After decades of preservation advocacy, the Julia C. Lathrop Homes celebrated its grand reopening in September, 2018. The Chicago Housing Authority and the development team of Related Midwest, Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation and Heartland Housing held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the public housing project’s transformation into a mixed-income community. Rebranded as “Lathrop”, the final plan includes both historic preservation and new construction, but with a significantly higher percentage of preservation than initially proposed. The original proposed percentage of historic preservation was a tiny fraction of the historic structures, but the final percentage of historic preservation is close to 75%, with hopes for more preservation on the still-to-be-renovated section south of Diversey.
This more 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 Home Advisory Council and Logan Square Neighborhood Association.
Federal historic tax credits played a crucial role in the financing of the redevelopment. If more historic fabric was destroyed, the development risked losing millions of dollars of federal historic tax credits. Additionally, the requirements of the federal historic tax credits helped to development team to decide to eliminate the controversial proposed new construction mid-rise gateway buildings at Diversey, Damen and Elston and to preserve the original administration building located at the corner and adjacent historic apartment block.
The final redevelopment will deliver 1,116 mixed income residential units, 14 original buildings north of Diversey Avenue will be preserved and renovated, and with improvements to the 11 acres of green space including the great lawn, new retail spaces, and a new riverwalk. The final unit count will be 400 CHA units, 222 affordable units, and 494 market rate units.
Lathrop Homes has twice been a Preservation Chicago 7 Most Endangered, first in 2007 and again in 2013. The Lathrop Homes are 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 and its graceful combination of mature landscaping and low-rise and gently ornamented buildings which create an intimate and human-scale atmosphere.
Among the “all-star” architects who worked on the original design included Hubert Burnham, son of Daniel Burnham, and 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 also originally included small “kitchen gardens” in which residents raised fresh herbs and vegetables right outside their doors.
This has been a very lengthy and extraordinarily complex process and Preservation Chicago wishes to thank Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno and Alderman Scott Waguepack, along with the Lathrop development team, including Chicago Housing Authority, Related Midwest, Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, and Heartland Housing for their commitment to the development and its historic preservation.
The Former Lathrop Homes Reopen in September — as Mixed-Income Housing; The first wave of move-ins after renovations begins with 414 units: 151 controlled by the CHA, 101 affordable housing apartments, and 162 renting at market rate., AJ LaTrace, Chicago Magazine, 8/23/18