Preservation Chicago – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 08 Jan 2018 18:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.14 A high-rise at Lathrop Homes? http://www.newstips.org/2013/08/a-high-rise-at-lathrop-homes/ http://www.newstips.org/2013/08/a-high-rise-at-lathrop-homes/#comments Sun, 11 Aug 2013 20:37:06 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7597 The development team hired by CHA for Lathrop Homes issued a “final draft” of their plan last week, but key details are missing and major questions remain in contention.

That includes the height of a high-rise building Lathrop Community Partners wants to build at the southern end of Lathrop — a flashpoint for neighborhood opposition — as well as issues of preservation, replacement of lost public housing, and public financing for private developers.

Built in 1938 along the Chicago River north and south of Diversy, Lathrop features low-rise brick buildings and landscapes designed by leading architects of the day.  It was cited by Preservation Chicago as “the best public housing Chicago has ever built” and named to the National Register of Historic Places last year.

Preservation plan from Landmarks Illinois

Preservation plan from Landmarks Illinois

CHA stopped leasing to new residents in 2000, at first promising a full renovation as public housing, then meandering through a series of planning efforts. At one point plans to demolish and replace the entire development were announced.

LCP, a consortium of for-profit and nonprofit developers led by Related Midwest, a developer of luxury high-rises, was selected by CHA to handle Lathrop’s redevelopment in 2010.  LCP issued three possible scenarios for community discussion last year.

At a community meeting on the “final draft” plan last week, lead designer Doug Farr said LCP had reduced overall unit count to less than 1,200 in response to concerns about excessive density. (One way they did this, it turns out, was removing the 92-unit Lathrop senior building from the count.)  Earlier plans projected 1,300 to 1,600 units.

That goes some of the way toward meeting objections of neighborhood groups and local aldermen — though they had argued that 1300 units on the 37-acre site meant a density level two-and-a-half times the surrounding area.  Lathrop currently has 925 units, with less than a fifth of them occupied.

LCP also reduced proposed retail development to 20,000 square feet, down from a high of 70,000 — with big box stores surrounded by surface parking — in earlier plans.

But although aldermen and neighborhood groups rejected the concept of a high-rise on the site, it’s still in the plan.  LCP is just not saying how high it will be.  They’re not even calling it a “high-rise.”

***

“The tallest building in the plan we’re calling ‘the iconic building,'” Farr said at a community meeting last week.  “We don’t know the height, we don’t know the unit count.”

The building would “provide focus” to Lathrop’s southern riverfront, he said.

On a model of LCP’s plan available at the meeting, the “iconic building” appeared to be two or three times the height of Lathrop’s nine-story senior building.  In earlier plans, LCP proposed a 28-story building.

“We believe a high-rise development in this neighborhood makes absolutely no sense,” said Paul Savojec, chief of staff for Ald. Scott Waguespack, whose 32nd Ward now includes a portion of Lathrop.  Neighborhood groups they’ve consulted “can’t support downtown-type density level at this site,” he said.

It’s not a new position.  Last year, in response to LCP’s initial plans, Waguespack was joined by 13 neighborhood associations in a letter to CHA demanding “better planning than a revival of the Tower in the Park style,” and noting that while CHA was demolishing high-rise developments elsewhere, LCP proposed “replacing neighborhood-oriented two- and three-story walkups at Lathrop with high-rise and mid-rise towers.”

Two local groups, Hamlin Park Neighbors and Roscoe Village Neighbors, called the proposed high-rise “the very antithesis of the pedestrian scale of the communities of which Lathrop is to be a part.”   They noted that it’s well over a mile from Lathrop to any CTA line, meaning increased auto traffic would be unavoidable in an already heavily congested area.

At one point Waguespack complained that LCP had “a pattern of providing limited opportunities for public input and then placing the feedback aside.”

Says Savojec: “If this were anywhere but a CHA site, what they’re proposing would be dead on arrival.”  He adds: “We don’t think there’s any reason CHA shouldn’t be held to the same planning standards as everyone else.”

