Sunday, November 13th, 2011

Chicago: Lathrop Homes Redevelopment Public Kickoff

Children at Lathrop Homes

Cities are about people, not just buildings. So you can’t love the neighborhood if you hate the neighbors.

Northside Chicago residents will get a chance to see if they measure up to the progressivist urban ideals they espouse as one of the last and perhaps one of the most important of the public housing project redevelopments in the CHA’s Plan for Transformation gets underway soon at the Julia C. Lathrop Homes on the north side.

This is perhaps a bit more of a neighborhood project than I’d normally write about. But this is my neighborhood, and the people who live in Lathrop are my neighbors. And I believe the particulars of this project make it important to the city and, if done right, potentially an example for the nation.

The Lathrop redevelopment project has been controversial for some time, but I won’t rehash that history here. Instead, I’ll just say that the CHA selected a consortium called Lathrop Community Partners last fall to lead the development of a master plan for redevelopment

The team has been conducting preliminary interviews, and the official public process is about to begin with a public meeting on Wednesday, November 16th at 6:00pm at New Life Community Church, 2958 N. Damen Ave. at Wellington, across the street from Hamlin Park. Anyone is welcome to attend. Please spread the word especially to those you might know who live in the neighborhood. You can find out more about what’s going on at the Lathrop Community Partners website.

What Are the Lathrop Homes?

The Julia C. Lathrop Homes is a public housing project at the intersection of Diversey, Damen, and Clybourn with 900 units, though only about 200 of them are currently occupied. But it’s a housing project unlike any other in the city. When you think public housing in Chicago, you think of the post-War urban renewal high rises like Cabrini Green, Stateway Gardens and the Robert Taylor Homes.

Buildings at Lathrop Homes

But Lathrop is completely different. It’s a low rise development constructed under the auspices of the New Deal’s WPA in 1937. The construction quality and architecture are of a much higher order than anything constructed post-War. Frankly, the exterior looks better than some new condo buildings. The WPA built a number of these around the country and they form a unique and historic collection of developments. Alas, not all have survived, and ensuring that Lathrop doesn’t share the same fate as the likes of the partially demolished Lockfield Gardens in Indianapolis is one of the issues at stake in the matter.

Lathrop Homes, aerial view of site

Lathrop is also different in that it was for quite some time an all-white project. Today Lathrop Homes is extremely diverse, including white, black, and Latino residents, making this perhaps the only project in Chicago with a trans-racial history and present. Megan Cottrell wrote about this history in more detail, and actually went on a tour with some former residents from the old days of Lathrop, who decided to knock on the door of the unit they used to live in. (If the video doesn’t display, click here).

Problems, or Lack Thereof, With Lathrop

Given the vastly different history of Lathrop from other CHA developments, it’s unsurprising that it had a different trajectory. While not immune from problems, Lathrop has not become the byword for dysfunction and criminality that the high rises did. Everybody knew the Cabrini Green had to go. It would simply never have been possible to make that project function. But Lathrop is different. It made me nervous to drive through Cabrini in broad daylight, but I’d walk around Lathrop at night even before it was depopulated by the CHA. The types of crime you’d hear associated with Lathrop is more on the order of tagging than hard core gangbanging.

Most importantly, there doesn’t appear to be any real community opposition to Lathrop or public housing generally in the neighborhood. I know people who’ve owned upscale condos near there and never once have I heard a complaint about Lathrop.

In short, while there are problems I’ll address in a moment, unlike with other CHA projects, there’s no burning platform for scraping Lathrop and starting over, nor for any displacement of existing residents. Quite the opposite in fact. There are many reasons to want to both preserve Lathrop architecturally and as a significant source of public housing units in the area.

So what are the problems.

Firstly, the buildings are old and in need of repair. Also, while Lathrop was one of the better projects, we know that warehousing exclusively poor people in a high density setting isn’t a very good idea. And Lathrop has traditionally been in an isolated spot along the Chicago River in an industrial corridor without good connections to the surrounding areas, a problem that persists today. It’s difficult to even say what neighborhood it is officially in. The project is split across two city wards, for example.

