As redevelopment planning for the Julia C. Lathrop Homes moves forward, local officials are dismayed by the Chicago Housing Authority‘s approach at gathering community insight. The CHA and its chosen property developer, Lathrop Community Partners, have proposed three potential plans that would nearly double the number of housing units, going from the current 925, the vast majority of which are currently empty, to 1,600 total units, plus a new commercial shopping area.
Paul Sajovec, Chief of Staff to Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), said there is no justifiable reason to construct that many units.
“We reject the 1,600 units number,” Sajovec said. ”There’s no justification for that.”
When deciding on a developer, the CHA’s for a request for qualifications called for, “Approximately 800?1,200 units of market quality, new and/or rehabilitated mixed?income housing, both ownership and rental, approximately 1/3 of which must be public housing.”
If CHA holds to the original concept, more than 1,060 of the newly constructed units would be available for rent or purchase to the general public. Sajovec said that the CHA may be playing the long game, trying to capitalize on the future housing market.
“There’s tremendous profit potential,” he told Roscoe View Journal this morning. “There may not be much demand now, but markets can change…I think they’re trying to push that unit count as high as they can to not leave any profit on the table.”
The potential increase in density brings also presents a threat of even worse traffic to the area, with the Lathrop Homes being located at the Damen, Diversey and Clybourn intersection.
In a letter sent yesterday to CHA’s CEO, Charles Woodyear, Waguespack said that the potential for increased congestion is one of area residents’ chief concerns.
“This approach is fundamentally flawed because it attempts to solve one problem, segregated public housing, by replacing it with another equally damaging problem, excessive density,” Waguespack wrote. “In so doing, LCP demonstrates a lack of concern for the implications of the plan for Lathrop on the long term health and vitality of the surrounding neighborhoods.”
The Lathrop Homes were added to the National Register of Historic Places last April, and that designation requires that before any major changes are made to a property, certain steps, known as the Section 106 Process, must be taken to ensure the public has been informed and given the chance to offer feedback on any potential plans.
“[Section 106] stipulates there’s a vigorous public discussion of what’s proposed to happen on the site,” Sajovec said. “[The CHA] has taken that and put it aside.”
The CHA is holding the second of two open house discussions on the future of Lathrop Homes tomorrow from noon to 4:00 p.m. at New Life Community Church, 2958 N. Damen Ave.