While LCP talks about the importance of “integrating” Lathrop into the community — particularly by including retail development in the project — the lesson from CHA’s history is that “nothing is more isolating than going up vertically,” he said.

The only real rationale for increasing the project’s unit count is because “it’s better for the development team,” Sajovec said.  “Every additional unit means greater profit potential for them.”

Attempts to reach LCP for comment were unsuccessful.

“We’re not in a position to say whether the high-rise is appropriate without more details,” said Raymond Valadez, an aide to 1st Ward Ald. Proco Joe Moreno of the 1st Ward, where the building is proposed.

The building’s size is one of a number of issues on which LCP’s “final draft” is lacking in detail.   “It’s not the final final plan,” said Valadez.

Reflecting the concerns of neighborhood associations, Waguespack will push for “a hard and fast limit on how tall that building can be” in a planned development agreement laying out parameters for Lathrop’s redevelopment, Sajovec said.

They want the agreement to be as specific as possible, he said — in part because of Related Midwest’s record at Roosevelt Square, the company’s other CHA redevelopment project, located on the Near West Side.

Like other CHA mixed-income projects, Roosevelt Square has run into difficulties.  Work there stalled several years ago, and now Related is seeking adjustments in the income mix and construction schedule — and an extension of the local TIF in order to provide continuing financing.

***

Meanwhile, Lathrop residents and their supporters have been pushing for redevelopment as public and affordable housing that preserves the human scale of the development’s historic architecture and landscaping.  Working with Landmarks Illinois, residents proposed a preservation plan in 2007.

They point out that the surrounding area is saturated with luxury condo developments, including many now in foreclosure — and that market-rate components have stalled redevelopment efforts at CHA mixed-income projects.

Despite this, LCP’s plan has substantially more market-rate housing than other CHA mixed-income projects, where demand for market-rate has not been strong.

With LCP’s “final draft,” residents and housing advocates are concerned that promised replacement housing for public housing to be demolished at Lathrop — 525 off-site units if LCP sticks to its current allotment of 400 on-site units — is not a specific part of the plan.

At the community meeting, CHA’s Michael Jasso said the agency is “working with the development team” to address the issue, and Heartland Housing executive director Michael Goldberg expressed hope that replacement units could be located in “opportunity areas.” That’s the term for economically-thriving communities where CHA is supposed to put new units under a longstanding federal court order.

But asked whether plans for replacement units would be included in the Lathrop master plan, CHA spokesperson Matt Aguilar didn’t directly respond.  Instead, he referred in a written statement to efforts under “Plan Forward,” the new version of the Plan For Transformation, to develop or acquire units “in opportunity and developing neighborhoods.”  And he cited a new RFP to find developers “to deliver units to CHA in a variety of ownership or subsidy structures.”   But nothing about the Lathrop plan itself.

“They’re saying they’ll get to that sometime down the line,” said John McDermott, housing organizer for Logan Square Neighborhood Association, who works with the residents’ Lathrop Leadership Team.  “There’s no real commitment and no accountability.” He cites high land acquisition costs on the North Side along with aldermanic and “not-in-my-backyard” opposition as reasons for skepticism.

Aguilar emphasizes that “although the Lathrop development originally had 925 units, there are less than 165 units occupied today,” and 400 redeveloped public housing units “will more than accommodate the families that have a right of return.”

McDermott points out that Lathrop’s occupancy rate is simply a result of CHA’s refusal to lease units there for the past 13 years.  Public housing advocates have long argued that CHA has emptied its buildings in order to reduce its responsibility for providing housing.

Meanwhile, 200,000 Chicagoans tried to sign up for CHA’s waiting list the last time it was open.

Failure to provide promised replacement units is a problem throughout CHA’s redevelopments.  On Friday, Mary Schmich noted that “barely more than a third of the 1,200 units promised to displaced Cabrini residents have been built” — one reason many people don’t trust CHA, she writes.

***

One major change in the newest plan is the development team’s commitment to seek federal historic tax credits, available for preservation of sites listed on the National Register.  A project that preserved significant amounts of Lathrop would be eligible for the credits, which can cover 20 percent of development costs.