Intersection of Diversey, Damen, and Clybourne

Beyond Lathrop itself, the Clyborn corridor is an unmitigated disaster, save possibly from a purely commercial perspective. It’s generally low grade strip malls of the early Schaumburgian variety, giving it a grade of F- on sustainability and basic urbanity. Obviously better advantage needs to be taken of the Chicago River. The area is a huge barrier to east-west bicycle and pedestrian traffic. The six way intersection at Diversey/Damen/Clybourn is one of the most pathetic in the city. It is under-served by transit. Only a fool waits for the #50-Damen anymore without checking bus tracker first. This area doesn’t even function well for the yuppie condo owners who don’t live in Lathrop. And yikes, how many different kinds of street lights can you spot in that one photo? That alone shows the extent to which this area has been an afterthought by the city.

The Lathrop Opportunity

The unique history, condition, and setting of Lathrop provides what I believe is a unique opportunity for Chicago to do something truly special. If there’s community and city leadership will to make it happen, we could stack up a truly staggering list of wins here:

  • Nearly zero displacement of residents. Supposedly 400 units of traditional public housing are penciled in for Lathrop, and the city has guaranteed a unit to anyone who is a current or recent resident dating back to 1999 who meets some qualifications. The devil will be in the details here for sure, particularly on matters like “lease compliance” requirements. Certainly no one should be compelled to stay nor be blamed if they take the money and run, but unlike with previous CHA redevelopments, there’s simply no excuse not to make sure the vast bulk of residents end up back in the new Lathrop. In fact, given Lathrop’s depopulated state, there should actually be a net increase in public housing residents when the project is completed.
  • Creating a true mixed income, diverse, cohesive neighborhood in a city that desperately needs it. It’s no secret that Chicago is heavily segregated and balkanized. The pure gentrification wave that was sweeping through the area crashed with the housing market, leaving the Hamlin Park area bordering Lathrop as an interesting pocket of diversity, with an eclectic mix of pretty much at least one of everybody. It reminds me a bit of my old neighborhood in South Evanston – and in a good way. Because of the diverse surroundings and general lack of suspicion of Lathrop by non-residents, I believe there’s an opportunity to achieve something very special here. It won’t be easy, and the process will be as important to achieving it as the master plan itself, but the potential is there.
  • Preservation of the historic buildings. Again, this is a much higher grade of architecture than typical public housing, and these buildings are historic. Wholesale demolitions are not warranted here.
  • Leading edge sustainability. In addition to energy efficiency upgrades and such in the buildings, this ought to be Chicago’s first actual LEED-ND development actually built. There’s no reason not to do this, and again the neighborhood desperately needs improvement in this arena.
  • Reconnecting with the Chicago River. Helping to build another major link in reclaiming that waterway for people.
  • Enhancing the boulevard system. Another unique aspect of this project is that it is on the Chicago Boulevard system. Both Logan Blvd and Diversey are technically part of that, though neither seems it. The difference between Logan east and west of the Kennedy is profound. The entries in the NETWORK RESET competition to re-envision the boulevards have to contain good ideas that could be adopted into the Lathrop plan. This redevelopment could also be the first phase in the next generation boulevard treatment.
  • Improving multi-modal access and connectivity. Damen Ave. is already a major north-south bike route, but is still less than bike friendly in my view. East-west connectivity from Logan Square and beyond into the lakefront and adjacent neighborhoods is poor. I noted the extremely pedestrian-hostile six way intersection and less than idea transit service in the area. All of these need addressed. This is of particular importance for the Lathrop residents who are isolated by the poor design features of the area, as well as the commercial district that does not well serve the needs of anyone without a car.
  • Starting the healing process of the Clybourn corridor. There’s no reason more neighborhood serving retail and other institutions can’t be included in the mix.

I don’t see any of these as mutually exclusive. Funding may be challenging for some of the capital elements, but this is a multi-year process and there’s no reason everything has to have money in the bank on day zero.

It won’t be easy, but if Chicago can pull this off, it would not only be the best outcome for the neighbors, Lathrop residents and non, but would create an national showpiece and demonstration of what a mixed income area could be and how to provide affordable and public housing in a way that’s great for everyone involved.

