WIN: Chicago Workers Cottage Initiative Seeks to Survey and Protect Endangered Workers Cottages


Graph of demolition permits issued in Logan Square between 2006-2020. Image credit: Matt Bergstrom / Chicago Workers Cottage Initiative

“As developers continue to raze workers cottages for single-family homes and condos in gentrifying Logan Square and other parts of the city, preservationists are embarking on a project to raise awareness about the historical yet overlooked homes and to shape policies that would save them from demolition.

“Leaders with Preservation Chicago and the newly-formed Chicago Workers Cottage Initiative recently teamed up with students in the historic preservation department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago on a data project that aims to shed light on the loss of workers cottages throughout the city.

“‘If you see two poor-conditioned workers cottages next to each other, that’s a threat,’ said Mary Lu Seidel with Preservation Chicago. “Developers will buy them up, get a 50-foot-wide lot and build their mega-mansion Barbie dream house.”

“After the surveying process is complete, the data will be sent to the city, Seidel said. The data is meant to lay the groundwork for city policies around preserving workers cottages, she said.

“Eventually, the group would like the city to craft a policy or legislation to protect workers cottages from demolition. Seidel said that could mean creating a thematic landmark district across city neighborhoods to protect against teardowns or helping the owners of workers cottages with renovation projects so they’re able to stay in their homes.

“In the coming months, the preservationists plan to expand the project and collect data in other neighborhoods home to a lot of vulnerable workers cottages, such as McKinley Park, Pilsen and Wicker Park. But the groups started with Logan Square because the gentrifying neighborhood has seen more teardowns in recent years than other neighborhoods.

“Logan Square resident Tom Vlodek, who helps run the Chicago Workers Cottage Initiative, said he’s watched many of the workers cottages around him disappear in favor of single-family homes and condos. Vlodek said in recent years he’s counted as least nine teardowns in the four-block radius around where he lives.

“In 2018, Logan Square resident Matt Bergstrom, who is also helping with the workers cottage effort, documented the transformation of his street, which at that time had lost roughly two dozen homes for construction.

“‘You’d be hard-pressed to think of [workers cottages] as affordable housing or anything in Logan Square anymore, but I see this as our mandate. These are Chicago’s original affordable, single-family homes, built for workers that built the city. Once you tear down one of those homes, there will never be an affordable home there again,’ he said.” (Bloom, Block Club Chicago, 4/15/21)

Read the full long-format article at the Block Club Chicago.

With Workers Cottages Vanishing In Logan Square And Other Neighborhoods, Preservationists Roll Out Plan To Save Them; Developers are tearing down workers cottages to make way for single-family homes and condos, a practice preservationists hope to stop with a project that launched this week, Mina Bloom, Block Club Chicago, 4/15/21

Learn more at Chicago Workers Cottage Initiative Website


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