Earlier plans demolished or altered too much to qualify for the tax credits; developers instead were planning to seek $30 million in TIF funds.

Ward Miller of Preservation Chicago doesn’t think the current plan preserves enough of Lathrop to qualify for the credit.

The “final draft” preserves most of the buildings north of Diversy and a strip of homes on the southern side of the street.  “You can’t tear down most of the structures south of Diversy and call it a ‘preservation plan,'” Miller said.

He’s concerned that a long line of rowhouses along Damen is slated for demolition in LCP’s plan.  “Lathrop is the best of the best, and the rowhouses are really the best of Lathrop,” he said.

Miller thinks LCP and CHA could save save those rowhouses and the block behind them — and still work their market-rate magic — if they looked into using a vacant lot along the riverfront just north of Lathrop, which is currently for sale, as well as the Vienna Beef site south of Lathrop, now being vacated in a TIF-backed move.

Saving the rowhouses would also require scaling back new streets opening onto Damen — which Waguespack’s office suggests would also reduce traffic congestion.  Developers talk about increasing connectivity, Sajovec said, but the streets they’re proposing only open onto big box parking lots on the other side of Damen.

Miller calls for granting Chicago landmark status to the historic buildings and landscapes as part of the memorandum of agreement that will result from a federally-sponsored public review now underway.  The review is required because federal funds are involved in a project impacting a National Register site; its goal is to minimize the negative impact of redevelopment.

***

But the historic tax credit is only part of the financing picture, and while LCP and CHA aren’t talking about TIF funding now, Savojec warns that “at any point they could come back for it….We don’t think TIF will ever be off the table.”

McDermott calls that an “overwhelming likelihood,” adding: “At that time, when they do come to the city and ask for a TIF, they want the process to be so far along that it’s virtually unstoppable.”

Are they going to come to the city for TIF or other financing — as other private developers have at other CHA redevelopments — because they have too much market-rate housing and can’t sell or rent it?

At bottom, the issue is how much public investment should benefit private interests. Most people probably believe private developers bring significant financial resources to CHA redevelopment projects, but “that’s not the case,” said McDermott.

An analysis CHA public-private deals over the past decade shows that public funds have accounted for well over 80 percent of financing, according to Leah Levinger of the Chicago Housing Initiative, a coalition of community organizations.  Developers themselves put up little and sometimes none of their own capital, she said.  Instead — along with 99-year leases for public land, with affordability requirements that last only 15 to 40 years — they receive huge developer fees from CHA.

And in the process, the supply of affordable housing is diminished, Levinger said.  Under the Plan For Transformation, over the last thirteen years, 18,650 low-rent apartments were demolished and 2,500 were built, she said.

It turns out that rather than private investment and public benefit, it’s the other way around, she said: “It’s like we’re paying to make people homeless.” There’s a double loss involved, she said — low-rent housing demolished while scarce housing resources are diverted to the private sector.

And with Chicago currently considering a new five-year affordable housing plan, she points out, half of the city’s affordable housing funding has been devoted to CHA’s redevelopment — resulting in the net loss of thousands of affordable units.

“Now is the time to think about this,” before the project is underway and more public subsidies are demanded, McDermott said.  “Is this the time to take another direction with Lathrop and adopt an alternate model of the kind that has worked for CHA?”

He points to the successful renovation of Trumbull Park Homes in South Deering — like Lathrop, a low-rise, brick development built by the WPA — as 100-percent public housing; or of Hilliard Homes at Cermak and State as a mix of public and affordable housing.  “Hilliard Homes hasn’t destabilized the South Loop or Chinatown,” he said.

Some opposition to Lathrop residents’ call “no market rate” reflects misperceptions about public and affordable housing.  Public residents at Lathrop now include a group of workers at nearby Costco, McDermott said.  And affordable housing aims at a range of middle-income renters.

At Roosevelt Square, affordable housing is aimed at up to 60 percent of area median income for the metropolitan region, which is about $45,000 for a family of four.  (That’s actually the median income in the city proper.)  CHA resident leaders’ Central Advisory Council has called for redeveloping Lathrop, along with other existing developments in areas with large inventories of market-rate housing, as public and affordable for families earning under 80 percent of AMI, which is $60,000 for a family of four.