How You Can Help

I’d encourage everyone, especially those who live in the area, to attend this meeting or otherwise get involved and be a strong advocate for the right outcome.

I believe strong, collaborative, and positive neighborhood involvement is critical to getting the right project here. I think city leadership through the aldermen in the area legitimately wants a good outcome. So I don’t believe it would be productive to assume “the fix is in” or the other various conspiracy theories people often love to tout when it comes to local government. I personally don’t believe that to be the case, though obviously different parties have different perspectives on what should be done.

On the other hand, like Ronald Reagan said, “Trust, but verify.” I’ve got concerns myself. For example, that the CHA will impose templated elements, particularly around housing mix, based on the rest of the transformation program in a place that is very different from other CHA properties and in an environment where market conditions have changed radically. Everything I have heard to date suggests that the CHA plans to shoot for their typical 1/3 public housing, 1/3 affordable housing, and 1/3 market rate housing mix. But with 46% of all Chicago mortgages underwater, we need more “market rate” condos like a hole in the head. There’s no reason why there couldn’t be a significantly increased public housing component here.

Also, the CHA has already deferred this kickoff meeting for six months. They basically forced everyone who lived north of Diversey to move south of it. And they planned to seal off the north part of Lathrop with a huge 8-foot perimeter wall built right to the sidewalk. Not neighborhood friendly to say the least. So there are reasons to be concerned about what’s going on.

That’s why I plan to be involved, to make sure there are strong voices advocating for the right outcome for our neighborhood. I hope you will be too.

Topics: Public Policy
Cities: Chicago

26 Responses to “Chicago: Lathrop Homes Redevelopment Public Kickoff”

  1. Rob Reid says:

    Great to see some local coverage- having just biked past the Lathrop Homes last night (I live a mile west), it couldn’t get any more local than that for me. But these small-scale issues are broadly relevant because similar sorts of issues play out in all cities.

    You mention that Logan and Diversey are technically part of the boulevard system. Logan is, but I believe Diversey is a boulevard in name only- due to delays from legal battles with local property owners back in the 19th century, Diversey never got widened into a boulevard according to Daniel Burnham’s plan (which would have completed a green ring beginning at Jackson Park some 15 miles or so southeast). At this point, I think Wrightwood (just ¼ mile south) may be a more viable east-west access route from Logan Square to the Lakefront. There’s actually a bike trail on the river side of Lathrop which would allow bikers to cut over to Wrightwood, but it looks like it runs right into the middle of Lathrop and it’s not obviously marked as a bike route. I never see any bikers on this stretch. But I can imagine the future of this area is very relevant to the “bike community” (not that there’s one cohesive group). If you have a “model” for improvement in mind getting the word out to someone like John Greenfield (who works at Boulevard bikes and may also be the city’s most prominent pro-bike journalist) could make a difference.

    I agree that zero displacement of a proven functional community is a worthwhile goal. The Logan Square Neighborhood Association has a collection of articles under the heading “The Campaign to Preserve Lathrop Homes” here I didn’t read through all of this but it seems historic landmark status may be a real possibility for Lathrop. The fact that there is no “burning platform for scrapping Lathrop and starting over” may explain why the city has saved this one for last, but I can see how the relatively high cost of maintaining a good housing project like this may make it a tempting target for increased rent amidst a difficult budget situation. But if you have real data about the current housing market, this could dispel the applicability of the CHA’s “templated elements” and help preserve Lathrop under its current use.

    Regarding the pedestrian-unfriendly 3-way intersection, it’s pretty bad, but it’s just one of many in Chicago. Worse still are the intersections where the diagonal road intersects a little off-center (like Belmont/Elston) resulting in stop signals just a few feet apart. Do you know of a model for a city that manages these types of intersections well?

    I also agree that diversity and continuity are appealing qualities in a neighborhood…

    Maybe the key to preserving the Lathrop homes involves bringing together a broad range of local interest groups (preservationists, bikers, etc.). And in terms of improving transit access, I think history has shown Burnham’s plan to be brilliant, and there’s a strong case for improvements to this intersection as a key element in salvaging the completion of his vision. Word about these battles doesn’t always get out, though- it’s interesting that I heard about this not through local sources but from an internet blog that’s regional in scope. I suspect there are a lot more folks who would be interested- not just in the immediate area, but in Logan Square to the west.

