CHA approves demolition plan

1,800 units could come down.

October 16, 2012

Download Story
(Flickr/Zol87)
CHA's board has approved demolition of 1,800 units across three developments, including Altgeld Gardens, which lies on the city's southern edge.

The Chicago Housing Authority's board approved a plan Tuesday that would allow the agency to demolish 1,800 units.

Three public housing developments are at the center of the demolition plan and resident protest: Altgeld Gardens, Lathrop Homes and Cabrini Rowhouses.

CHA officials are sending its plan to Housing and Urban Development officials later this week.

CHA spokeswoman Wendy Parks said potential plans must be sent to Washington, D.C., but that doesn’t necessarily mean the teardowns are a done deal; HUD needs to be notified of any housing activity.

“Let me be clear: There will be no demolition, no demolition until our complete community engagement process is completed,” Parks said. “We plan to do that community engagement process through the third quarter of next year.”

That engagement process includes holding working groups at each affected public housing site.

In the past, residents have expressed dismay at being brought into planning stages after it was clear CHA had already determined its direction.

“With new leadership at the city, with our mayor, with other community partners and with new leadership with Charles Woodyard at the head of CHA, we certainly are hopeful that as we look at plans … that we will listen to residents,” Parks said.

Under the board-approved plan, more than 600 units at Altgeld Gardens would be demolished. The sprawling development on the city’s southern edge has been a challenge to redevelop, with its geographic isolation often cited as a principal reason.

But Cheryl Johnson, an Altgeld resident and community activist who grew up at the development, bristles at the isolation portrayal. In the 1980s her mother worked with a young community activist named Barack Obama in the very same community.

“Isolation can be good for a community. Depends if they allow our communities to flourish like Kenilworth, Winnetka,” said Johnson, referring to some of Chicago’s toniest Chicago suburbs.

“We were a sustainable community; CHA killed that, and we can get it back and even better. That’s what my goal is,” she said.

CHA has assessed that the Cabrini rowhouses should not be 100 percent public housing. Those apartments are within the mixed-income housing footprint at Cabrini.

Finally, Lathrop Homes on the North Side caused friction between residents and CHA. Residents want the housing to remain for low-income, working families.