The larger context includes a growing shortage of affordable rentals in Chicago — the shortfall was estimated at 130,000 in 2009 — and a glut of market-rate housing.  It also includes a number of CHA public-private mixed-income redevelopments that have stalled.

It includes the elimination of much of the North Side’s affordable housing in a new wave of SRO conversions — and the dramatic growth of low-wage jobs in Chicago.

If providing housing is the goal, rehab is far more cost-effective and much faster to accomplish, Levinger said.  At Trumbull Park, for example, 434 units were fully rehabbed in three years.

On the Near West Side, ABLA’s 3,600 units are supposed to be replaced by 1,467 on- and off-site public housing units — reflecting occupancy levels in the late 1990s — in part through Related’s Roosevelt Square development. In 2000, CHA completed renovation of 330 units of public housing in three years.  Then Related Midwest came in with the Roosevelt Square project; the first of six phases began 2004 and was completed in 2006, producing 414 units, including 127 of public housing.

The first phase got underway after “several false starts,” according to media accounts; the second phase was stalled by the housing crash and now, whenever it does start up, is not going to built all at once, a Related executive told Chicago Journal.

In July, Related won a 13-year extension of Roosevelt Square’s TIF.  According to the Near West Gazette, Midwest Related now projects completion of Roosevelt Square by 2035.  That’s well over 30 years from the start date.

With a timeline like that, Lathrop Homes could easily be finished by 2050.  By then, there could be far fewer families with a “right to return.”

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Lathrop plans: little preservation, big TIF http://www.newstips.org/2012/11/lathrop-plans-little-preservation-big-tif/ Wed, 14 Nov 2012 23:25:13 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6751 Three new plans for redeveloping Lathrop Homes fall far short of the project’s stated goal of historic preservation – to the point that developers will pass up tens of millions of dollars in federal historic preservation tax credits.

Instead, they plan to ask for $30 million or more from a new TIF district.

The plans have garnered widespread local opposition due to heavy increases in density and congestion.

CHA and Lathrop Community Partners will present three scenarios at open houses (Thursday, November 15, 3 to 8 p.m., and Saturday, November 17, 12 to 4 p.m.) at New Life Community Church, 2958 N. Damen.

At 4:15 p.m. on Thursday, Lathrop residents and neighbors will hold a press conference to denounce all the scenarios and the lack of any meaningful community engagement.

Already thirteen neighborhood associations have signed onto a letter to CHA from Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) calling for rejection of all three plans due to excessive density and lack of public participation.

And Tuesday, Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st) sent an e-mail blast announcing the open houses and saying, “I do not believe that any of the individual scenarios on the table are an acceptable plan to move Lathrop Homes forward.”

Total demolition

In fact, one of the scenarios would almost certainly fail to win regulatory approval.

Dubbed the “Delta Greenscapes” scenario, it calls for demolition of all of Lathrop’s low-rise, historic buildings.

But since Lathrop was named to the National Register of Historic Places in April, any demolition involving federal funds must be approved by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation.  And CHA will use federal funds to cover the costs of rehabbing and operating public housing at Lathrop.

“Clearly, demolishing everything would not meet preservation guidelines and would rarely be an  approveable action under the federal program,” said Michael Jackson, chief architect for preservation services at IHPA, who notes that nothing has been submitted to his agency.

Approval might be forthcoming in cases involving extreme deterioration and functional obsolescence, but “I can’t see that logic applying here,” he said. “The essence of the Lathrop project is historic preservation.  It’s been identified as a historic property, and the development team has been given that direction.”

Indeed, the RFQ under which LCP was selected states that the developer “shall consider preservation one of the priorities of the revitalization.”

“What they’re pulling is a typical developer’s trick,” said Jonathan Fine of Preservation Chicago.  “We’re going to show you something so god-awful that when we walk it back to something slightly less god-awful, the community will think it’s won something.”

