City leaders need to step up and lead, CHA has its own agenda for Lathrop Homes

Date: 
01/17/2013
MillerMorenoFine

Ward Miller, Alderman Moreno and Jonathan Fine pictured at another event

"The CHA (Chicago Housing Authority) has its own agenda [for Lathrop Homes] and they have a less than stiller bedside manner," said Jonathan Fine, Executive Director, Preservation Chicago, in reference to the latest announcement about Lathrop Homes development project.

"CHA and its developer [Lathrop Community Partners (LCP)] have decided to move towards creating a single proposed master plan following the Open Houses which will be presented to interested parties for final comments and input, instead of preparing two proposals as was originally contemplated," said Charles Woodyard, CHA, Chief Executive Officer, in a letter to Aldermen Proco "Joe" Moreno, 1st Ward, and Scott Waguespack, 32nd Ward.

"We need our leaders to protect us from the CHA's process of ramming things down the community's throat," Fine said.

PSajovic

Paul Sajovec

As pointed out by Paul Sajovec, Chief of Staff for Scott Waguespack, "CHA indicates for the first time that they will not be holding a public design charrette. As recently as the Working Group meeting in November, the CHA and LCP had indicated that they planned to hold a series of four public meetings to gather additional input before coming up with a final plan. This process was to include the presentation of two scenarios that would have then been reduced to a final scenario. Their current approach, as described in the letter, is to develop a single 'initial Master Plan,' by February and a 'final Master Plan,' in March."

"The proposed density was so extreme that they should come back with two proposals," commented Joel Berman, architect and area resident. "If they would have followed the original CHA guidelines, they would not be in this position. What is the point of having a plan if you don't follow it?"

According to 1st Ward Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno, "I have seen no numbers that show me that if we have x number market-rate units that we'll be able to fund x number of public housing units.

"What we want is a world class working class development with green space that preserves the existing site with as much adaptive reuse as possible…that is what is going to make it world class."

In the letter to the aldermen, Woodyard states:

In January, the team will meet with community and interest groups to drill down on topics such as successful mixed-income communities, historic preservation, density/scale, diversity, unit mix, and amenities. These discussions will provide an opportunity to communicate CHA's and LCP's perspectives on the topics covered, including community traffic concerns. Further, it is our hope that these discussions will result in a mutual understanding of the proposed development parameters of a mixed-income community for Lathrop Homes.

Development of the Master Plan Timeline
CHA's goal is to craft an initial Master Plan that is shaped** by the surveys*, group discussions, and technical reviews on financial feasibility and marketability by February 2013. Further discussions with the working group, current residents of Lathrop Homes, HUD, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and Historic Preservation consulting parties, and CHA's Board of Commissioners will guide the refinement of the Master Plan. It is CHA's intent to have a final Master Plan in March 2013.

CHA remains committed to developing a vibrant, mixed-income community at Lathrop that reflects community input, is economically and racially diverse, provides quality housing and attracts amenities such as retail and jobs-which are necessary tools to help CHA residents achieve self-sufficiency.

"This is all about income for the developer not about the good of the people or the City," said a disappointed Ward Miller, President of Preservation Chicago. "The City is worried about a shrinking population and income. The City would get money for housing people, yet these proposed plans are looking to displace the people it was intended to serve.

"Chicago should show itself as the compassionate city it is instead of one where developers, working with a City agency that has lost its way and mission, takes a historic public housing site and turns it into another ordinary market-rate site."

Miller has identified an organization in the City with long-term experience and programs that address live and work programs. They are interested in helping with the redevelopment of the area. "Their mission is consistent with the original intent of that site…working with those in need of public assistance."

Now the question is..."Will anyone listen and then take action."

*Copy of the surveys: Set 1, Set 2, Set 3, Set 4, Set 5, Set 6 and Set 7 

**Lathrop Homes Revitalization Summary of Community Input and Moving Forward

CHA and Lathrop Community Partners (LCP) hosted two Open Houses in November at New Life Community Church to solicit input from the Lathrop community on three initial revitalization concepts.

A total of 366 people participated in the open houses, viewing four different videos and talking to CHA and LCP team members. Attendees turned in a total of 258 surveys, a 70% response rate, while a followup online survey added an additional 54 responses.

A brief summary of community input by category, prepared by LCP, is below.

Overall Revitalization Program

Historic Preservation/Building Reuse

  • Survey results suggest that a majority of respondents favor site-plan concepts that either restore or reuse a critical mass of buildings.
  • The preservation-focused concept, "Riverworks," scored the highest on this issue at 3.03 out of 5, slightly higher than "Gateways" at 2.84/5 and "Greenscapes" at 2.71/5.
  • Written and verbal comments support the use of historic tax credits to finance the revitalization and leverage public investment in the project.
  • Verbal comments raised concerns about how an all-demolition concept would fare in the Section 106 process, which allows for a broad spectrum of options from restoration to demolition.

Building Height

  • A majority of the input suggests a strong sensitivity to varying building heights.
  • The Greenscapes concept, featuring overall lower-height development comparable to the Lathrop Elderly building, scored 3.51/5, significantly higher than the 1.67/5 for Riverworks (two towers) and 1.96/5 for Gateways (one tower).
  • Written comments and open house conversations favored lower-height development along Clybourn adjacent to the existing neighborhood, and were more accepting of a taller building at the far southern end of the site.

Density

  • Resistance was voiced to a density of 1,600 units on the Lathrop site.
  • Comments typically focused on the vehicular traffic that 1,600 homes could bring to the area, and raised many questions about the existing traffic conditions at the Damen/Clybourn/Diversey intersection.
  • A limited number of survey results expressed consideration for density as a necessity in achieving other desired amenities.
  • "Providing options for transit and reduced auto dependency" achieved a 4.09/5, the highest score on the second page ofthe survey.

Income Mix

  • The opinions expressed in response to the suggested income mix of 50% market rate, 25% affordable and 25% public housing, ranged from "no market rate housing" to "no public housing". In general, the feedback supported the proposed percentages.
  • Many respondents also commented that they needed more information to adequately respond to this question.
  • Other comments raised questions on how the income mix might affect schools, safety, crime and property values in the surrounding community.
  • Many respondents also raised questions about the successes of other mixed-income communities in Chicago or the country.
  • Other comments raised questions on what the mix of home ownership units would be relative to rental apartments.

Detailed Design Considerations

Diversey Parkway

  • The ideas regarding improvement and greening Diversey Parkway were well received, with suggestions that no changes should slow traffic.

Community Facilities and the Chicago River

  • The preferred location of community facilities was along the Chicago River.
  • Concepts that improved the river's edge south of Diversey received positive reaction.
  • "Improving the river's edge south of Diversey Parkway" received the second highest score on page two of the survey, 3.94/5.

Retail and Parking

  • Some respondents inquired about the need for additional retail in the area and raised questions regarding the associated traffic it might bring.
  • The survey showed a preference for neighborhood-focused retail (Main Street received 3.31/5 and town square received 2.96/5) with parking on top of or inside of buildings (3.31/5 versus 2.63/5 for parking lots and 2.26/5 for on-street).
  • Automobile-focused retail scored the lowest of the concepts presented (2.28/5).

New Streets

  • General feedback regarding the new streets proposed in all three concepts was positive, with one new street onto C1ybourn Avenue north of Diversey Parkway (2.84/5) and two new streets onto Damen Avenue south of Diversey Parkway (2.95/5) receiving the highest scores.
  • In addition, "creating new pedestrian and bicycle connections" got the third highest score 3.92/5 on page 2 of the survey.
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