Lathrop Homes residents and Logan Square neighbors came out in full force Wednesday night to voice concerns over the redevelopment of a rare island of low-income housing on the North Side.
Many Lathrop residents came to the packed Alcott College Prep gymnasium to ask one question: Where will I live?
That’s because the sprawling plan, a decade in the making, will be a mixed-income development, meaning fewer than half of the units will go to low-income tenants like the ones already displaced when the Chicago Housing Authority slated Lathrop for redevelopment as part of the agency’s Plan for Transformation 15 years ago.
James Carlisle, 57, said he’ll be displaced when the redevelopment begins next year. He has lived in Lathrop his entire life.
“They just started fixing things up to make it more livable and now I’ll be moving again to a temporary home,” Carlisle said Wednesday night.
He questioned why developers are tearing down an apartment building where at least 14 families currently live, rather than choosing to begin the plan at the already shuttered buildings in Lathrop.
The plan, more than a decade in the making, has developers working with CHA to build 1,116 units of housing, space for retail and a riverwalk “that would serve as a community mecca and a natural oasis,” on the Lathrop site.
The Depression-era public-housing project is in the North Center neighborhood, on the north branch of the river, between the trendy areas of Roscoe Village and Bucktown.
Related Midwest, one of three developers selected by CHA to work at the site, issued a statement Wednesday touting new buildings, a gut rehab of 19 of the 31 historic Lathrop buildings, as well as parks, playgrounds and in-unit washers and dryers.
Proposed developers said the new development will include studios, although they couldn’t specify the number at the meeting.
Many at the meeting wore T-shirts that read: “Taxpayer funded segregation: Not a good plan!” On the back, the shirts read: “TIF? To support chain retail: NOT A GOOD PLAN!”
Their concern is that TIF funds used to build four new streets for the redevelopment will not connect Lathrop to the neighborhood, just to a big-box parking lot. They also questioned how a TIF district could be created when Chicago Public Schools and the city are in need of new revenue.
Juanita Stevenson, a 33-year resident of Lathrop asked developers for a pledge that TIF funds would be used solely for the low-income public housing units.
“I can’t understand for the life of me how they can just move people out to make room for retailers and streets that go nowhere, with the number of displaced people from [Lathrop],” J.L Gross, a disabled veteran who has lived in an Lathrop apartment for 26 years, said earlier Wednesday. “I don’t know how they could transform this place from a place of need to a place of greed.”
Gross said he has seen the number of Lathrop tenants dwindle from its 925-unit capacity to about 145 occupied apartments in the years since CHA announced the redevelopment, as the agency offered housing vouchers to many tenants and then left vacant units unoccupied.
“I live in a 12-unit building, and I’m the only occupied apartment,” Gross said.
Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno, who answered questions at the community meeting, said he won’t approve the plan in the City Council if the CHA doesn’t put in writing that they’ll bring more public housing to the North Side.
“I have a commitment from the CHA . . . to return those to the North Side. If I don’t have that in writing before this comes down to a vote, I will defer and not vote for it, and none of my colleagues will,” Moreno said to cheers.
That written commitment would ensure that the CHA returns 500 units of public housing to the North Side, roughly making up for the slots lost in the redeveloped Lathrop.
At the meeting, Moreno called the return of public housing to the North Side “the real fight,” citing the CHA’s unwillingness in the past to make that commitment.
Moreno also told the crowd that, despite repeated requests, Chicago Public Schools hasn’t been involved in the Lathrop redevelopment talks, despite the number of children who may be living at the new site.
Lathrop was one of the first projects Moreno took on when he took office five years ago. After attempting to balance the at-times competing agendas of residents, developers, environmentalists and preservationists, Moreno said earlier Wednesday that he is excited about the latest designs.
“It’s time to act,” Moreno said. “We’ve pushed and pushed to get more affordable units, and [now] I think it’s what mixed-income housing should be.
“I think it’s going to be a Chicago treasure, and a national treasure,” he said. The new development is expected to be completed by 2018.