  2. Vlajos says:

    It will be very interesting to see how this moves forward.

  3. victor says:

    To further elevate the opinion of Mr. Renn, we would need to know if he currently lives or has lived near public housing. I would be the first to nominate Mr Renn to first rights towards one of the future market rate homes next to the the future public homes of Lathrop. If Mr. Renn would please cite some of the, I am confidently guessing, abundant historical examples of successful public housing/market rate housing harmonies we could all reach the dignified upper echelons of his humanities.

  4. Kostyan says:

    “But with 46% of all Chicago mortgages underwater, we need more “market rate” condos like a hole in the head.”

    Let’s have public housing instead, and we’ll have 86% mortgages underwater in the surrounding area. But who cares about yuppies, right? Let them work and pay taxes.

  5. Thad says:

    It’s funny because my professor, TA, and a classmate are working on a project interviewing CHA residents, and today in class the classmate specifically brought up the Lathrop homes and does not have the same optimism about the success of this project. And knowing how similar efforts with other housing projects met with failure, I won’t put much stock in this actually being a success.

  6. marko says:

    Public housing is THE biggest issue holding back Chicago. When theres no low skill jobs to be had why subsidize people to stay in Chicago? It prevents the public housing resident to move to a city with employment and creates the kind of mayhem and social destruction that drives out tax payers and long time residents while destroying neighborhoods. On block of public housing can destroy a square mile of city. Just what and who is all this public housing really for? The residents or the politicians and connected HUD contractors and vendors maybe?

  7. RAGoodgovrnment says:

    From the post: “…while Lathrop was one of the better projects, we know that warehousing exclusively poor people in a high density setting isn’t a very good idea. And Lathrop has traditionally been in an isolated spot along the Chicago River in an industrial corridor without good connections to the surrounding areas, a problem that persists today.”

    By and large this post is accurate. If you compare what Lathrop is/was to the guidelines for the CHA Transformation you will see that Lathrop restored is the transformation–it has been and still is near jobs, transportation, education, and surrounded by market rate housing. Though the house price on Clybourn 20 years ago was a whole lot less than it is today!

    But I take issue with the section I have quoted above.

    Since 1992, I have been involved as a board member with a social service agency serving the Lathrop Homes. Lathrop historically was surrounded by jobs at the manufacturing and warehousing business that used to be on Diversey and Clybourn and even Elston. Many Lathrop residents worked at these businesses: Cotter and Company (aka True Value), Eklund Tool, Dahlstrom Display, Stewart-Warner, Cooper. Until the early 19900’s the Clybourn bus line went up to Belmont Avenue along Clybourn and then the CTA inexplicably cancelled the service just as welfare-to-work and the gentrification of West Lakeview was gaining momentum. And of course the Diversey bus goes along between the north and south halves of Lathrop and connects the area to an el stop on the red and brown lines just about a mile east of Damen at Sheffield. And of course the Damen bus line is there too.

    What is happening at Lathrop is a leftover landgrab started by the Daley administration and left to the Emanuel administration to deal with. This land is the only environmentally clean land on the river. It has been purely residential for about 80 years while most of the riverfront was industrial with tanneries and printers dumping sewage into the river. Those days of dumping are long over and developers want the river front and the lovely views down the river to the City skycrapers for the rich folks. And when that happens somehow we the taxpayers won’t see any of the profits and the benefits of housing (which is not free to the tenants) for the less fortunate will be gone.

    Also from the post: “The project is split across two city wards, for example” This statement is suppose to support the notion that Lathrop is isolated.

