WIN: Long-Neglected Second Phase of Lathrop Homes Finally Approved by Chicago Housing Authority (Chicago 7 2007, 2013, 2022)

Lathrop Homes, 2000 W. Diversey Avenue , 1938. Photo credit: Eric Allix Rogers

“For more than two decades, the Chicago Housing Authority has pledged to rehab and rebuild hundreds of apartments at the Lathrop Homes site in west Lakeview.

“But even as the city’s affordable housing crisis has grown worse, the CHA’s efforts at Lathrop have been halting, leaving neighbors wondering why scores of apartments are still sitting empty and decaying. The half of Lathrop south of Diversey Parkway remains a ghost town, its vacant buildings marked with graffiti, the windows boarded up after being smashed in by trespassers.

“‘Over the years, people were told to move, and the vacant buildings just weren’t kept up, graffiti everywhere,’ said neighbor Charles Hogren, who lives north of Diversey.

“On Tuesday, the CHA’s board voted to approve funding for the next wave of redevelopment at Lathrop Homes. Phase 1C, as the latest plan is called, will produce 309 units for people with a mix of incomes, including more than 200 specifically for low-income families.

“The CHA’s development partners plan to rehabilitate seven of the historical buildings on the site while three others will be demolished to make way for a fully accessible property with an elevator.

“Officials said the total cost of redeveloping Lathrop Phase 1C is expected to be $205 million. Construction is expected to start by the end of 2024, and the project is slated to be done by the end of 2026, they said.

“The new and renovated apartments will follow 488 apartments brought back to the site in two phases finished since 2019, bringing the total to 797 units. Before the agency began to empty Lathrop more than two decades ago, it had 925 units in brick rowhouses and three- and four-story apartment buildings.

The Lathrop Homes sit along the North Branch of the Chicago River, just west of the intersection of Diversey and Damen avenues. The complex was built in 1938 as one of the city’s first federally funded public housing projects with the goal of providing housing to working-class and low-income families.

Sarah Wick, senior vice president of affordable housing for Related Midwest, said this is not the final phase of redevelopment for Lathrop, but it will help “stabilize the south campus” from outsiders having easy access to the vacant units and will help prevent the issues with graffiti. Wick said plans to address graffiti on buildings south of Diversey are still in flux because Lathrop is on the historical preservation list.

“This ensures that we have no more of those conditions left,” Wick told the CHA board. “This phase allows us to bring back 300 … units, so we still have some additional buildings to build in the future.” (Murphy, Block Club Chicago, 3/25/24)

After decades of preservation advocacy, the Julia C. Lathrop Homes North celebrated its grand reopening in September 2018. The final redevelopment plan included 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 approximately 75%.

Since that time, Lathrop Homes South languished and suffered from extreme neglect and deferred maintenance. Preservation Chicago has consistently pushed decision makers and stakeholder to prioritize renovation of the South phase of Lathrop Homes. We’re thrilled that the second phase is finally moving forward.

Lathrop Homes has three times been a Preservation Chicago 7 Most Endangered, first in 2007, and again in 2013 and 2022. The Lathrop Homes were 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.

The highly preservation-sensitive outcome of the North phase 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.

Read the full story at Block Club Chicago



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