32nd Ward Alderman Unhappy With Lathrop Plans, Process

By Sam Charles | Friday, November 16, 2012

The new Lathrop Homes development plans call for nearly doubling the amount of units. Credit: flickr/davidwilson1949

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.

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  • phaedrus

    LCP does not need those housing units to turn a profit on this project. The planned retail is more than enough. The centralized housing model has failed over and over in the City of Chicago and will only polarize Hamlin Park/Roscoe Village with Lathrop Homes instead of include it. We can not let them turn back the many years of progress that this neighborhood has accomplished.

    Yale law school professor Robert C. Ellickson in his thesis ‘The Failed Promise of Mixed Housing Project’ writes, ‘building mixed-income subsidized projects is a mediocre policy
    approach. In most contexts, using tax revenues to enhance spending on
    housing vouchers would be far more efficient and fairer than devoting those
    same revenues to providing inclusionary units.’

    And, ‘It has blossomed primarily on account of the
    political influence of those who gain from supplying these developments.’

  • harryhamlinpark

    It was shocking to see that 1,600 total units was Lathrop Community Partners’ starting point for this development. Additionally, no one I spoke to from that entity could provide an anticipated development time frame once finalized plans are approved. This is going to be a very protracted process…

    • Bill

      Retail development at the new Lathrop homes is completely uneccessary, since the area is already saturated with retail offerings, including several grocery stores. The Lathrop developers are touting the retail development as opportunities for the public housing resident’s employment. I think that some actual job training or educational component /corporate training element onsite would be much more effective that promising dead end retail jobs which will pay minimum wage and make breadwinners work on holidays. Lets face it, the retail development is a way for the developer to turn a profit and nothing more. Its not needed and it should be scrapped – the density is already too much, with all of the units – and now cars – the community will have to contend with traffic jams and parking gridlock as part of the mix. Alderman Waguespack has my support and should not allow this to happen.

      • phaedrus

        Bill I like your thinking. I also suggested a community college or trade school to LCP, and it was suggested that DeVry could be an impediment. The CHA is broke and they need LCP, the type of residential housing they’re planning won’t pay for the development, so retail is the profit. LCP is a ‘for-profit’. The density numbers should be fought ‘tooth and nail’.

        Outside of a college what are you suggesting?…a park? Given a choice between density and retail I would choose retail if it were in the vein of Roscoe Village or Lincoln Square…or a park.

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