    Lathrop is in two wards because 10 years ago in that ward remap Daley wanted to make sure that the residents of Lathrop had no real political representation. The hundreds of voters in Lathrop were not represented by one aldermen but split in two. Only recently have the new alderman taken a serious interest in helping/listening to the residents of Lathrop

  8. Mike says:

    According to the CHA Freedom of Information Act: Lathrop Public Housing Development received $1.7 million (a year) in taxpayer money for maintenance & salaries in 2008 and 2009. In 2010 that figure spiked to $3.2million, with a projected $1.8million in 2011. Lathrop Homes is only 18% occupied! Why are there custodians (sometimes a dozen) working on the landscaping? How is the city able to pat themselves on the back saying they’ve made “tough choices” when this egregious spending for a condemned property is being approved? I’m writing this as a guy who passes this project housing every day on his way to work; and views this as government spending gone amuck! I wrote my alderman about Lathrop and got a response saying it was a CHA issue and the maintenance improves local housing values. Does anyone pay tens of thousands per year – per household in outdoor maintenance to improve their property value??!!?? Now the CHA is pushing for renovations? At what expense? “According to the CHA, the changes will help integrate residents into the surrounding community and make the buildings more environmentally sustainable.” This is statist speak for green stimulus money allocation, higher tax burdens for the working man, and more govt spending on tax takers while creating a welfare state.

  9. Vlajos says:

    The alderman is right, the CHA is spending money not the City.

  10. Mike says:

    Vlajos: The city council (aldermen) approves CHA spending, so the city IS spending taxpayer money and the CHA should be audited and the millions for “maintenance” should be put to a vote that would require 2/3 council approval and full transparency. $10-million spent on a near-empty housing project “maintenance” begs the question of how much more the CHA will ask the city council to approve for “renovations”.

  11. I’m not sure what this maintenance includes, but $1.8 million for 900 units is $2000 year per unit – that’s far less than what most condos pay in assessments for just common element maintenance. It’s what the city pays to put up one flower hanger downtown. That price doesn’t sound out of line to me.

    I agree it looks worse if there are few occupied units. But you can’t stop maintaining buildings even if no one lives in them unless you want to turn the area into a mini-Detroit. A better answer might be to put those units back into productive use.

  12. Vlajos says:

    Mike, I’m not sure what spending the City Council is approving, but CHA’s money does not come from the City of Chicago. Think Federal Government.

  13. Mike says:

    Urbanophile: $1.7 million allocated per year ($3.2 million) for 166 units, not 900 units; Lathrop is only 18% occupied (as of 2010). In March 2011, 80 occupants were given relocation notices. So please do not try to dilute the numbers. I would be happy to share the report with you, or you can do what I did and access the CHA freedom of information act. My condo association does not pay a fraction of $10,000 per unit to maintain our property. We wait months for a street sweeper to come and clean our curbs, in the meantime we pick up our own trash (as proud homeowners); whereas there is a custodian who is hand sweeping the curbside around Lathrop EVERY DAY. If this excess in spending is being used for a near-vacant property, then how much taxpayer dollars will be allocated for the Utopia known as the mixed-income housing project? How much will be subsidized on the “living wage” and fixed rent for this property? How much “green jobs stimulus” will be spent? If they can hide millions in plain sight, then I can only imagine the shell game taxpayers will pay. Be it federal tax dollars or otherwise.

  14. Mike says:

    My FOIA request to the CHA, and the report I received, was for the following:

    “Salary paid by CHA to East Lake Management for property maintenance, management and landscaping services rendered at Lathrop Homes. I would like to specifically obtain the number of employees, their salaries and days worked that provide landscaping and custodial work at Lathrop for the past four years.”

  15. Vlajos says:

    Mike, are they not maintaining the whole grounds and up keep on vacant units, security etc?

  16. Mike says:

    Thanks Vlajos: I stand corrected. A majority of CHA funding is through federal tax dollars.

    My misunderstanding came from reading about the Mayor cutting the CHA chairman salary “as a step towards the mayor’s commitment towards ensuring that taxpayer money is being used effectively.”

    I also read about the previous CHA chairman and officers being audited for misuse of Chicago taxpayer money in regards to city issued credit cards.

    Therefore, I concluded that the Chicago Housing Authority could be audited, voted on, and therefore regulated when it came to allocation and distribution of taxpayer money.

    Though I often contact my alderman when it comes to concerns about my neighborhood. In the case of the Lathrop redevelopment, the 1st ward alderman was in attendance at the town hall meeting. Possibly drooling over the promise of federal money; which is still taxpayer money spent by the government (for good or ill).

