After decades of advocacy, the Julia C. Lathrop Homes redevelopment broke ground on October 10, 2017. The final plan includes a combination of historic preservation and some limited new construction. The final plan has a significantly higher percentage of preservation than was initially proposed. Even the historic name will be preserved and the community will be called “Lathrop” post redevelopment.
This preservation-oriented outcome is due to a multi-year advocacy campaign by Preservation Chicago, our preservation partners including Landmarks Illinois, the National Trust, and neighborhood groups such as Lathrop Home Advisory Council and Logan Square Neighborhood Association.
Additionally, federal historic tax credits played a critical role in the financing of the redevelopment. If more historic fabric was destroyed, the development risked losing millions of dollars of federal historic tax credits. The final redevelopment will deliver 1,116 mixed income residential units, 14 original buildings north of Diversey will be preserved and renovated, improvements to the 11 acres of green space including the great lawn, new retail spaces, and a new riverwalk.
Additionally, the requirements of the federal historic tax credits helped to development team to decide to eliminate the controversial proposed new construction mid-rise gateway buildings at Diversey, Damen and Elston and to preserve the original administration building located at the corner and adjacent historic apartment block.
Lathrop Homes has twice been a Preservation Chicago 7 Most Endangered, first in 2007 and then again in 2013. The Lathrop Homes are one of the first and best public housing developments built in Chicago and was home remarkably stable racially-mixed community for generations. Completed in 1932, the 32-acre park-like site is located along the Chicago River with mature landscaping. The low-rise and gently ornamented buildings create an intimate and human-scale atmosphere.
Among the “all-star” architects who worked on the original design included Hubert Burnham, son of Daniel Burnham, and Robert S. De Golyer, a designer of upscale Lake Shore Drive high-rises, who is credited for the inclusion of classical elegance that included fine brickwork, stone rooftop finials and the arched arcades linking many of the historic buildings. Hugh M.G. Garden was a highly respected practitioner of the old “Chicago School,” and imparted a blending of modernism and traditionalism.
The legendary landscape designer Jens Jensen was responsible for the landscape design and was known for his ideals of native landscapes and prairies. Many of Jensen’s original trees still remain, and have now aged into the sheltering maturity he envisioned. The townhouses of varying designs and configurations, also originally included small “kitchen gardens” in which residents raised fresh herbs and vegetables right outside their doors.
This has been a very lengthy and extraordinarily complex process and Preservation Chicago wishes to thank Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno and Alderman Scott Waguepack, along with the Lathrop development partners, including Related Midwest, Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, and Heartland Housing for their commitment to the development and its historic preservation.