Lathrop Homes Redevelopment plans head back to the drawing board amid much public skepticism


Photo of Lathrop from presentation

According to Lathrop Community Partners* (LCP) members who co-hosted the redevelopment open houses, in New Life Community Church, 2958 N. Damen Ave., for the Julia C. Lathrop Homes, "We will take all comments into consideration and present new plans early next year with community meetings to be scheduled for 2013 spring." Many attendees are skeptical about this statement because they feel the LCP developers* and their co-host Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) did not listened at previous meetings.

Located on prime real estate at Diversey Pkwy., Clybourn Ave., Damen Ave. and the River, the Julia C. Lathrop Homes public housing project was constructed during the New Deal of the 1930s. It was designed by several well known architects including Hubert Burnham, Robert DeGoyler, Hugh Garden, E. E. Roberts, Thomas Tallmadge, Vernon Watson and Charles White. Well known and highly acclaimed landscape architect Jens Jensen designed the small parks and kitchen gardens within the 37-acre site. The federal government built the initial public housing projects to be well-equipped and to have appealing exteriors. That concept for public housing held true through World War II.




Four primary issues
The primary problem issues that are repeated over and over by viewers of the proposed scenarios are:

  • Density (Number of residential and retail units)
  • Preservation of buildings and the site
  • Make-up of types of units: market rate, affordable and public housing
  • Parking for residential

In the most recent set of plans for the Planned Development, each of the three scenarios includes 1600 units on a site that has 32 structures with 925 living units; each scenario is LEED Green; and each breaks the units into 50% market value, 25% affordable housing and 25% public housing.

Put on the National Register of Historic Places in the spring  of 2012, Julia C. Lathrop Homes is not guaranteed of being a total teardown. In fact, one of the latest three LCP redevelopment scenarios is predicated on a complete teardown. The buildings will be owned and maintained by the LCP partnership under a 40-year agreement, while the land will be owned by CHA. According to the RFQ, "The Lathrop Homes physical revitalization proposal will not include the Lathrop Elderly building located at 2717 N. Leavitt. At present, fewer than 250 of these units are occupied. The current Property Manager is East Lake Management Group."  

On the issue of market value to affordable and public housing, a Bickerdike spokesperson said, "Worrying about the 1600 units today will have you missing out on some really good prospects." Kerry Dickson, Related Midwest's Senior Vice President, pointed out that the CHA's RFQ asks for 400 units to be public housing with a recommendation of 1/3, 1/3, and 1/3 but the team believes that the mix is a workable."

One attendee pressed Dickson by pointing out that there is a great deal of market rate housing around the site. He replied that making the project totally affordable and public housing  "makes it what it was before in terms of low income households."

Executive Director of Preservation Chicago, Jonathan Fine, was quoted saying:

“The RFQ called for 800 to 1,200 units and for historic preservation to be a priority.” Yet neither is reflected in the final plans, he added. “They went through the motions of ‘community engagement,’ but there really wasn’t anything engaging in the process.”

Instead, “We got a market-driven, profit-oriented plan,” Fine said, that won’t serve residents or neighbors. While his group doesn’t focus on the many issues that face the planners, he said he thinks an emphasis on preservation could simplify the issues. “The problems at Lathrop have stemmed from breakdowns in security, maintenance, and tenant screening, not the architecture and planning,” Fine said.

Ward Miller, Board President of Preservation Chicago, says, "It should only be 900 units."

"I like a lot of what I've seen but it is too dense," said Joel Berman, architect and long-time area resident. "We now live across from this area and have watched CHA push people out for almost a year to the point that it is mostly vacant, which does not seem right."

To the question, "Why so much retail?" Dickson said that people requested it. Further inquiries got to the fact that 120 people, not necessarily living in or near the complex,  commented on wanting more restaurants and shopping and that three retail grocers have contacted LCP about acquiring retail space. Berman asked Dickson, "Have you done a retail attraction study?" "No."

"Have you done a traffic study," Berman asked. "We haven't done them yet. We  started analysis with a baseline study by measuring existing traffic in the intersection and getting feedback from consultants who are doing our street grids," responded Dickson.

