscale Lake Shore Drive high-rises, who is credited for the inclusion of classical elegance that included fine brickwork, stone rooftop finials and the arched arcades linking many of the historic buildings. Hugh M.G. Garden was a highly respected practitioner of the old “Chicago School,” and imparted a blending of modernism and traditionalism.
The legendary landscape designer Jens Jensen was responsible for the landscape design and was known for his ideals of native landscapes and prairies. Many of Jensen’s original trees still remain, and have now aged into the sheltering maturity he envisioned. The townhouses of varying designs and configurations, also originally included small “kitchen gardens” in which residents raised fresh herbs and vegetables right outside their doors.
This has been a very lengthy process and Preservation Chicago wishes to thank Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno and Alderman Scott Waguepack, along with the Lathrop development partners for their commitment to historic preservation.