    I’m not sure how effective these community discussions are.

    I sat in with my neighbors as the aldermen tried snowballing us about how little taxes we would pay for the Olympic games. Of course this came right after Mayor Daley lied by saying not one city taxpayer dollar would go into the Olympics. The council tried to shift the idea by saying it was federal funding, not taxpayer dollars. Anyone who opposed the Olympics at these meetings was looked down upon as heartless monsters who didn’t care about the children (they explained how the renovations would help children exercise more to combat obesity).

    If that tactic didn’t guilt a person into changing their mind the panel paraded the Special Olympics in front of the opposition, insinuating that if they didn’t support the Olympics, then they are not humanitarians.

    If there was more noise, they accused you of being a plant or some type of fringe reactionary.

    Overall, what did the publicity campaign do? Not listen to a damn thing. They pushed their agenda forward with false interest in what the constituents had to say. Because, after all, it was for the children, the infirm, job creation, federally (not locally) funded, and President Obama and Oprah said it was a good thing via video.

    Bottom line, this mixed-income Utopia is going to be a tax burdened money pit; that in theory sounds great, but in execution will not work.

  17. Vlajos says:

    “Bottom line, this mixed-income Utopia is going to be a tax burdened money pit; that in theory sounds great, but in execution will not work.”


  18. Mike says:

    Hi Vlajos:

    In 2010 the facility was 18% occupied, and 80 residents were relocated in 2011 for development purposes. I don’t know of any private owned business that maintains vacant property to the extent of $1.7 to $3million dollars a year. And why is this amount the same each year? For instance, an average of $100,000 a year was spent for snow shoveling (which doesn’t include the salary for the person shoveling the snow or supervising the snow shoveler). Why do you need to shovel snow at a vacant area? Who pays $100k for snow removal each year? That has to be some pretty consistent heavy snow every year to get that funding allocated. This is the difference between government run business (i.e. The US Post Office) and a private run business. Private owned businesses are in business to make and save money. This is my argument… money is being spent on vacant property yet we’re told by politicians that they are making “tough choices”. Lathrop is a political quagmire and no official wants to take away funding for fear that they will lose votes; instead they want to have voters believe in a Utopian ideology to garner more votes and perpetuate a welfare state.

    Why won’t it work? I will reply with an anecdote. My Mother headed a division in the Chicago Public Schools that took inner city school kids who were brilliant students. They were accelerated and had an opportunity to move forward. In the early stages, many of these kids, on their own accord (hard work and sweat equity) received full-ride scholarships. The only entitlement they received was the right to pursue an American dream.

    Then along came the government who said it wasn’t fair for these industrious kids to get scholarships, when others were struggling. So the government put together a “No Child Left Behind” operation that equated to a mixed-intellect (note a similarity to mixed-income) class system. The objective was for slow learners to be inspired by higher intelligence. And that the accelerated kids would take a leadership role and equalize the bar. It never happened. They shut down the accelerated program saying it was suspect of discrimination (not racial, but mental) and the intelligent kids realized they didn’t need to put in much effort to reach mediocrity. Other accelerated kids were able to find more challenging private institutions. As it stands now, decades after my Mother left, the school is a cesspool of gang activity, violence, and low academia.

    When I moved in nearby (1/2 mile down on Levitt) my building was robbed and vandalized with graffiti. The police and alderman speculated that it was the economy that drove these continued acts. We were burglarized three times within a month. One police officer said that it was because I lived in a nice home, and that nice homes are often subject to class warfare where some people feel entitled to take and destroy property that the government doesn’t provide (or that the rich aren’t taxed enough to provide those entitlements). Thus I no longer was the victim but a target, and the criminal became the victim. Would my living alongside this “victim” inspire him/ her to work hard to obtain what took me over forty years? Or would that victim be inspired to just take my life’s work and vote for someone to tax me more because I’m “the rich”.

    All I see is my tax dollars being spent on Hope & Change rhetoric, and when those tax dollars are bled dry, they will criminalize the rich and say they owe more (even though 50% of my income goes to federal, state, and local taxes).

    It won’t work, but I’m sure the agenda will be pushed through to buy votes on the backs of taxpayers.