When asked about residential parking. Dickson that is being calculated at .65 per unit. "The City  required us to put in one per unit for our Roosevelt Square project  however we find that is half empty." The Roosevelt Square project is not a fair comparison according to 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack's Chief of Staff  Paul Sajovec. The area in which that project resides has more public transportation.

The developers referred to the fact that residents of such a development use public transportation more than owning a car. Furthermore they believe that the development would bring more public transportation to the area. With the 2013 CTA budget and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's current comments about CTA fare hikes, that would seem doubtful.

Other facts
When asked about the process in developing the scenarios, Dickson said that they were done with an eye on income and expenses that will flow in and out of LCP. Tax Increment Financing (TIFs) and other financial subjects were not part of the Open House presentations.

After reviewing the LCP proposed project as presented below, opinions may still be presented to the developers via a survey.

Three proposed scenarios


Greenscapes clears the site of all structures and starts from scratch. It is described as "This approach aims to meet challenging needs over the next 100 years. Here are the drawings and video

This scenario highlights:

  • Emphasizes new buildings and does not retain existing buildings
  • Creates a new 5-acre riverside park
  • Adds three new street connections to Clybourn Avenue
  • Adds two new street connections to Damen Avenue
  • Introduces on-street parking and bike lanes on Diversey Parkway
  • Locates a community facility along the river
  • Creates new neighborhood retail through small shopping centers with parking lots in front
  • Addresses parking through surface parking lots
  • Proposes that all buildings be no taller than the Lathrop Elderly building

Gateways presents an alternative that reuses a critical mass of the existing site "while making extensive additions to many of the buildings." These are the drawings and video.

This scenario highlights:

  • Retains existing building stock but allows for extensive additions
  • Creates a new “midway” public park
  • Adds a new street connection to Clybourn Avenue
  • Adds a new street connection to Damen Avenue
  • Adds a median on Diversey Parkway
  • Locates a community facility at the end of the midway park
  • Creates new neighborhood retail around a central “town square”
  • Addresses parking by creating new streets and encouraging on-street parking
  • Proposes a new residential tower at the south end of the site

Riverworks is described as "reusing a critical mass of the existing Lathrop homes. This is made possible by concentrating new dwelling units in taller buildings in order to conserve the historic development pattern." These are the drawings and video.

This scenario highlights:

  • Retains and remodels existing building stock
  • Minimizes development within the Jens Jensen-designed Great Lawn
  • Provides new pedestrian paths to Clybourn Avenue
  • Adds three new streets that connect to Damen Avenue (south of Diversey Parkway)
  • Creates a mid-block pedestrian crossing on Diversey Parkway
  • Incorporates a new multi-purpose community facility at Diversey Parkway in the center of the site
  • Creates a “Main Street” of neighborhood retail that aligns with the Costco driveway on Damen Avenue
  • Addresses parking by generally providing it inside of or on top of buildings
  • Proposes two new residential towers at the south and north ends of the sit


*LCP consists of these firms: Related Midwest (affiliate of nationwide Related Companies), Heartland Alliance, BickerdikeMagellan Development and Ardmore Associates. According to a Bickerdike spokesperson, Bickerdike and Heartland have experience with affordable housing while Related and Magellan have the market rate experience.

Three other project teams are: Construction, Planning and Design and Community Building.

Construction team includes: McHugh Construction, Humboldt Construction (part of Bickerdike), Denco Construction Management and Brown and Momen.
Planning and Design includes: Farr Associates; Brininstool, Kerwin and Lynch; Studio Gang Architects, DBM, Bauerlatoza Studio and Wolff Landscape Architecture.
Community Building includes: Growing Power, Education Team, Illinois Facilities Fund, Hearland Human Care Services and Related Management.



Lathrop developers

If the developers paid by the CHA were paying attention at all over the past ten years they would realize this is too much and what all the communities have been fighting against. but they don't care and neither do the people that control them in the Mayors City Hall.

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