Public housing

One of the country’s oldest public housing developments proves mixed-income communities can rent fast


The rebuilding of Julia C. Lathrop Homes, a Chicago Housing Authority community on the North Side, is about to take another step forward, and officials at developer Related Midwest say the completed first phase shows income communities mixed can work.

Relevant officials initially thought that rebuilding a community of market-rate tenants, public housing residents and others renting affordable apartments would take time. But apartments for tenants of all income levels quickly filled up once the first phase of two-year, $ 185 million reconstruction, mostly in the northern half of the development, was completed in 2019.

“We were very surprised at how quickly the market rate units were leased,” said Sarah Jane Wick, vice president of Related Midwest.

Bisnow / Brian Rogal

Julia C. Lathrop Homes

CHA’s transformation plan, launched over two decades ago, called for the demolition of what had become very poor communities in favor of reconstructed, mixed-income developments that incorporated better-off tenants.

Achieving this mix has been difficult in other developments such as Cabrini-Green, particularly during the Great Recession real estate crash, but the 414 units completed at Lathrop consisting of 151 CHA units, 171 at market rate and Another 91 affordable apartments, were around 97% occupied throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

“They’re going to know it’s a mixed income community, and it’s not for everyone,” Wick said.

It is not easy to learn from the successful rental of Lathrop, she added. There were approximately 150 CHA families still in development when the master plan was completed in 2016. This group had, along with community organizations such as the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, waged a years-long struggle to preserve a community that provided l origin more than 900 social housing units. They pledged to stay and quickly filled the CHA units of the first phase.

Other tenants, both market-priced and affordable, have been drawn to Lathrop because of its historic character and location along the North Arm of the Chicago River. One of the first social housing projects in the United States, it was designed in the 1930s by several prominent architects, including renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen, whose large lawn is the centerpiece of the northern half of the development.

Officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012, all of Lathrop’s buildings used distinctive bricks and other architectural adornments.

“I think Lathrop is unique because of its location, its historic character and its open spaces, which are its main amenity,” said Wick.


Reserved area

Courtesy of Related Midwest

Julia C. Lathrop Homes

According to Joy Aruguete, executive director of the nonprofit Bickerdike Redevelopment Corp., one of Related’s development partners. When it was built in the 1930s, Lathrop was in an industrial area, so Jensen and others designed an isolated community, built around its green spaces and cut off from the river, then an open industrial waste sewer.

“Lathrop was built to turn its back on the community,” said Aruguete.

But the industry is now gone and the river is much cleaner. Canadian geese, ducks and kayakers are frequently seen floating alongside, and Related has rebuilt the riverside with trails, a boat dock, wetlands with native grasses and plants, and transformed the one of the original apartment buildings into a boathouse.

“Usually for real estate companies it’s an afterthought, but this developer has given a lot of thought to the relationship residents would have with the river,” said Trish Brubaker, general manager of the Lincoln Park Boat Club.

The group is a tenant of the Lathrop boathouse and gives free lessons to children living in the development.

Bickerdike also hosts community events such as movies in the park and makes sure residents are always engaged in future development plans.

“We’re not just building buildings here, we’re also designing community,” Aruguete said.


Reserved area

Bisnow / Brian Rogal

Hexe Coffee Co., 2000 West Diversey Parkway, the former administration building for the development.

According to the 2016 master plan, Related Midwest and its partners agreed to preserve and rehabilitate the northern section of Lathrop, demolish and replace most of the southern half with newly built units, add retail stores at street level and transforming a former coal-fired power station at the southern tip. in a riverside convenience. In the end, the original plan called for 1,116 residences in total, with 484 units at market price, 222 for families who meet affordable housing guidelines, and 400 for CHA households.

It will take years, but the progress so far bodes well for the next phase of the redevelopment, Wick added. Related Midwest hopes to bring this phase to a close later this month, starting rehabilitation work on 74 other historic units, including those in the last vacant building in the northern half of Lathrop and others in one of the vacant structures in south of Diversey Parkway, which cuts the development in half.

“It depends on what I call an act of God,” Wick said.

By this it means obtaining an agreement between the many parties involved. At Lathrop, this always includes its nonprofit partners Bickerdike and Heartland Housing, community residents, CHA, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, National Park Service, which has a say in dealing with issues. historic places, as well as investors in Housing Tax Credits for Low Income and Historic Tax Credits that help fund the work. But the deal for these next two buildings is almost done.

“We are well prepared to start this by the end of the month,” Wick said.

Relevant officials are also eager to begin subsequent phases, which means more negotiations with all stakeholders on how and when to rebuild or demolish and replace the vacant condemned buildings remaining in the southern half, he said. -she adds.

The developers want to go fast, she added. Leaving some of the now unsightly structures could harm new rental efforts as well as the quality of life for current residents. CHA officials say they are determined to work with partners like Related to get things done, but also hint at possible delays.

“The CHA is actively working to move forward to determine the size, scope and feasibility of subsequent phases, which depend on the availability of tax credits,” said CHA spokesperson Matthew Aguilar.

“We want to do it all at the same time,” Wick said.


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