    Here’s a quote from The University of Chicago:

    When the Chicago Tribune questioned Emanuel, who tends to omit his status as former member of the Chicago Housing Authority Board from his bios, he, too, gave vague answers, referring to [mixed income housing] as a “bold plan” with aims of achieving “economic self-sufficiency for residents” that could be achieved with “private sector investment”. Although he acknowledged the plan’s challenges, he didn’t present any concrete solutions—or explain how the city would pay for the rest of it.

  19. urbanpln says:

    I think Marko is missing part of the picture. Rebuilding CHA/mixed income developments are not only for those who are unemployed. Most of the residents in the developments do have jobs. The real problem is most of them can’t afford market rate rents.

  20. Vlajos says:

    Right, about 1/3 are public housing, 1/3 are affordable (which usually means you have a job, just doesn’t pay real well) and 1/3 market rate. Nefarious plan.

  21. Mike says:

    Rebuilding on the backs of taxpayers, with taxpayers paying for subsidized living, taxpayers paying for bank bailouts for sub-prime loans gone under, taxpayers paying for city services that are already escalating in the millions for a near-vacated property. What picture am I missing? Not to come off too sarcastic, but can I please borrow your rose colored glasses? I pay taxes, and then pay to have services done for my property to maintain the upkeep and value. Who is going to foot the bill for the mixed income property? The interview with Mayor Emanuel already established a private sector investment, but historically commercial investment doesn’t even come close to the local resident dollars. Thus the comment, Emanuel couldn’t explain how the city would pay for the rest of it.

    I can tell you one way, more taxes, more fees, more fines.

    If they cannot afford market rate rents, then the free market suggests relocation where there are jobs and affordable housing. FDR’s Second Bill of Rights was a Utopian dream, but not passed. At what point do we stop the spending on entitlement programs?

    And what 1/3 of market rate people want to invest in a property surrounded by potential foreclosures and short sales? The 180 degree turn the govt took to regulate appraisals takes the comp of latest sale, regardless of its condition or low-ball price due to a bank sale.

    During the Great Depression (which this economy was likened to) people moved to where the work was. Now, they occupy wall street and demand a ranch home, with flat screen TV, smart phone, food vouchers for Taco Bell, and all the amenities.

    Well, I’m going to drive home now, and as I pass Lathrop on my turn off, I’ll play “Imagine” followed by “Kumbaya”.

    Have a good weekend.

  22. Mike, you are obviously an angry man on many things related to Chicago, but a couple things:

    1. The buildings and grounds have to be maintained even if not occupied (and I agree the low occupancy is problem, but the CHA has had a ban on new people moving there for quite some time). If they weren’t maintained, or if the place was mothballed and enclosed in the Berlin Wall the CHA wanted to build, I suspect you’d be quick to complain about that as well.

    2. The project is happening whether we want it to or not. The only question is whether we help shape in a positive direction or not. Derailing the train isn’t an option, though fiscal reality might indeed cause challenges for any plan.

  23. Mike says:

    I’m really not that angry of a person. In fact, I just want to live in peace, but with all the government excesses I need to focus my attention and limited time (after working 60 hours a week and tending to my wife and family) on my neighborhood.

    If the government is spending millions of tax dollars for vacant property in my neighborhood, then at what expense to the taxpayer is this new renovation going to cost? How much is enough?

    Angry? Hardly. I’m a happy man, but lament the decay of the free market and civil society.

    I witness people getting furious, outraged, and obsessed over losing a few bucks at fantasy football. These folks can tell you more about a short-term athlete’s stats than they could about local politics.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, these people are oblivious to the internal hemorrhaging of tax dollars. They bobble head at 2% property tax increases for public schools in complete ignorance to undocumented (illegal) immigrants getting access to public aid, public schooling, and public lunch programs.

    I was in North Dakota a few weeks ago. The men and women who work their fingers to the bone under harsh conditions, pay their taxes and look to build a better life for their family and future. They live in barrack-like “man camps” that offer the bare-bones minimum. I didn’t meet one who complained about decent living conditions. (BTW: Unemployment in ND is less than 2%. McDonald’s is paying $16 an hour plus benefits and a $500 sign-on bonus if they remain employed over 90 days.)

