“Millennials peer into glowing laptops at a coffee shop. A jogger runs across a walkway that swoops over the Chicago River and offers views of the downtown skyline. Handsome brick buildings have been painstakingly restored.
“River North? Bucktown? Guess again.
“This is a remade public housing project on Chicago’s North Side — the former Julia C. Lathrop Homes, which once was the antithesis of the Chicago Housing Authority’s high-rise hells, but later spiraled into physical decay and worse.
“It was very violent,” a 33-year-old resident, Lashaunda Brownlow, who grew up at the Lathrop Homes, told me. Now, he said, “it’s a lot nicer. You don’t see violence like before. The buildings are clean. The grounds are clean.”
“Hearing endorsements like that and touring the Lathrop Homes’ transformation, I was tempted to label the project, at the intersection of Diversey Parkway and Clybourn Avenue, a great success. (Kamin, Chigago Tribune, 2/6/20)
After decades of preservation advocacy, the Julia C. Lathrop Homes is a preservation success. The public housing project’s transformation into a mixed-income community was lead by Chicago Housing Authority and the development team of Related Midwest, Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation and Heartland Housing.
The final redevelopment plan included both historic preservation and new construction, but with a significantly higher percentage of preservation than initially proposed. The originally proposed percentage of historic preservation was a tiny fraction of the historic structures, but the final percentage of historic preservation is approximately 75% with hopes for more preservation on the still-to-be-renovated section south of Diversey Avenue. Phase 2 is getting underway and Preservation Chicago will continue to advocate for a preservation-sensitive design.
Lathrop Homes has twice been a Preservation Chicago 7 Most Endangered, first in 2007 and again in 2013. Lathrop Homes was one of the first and one of the best public housing developments built in Chicago, resulting in a remarkably stable racially-mixed community for generations. Completed in 1938, the 35-acre park-like site is located along the Chicago River, with its graceful combination of mature landscaping and low-rise and gently ornamented buildings, create an intimate and human-scale atmosphere.
This highly preservation-sensitive outcome is due to a multi-year preservation advocacy campaign by Preservation Chicago, our preservation partners including Landmarks Illinois, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and neighborhood groups such as Logan Square Preservation, Lathrop Homes Advisory Council and Logan Square Neighborhood Association. We applaud the development team for recognizing the history of Lathrop and reshaping their development plans to celebrate and restore much of the site’s architectural assets.