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The Mechanics
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Housing Thu Apr 11 2013

Historic Housing Development Facing Redevelopment

The historic Julia C. Lathrop Homes are listed by Preservation Chicago as one of the city's seven most endangered developments and the Chicago Housing Authority will release its final proposal soon, according to a city council staffer.

The CHA will release their final proposal and hold a meeting sometime this month, according to Paul Sajovec, chief of staff to Alderman Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward). The agency's board will meet Tuesday, April 16.

"To say there is imminent danger [of demolition] is completely accurate," said Sajovec. "Now is the time if people are concerned with what's happening there."

The buildings, centered around 2000 W. Diversey Ave., were previously listed by Preservation Chicago as endangered in 2007 due to the CHA's plans to redevelop the public housing project. The development plans proposed by the CHA would demolish almost half of the buildings, according to information from Preservation Chicago's website.

Although the Lathrop Homes are primarily in Ald. Joe Moreno's 1st Ward, Waguespack is involved in the redevelopment process because residential areas in his ward is adjacent to the homes, according to Sajovec.

"We feel the implication will be primarily felt by 32nd Ward residents," Sajovec said.
           
Waguespack has been involved in meetings concerning the buildings, and sent a letter to CHA CEO Charles Woodyard  on Nov. 9, 2012.
           
The homes were built in 1938 by the Public Works Administration, according to Jordan Powers, communications and programs director at the National Public Housing Museum. The Lathrop Homes were added to the National Register of Places in 1994.
           
"Lathrop was developed as one of the first three public housing developments in Chicago," Powers said.
           
The buildings were designed by eight architects, described by Landmarks Illinois as a "dream team." They are: Robert S. De Golyer, Hugh M.G. Garden, Jens Jensen, Thomas Tallmadge, Vernon Watson, E.E. Roberts, Charles White and Hubert Burnham
           
For the alderman and residents of his ward, the issue with the planned redevelopment is more about how it will affect the neighborhood than the history of the buildings.
           
"[Waguespack's] primary concern is that the level of density is excessive based on the surrounding the history of the buildings," said Sajovec.
         
Based on the three designs proposed by the CHA, the new public housing development would house up to 3,200 residents, or three times the population density of the surrounding area, according to a Feb. 7 letter sent by the Hamlin Park Neighbors and Roscoe Village Neighbors to the CHA.
       
Two of the three original design proposal feature high-rise apartment buildings, a feature that a majority of area residents disagree with, according to a survey taken at two CHA open house meetings held in November 2012. The survey also included comments left by residents.
       
CHA finally tore down the high-rise projects, and now you're proposing bringing this back? High-rises don't fit into the neighborhood," one commenter wrote.
           
"All three concepts would destroy a beautiful development that has been set aside for 75 years for low income families. This should be preserved," another resident wrote.
           
There are 925 housing units in the Lathrop Homes buildings in three and four story apartment buildings and two story houses, according to Preservation Chicago.  Only about 100 of the units, consolidated in the buildings south of Diversey Avenue, are occupied, according to Sajovec.
           
"There needs to be a lot of consideration for the residents that live there," said Powers.

 
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