    I also agree that this project will happen whether we want it or not. I just hope, Urbanophile, that you will stand with me in protest when the $100,000 spent each year since 2007 on a near-vacant property’s snow removal service increases along with the cost to hand-sweep the curb on Clybourn; all in the name of shared sacrifice.

  24. Elizabeth Milnarik says:

    Urbanophile, thanks for a good post. I’m very glad you brought up the connection to the river. The original landscape was designed by Jens Jensen, the Landscape Architect who shaped Chicago’s western parks. He designed river bank landscaping and river access, which was never constructed due to construction budget cuts. It would be lovely to have a new access plan inspired by Jensen’s original.

  25. victor says:

    I wanted to thank you for your commentary. You do not come off as an ‘angry man’, but more as a ‘concerned man’. As an eight year resident of the Hamlin park neighborhood and eighteen year Lakeview resident, I can assure you, every property owner I’ve talk to, shares your concerns.
    It’s been posted ‘the project is happening weather we like it or not’. So I ask: Does this mean we should stop asking the questions, ‘will it work?’ or ‘has it ever worked?’ or ‘what are the true intentions of those involved?’.
    If it is large amounts of federal dollars that are being sought after, we have to ask: ‘Do those seeking this money care what happens to the neighborhood after they get their payout?’ and ‘when no one buys the market rate homes next to the free public homes, what happens then? All public homes? Back to a gang-ridden slum with the daily shootings I witnessed in 2003 thru ?
    Mike, I invite you to keep fighting the good fight, shining the light of consciousness on tough issues that aren’t usually met with the ‘warmth and fuzziness’ of a misaligned unscientific humanism.

  26. Lathop Neighbor says:

    I’ve lived in the Lathrop neighborhood for the past ten years. I’ve seen a lot of what’s been going on that’s under the surface.

    HUD allocated close to a billion dollars over ten years ago to get the Lathrop Homes modified, destroyed, rehabbed, whatever the Chicago politicians were able to do. Well, there is a huge problem when people who have more money are in control of those who are poor. People in positions of power are watched very carefully by the public when they exercise control over those poorer people.

    Lathhrop Homes was never built as a complex to house poor people, but over the years poor people by default have bee staying in Lathrop for years, for generations. It was built to house returning service men and their families who needed help getting themselves re-established in America society after World War II. Instead, poor people moved in and found themselves better off than they ever were. Whereas returning servicemen were use to better living accommodations and didn’t want to stay in public housing like Lathrop Homes. Poor people, who never had good housing from day one saw Lathrop Homes and other public housing facilities to be vast improvements over their previous living environments. Who wouldn’t? If you grew up in a home with no running water, no hot water, no bedrooms, and you found yourself in housing like Lathrop’s housing stock, you’d consider it heaven too.

    Therein was and is the problem. When did public housing ever become the norm for poor people? As a taxpayer I say to the residents of public housing, “Now that you’ve got a taste of how you can live, get out and find a job, work and support your family. Don’t move in and stay in. This is not the original intent.” Get it?

    No, instead, families moved in, stayed for several more generations. I don’t mind helping a neighbor get off his feet if has rough times. I do mind constantly helping my neighbor day in and day out. I work for a living and pay my bills too. Why can’t my neighbor?

    The residents in public housing have been living there under misconceptions. This is the United States where opportunities abound everywhere. Just get with the programs and you’ll find success. Don’t complain you’re not getting what you’re “entitled to.”

    If I were a resident in the public housing nowadays I’d look upon the rehab and refurbishing as a godsend. There will be so many opportunities to bootstrap myself out of the there I’d be looking for new situations cropping up all the time.

    A case in point involves when Costco moved into the neighborhood. The Lathrop residents got Costco to hire some residents as part of the deal to permit Costco in the neighborhood. The Lathrop-Costco employees had lowered job requirements to keep their jobs, yet after a few years less than half stayed with Costco. Most dropped out for whatever reasons. The few that stayed have continued onward. More power to them. They deserve it. Now, this is what I, and public housing residents should strive for: self-sufficiency.

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