Today the Chicago Plan Commission approved the massive Lathrop Homes redevelopment plan by Related Midwest.
The Chicago Housing Authority’s Julia C. Lathrop Homes were built in 1938 by the federal Public Works Administration as one of the city’s first public housing projects.
Preservationists have been worried about the planned redevelopment since it was announced. The 925 residences in 31 buildings were designed by a who’s who of early century American architects, led by Robert S. De Golyer and also including Hugh M.G. Garden. The buildings sport details and styles including Prairie School, Arts and Crafts, Art Moderne and even Colonial Revival. Jens Jensen did the landscape design.
Today’s vote allows the renovation of 14 existing buildings, the construction of two mixed-use buildings, as well as new green space and the connection of the neighborhood to the Chicago River. The result is 1,208 residences and 50,000 square feet of retail space.
Plan Commission meetings are rarely the target of protests, but there were dozens of activists there today. Some were against the idea of having market rate apartments as part of the scheme. The redevelopment plan includes 400 public housing units, 222 “affordable” housing units, and 494 market rate units. Some think the number of public housing is simply too low, including one woman who lamented, “I am so happy for the 400 people who will get to live here, but I am deeply deeply sad for the rest of those 525 whose units aren’t being replaced.”
Others were unhappy with the number of buildings being preserved. Of the 31 buildings at Lathrop Homes, 14 are being saved. That’s less than the 19 buildings the group claims it was promised.
Still others wore T-shirts with “TIF $ TO SUPPORT CHAIN RETAIL: A BAD PLAN” printed on them. And some expressed their concern by singing. Yes, they broke out in song during the Chicago Plan Commission meeting.
Supporters of the plan also showed up, both organized, and individually, to make their voices heard.
A number of speakers, aldermen, and commissioners were concerned about approving the entire plan when they’d only seen the details of phase one. Commissioner Linda Searle noted that the entire project is going to take a decade or more, and felt it would wise to have future votes on future phases.
While her concerns were heard, the measure passed.