Cabrini-Green ready for final phase of redevelopment

January 30, 2014

The former Cabrini-Green public housing high rise before it was demolished. The Chicago Housing Authority is now fast-tracking the remaining mostly vacant 65 acres for redevelopment. (flickr/spablab)

The Chicago Housing Authority is speeding up construction of the final 65 acres at Cabrini-Green still open for redevelopment.

Cabrini-Green started its transformation from public to mixed-income housing in 1994 when the federal government awarded a $50 million HOPE VI Grant to facilitate redevelopment of the Cabrini Extension North site. Over the years high- and mid-rise apartments fell to demolition. Two decades later, the once-poor Near North Side neighborhood now teems with luxury condos and new businesses like Starbucks.

Next week, CHA officials will hold open houses for developers who will learn what parameters the agency has designed for construction of new housing and retail. The land boundaries are North Avenue to Chicago Avenue and Halsted to Orleans.

“We’ve gathered this approach so that we could be able to work with multiple developers at one time and to have multiple parcels delivered in an expedient fashion,” said Sharnette Brown, development manager for CHA.

Brown said this will give CHA more control of redevelopment.

Cabrini’s revamping was a prelude to CHA’s 1999 Plan for Transformation, the $1.6 billion blueprint to build or rehab 25,000 public housing units with mixed-income housing as the centerpiece. That formula is one-third market rate, one-third affordable and one-third public. The plan – scheduled for 2015 completion – has run into economic and housing slump roadblocks.

Last spring CHA unveiled Plan Forward as a way to wrap up the final stretch. Former CHA CEO Charles Woodyard resigned last fall amid sexual harassment allegations, but also because City Hall became disenchanted with the slow pace of progress.

The goal is for Cabrini construction to start by 2015 on the mostly vacant 65 acres. The Cabrini rowhouses will remain but not be 100 percent public housing – much to the chagrin of many residents. Of the 583 units, 146 have been redeveloped into public housing and will stay that way. The others are empty. Originally, CHA had planned to keep the row houses all public housing.

“We felt that in order for Plan Forward to work, in order to have a very vibrant community and what works for the residents to move toward self sufficiency, it was important to do mixed income. Not to leave that area to be the only secluded area that remained 100 percent public housing,” Brown said.

Carol Steele is an activist who lives in the row houses, which she said have more bedrooms and can better accommodate families.

“We’re adamant that the row houses be rehabbed to 100 percent public housing like it was supposed to be,” Steele said.

Steele said residents are less concerned about amenities and retail because they have now come to the community, including a recent Target. But they still want more public housing and the opportunity for displaced low-income Cabrini residents to return to the now-flourishing community.

“We have an abundance of stores. We want what was promised,” she said.

is a WBEZ reporter. nmoore@wbez.org. Follow Natalie on Google+,  Twitter