Developers prefer TIF

Despite the RFQ’s request for developers with experience using historic tax credits, none of the plans are likely to qualify for the credits, which cover 20 percent of a project’s costs – in this case, tens of millions of dollars.  That’s what developers told aldermen in August, said Paul Sajovek, Waguespack’s chief of staff.

Instead, they’ll be asking for a $30 million TIF subsidy.

“One of the scenarios could be eligible for [historic] tax credits,” said Kerry Dickson, senior vice president of Related Midwest, lead developer of LCP, on Tuesday.

Fine and Sajovek dispute that.  One scenario retains 480 historic units north of Diversy, but each building is marred by additions.  “To take a historic building and glom something onto it so you can generate more revenue for your project – it’s not going to pass muster,” said Fine.

In any case, “taking a historic site and demolishing half of it, that’s not our definition of historic preservation,” he added.

He points out that the historic tax credit is “a better option from a policy standpoint” than a TIF subsidy.  “It has the advantage that it’s not money that’s being diverted from our police and our schools,” he said.

There’s another factor at play, Fine says – maximizing preservation is the easiest way to maximize affordability.  One scenario that’s noticeably missing from this week’s presentations is the preservation plan developed five years ago by Landmarks Illinois working with Lathrop residents (more on that here).

Instead, LCP’s plan disregards the RFQ’s requirement that “approximately one third of [units] must be public housing.”  LCP bumps the proportion down to 25 percent – by bumping the proportion of high-end market housing to 50 percent.

A recent Crain’s report — on how the housing crash has “decimated” CHA’s mixed-income goals — reveals that Roosevelt Square on the near west side, another CHA redevelopment being done by Related Midwest, is years behind schedule, with less than 18 percent of for-sale units complete.

Density

Waguespack points out that neighborhood groups are split on the issues of preservation and affordable housing.  But they are unanimous that the density being proposed is wildly inappropriate.

The RFQ specifies a range of 800 to 1200 units.  When LCP presented its plans in closed sessions with the aldermen and the the working group that’s supposed to oversee redevelopment, unit counts began at 1350.  Since then they’ve said that all three scenarios will have 1600 units, Sajovek said.

That includes high-rises as tall as 28 stories, he said – far higher than anything north of North Street or west of the immediate lakefront.

“We just can’t understand how, in a neighborhood with the level of congestion we have, which isn’t served by mass transit, there’s any sort of justificiation for a massive increase in density, far above anything around it,” he said.

On top of the huge unit count, the developers are proposing 70,000 square feet of automobile-oriented, big box retail, including a 25,000 square-foot grocery store, with extensive surface parking and, in one scenario, several new curb cuts for drive-through retail at Diversy and Clybourn.

“Diversy is backed up all the time,” said Fine.  “That’s with Lathrop 80 percent vacant.”

More gridlock

“Look at what you’ve got in the area – Costco, Dominic’s and Aldi all within close walking distance, and Target and other big stores not much farther,” Sajovek said.  “This is not a retail desert or a food desert by any stretch of the imagination.”

The amount of retail with surface parking north on Clybourn “has turned all the streets in the area into gridlock,” with Whole Foods and other stories actually leaving the area because of it, he said.

“We don’t see any justification from a planning standpoint for anything near 70,000 square feet of retail,” he said.

The density and congestion – and the increase in surface parking – are also major reasons why none of the scenarios are likely to qualify for LEED certification, though the RFQ describes the redevelopment’s primary goal – in bold print at the very top of the first page – as creating “CHA’s first community to attain LEED-ND Gold or Platinum certification.”

Sajovek thinks that in the absence of any restraint from CHA, all the redevelopment goals at Lathrop have been thrown over for “a single consideration: what’s going to generate the highest profit from this site.”  Developer profit is a legitimate consideration, he said, “but it has to balanced against other factors” including “what’s best for the surrounding neighborhood.”

“The bottom line is, they want to maximize their profit and the way to do that is density,” said Fine.  “It’s density, density, density.  It’s all about taking profit from this publicly-owned historic site, even if it erases the site” – and drowns the neighborhood in congestion.

“It’s a land grab, that’s all it’s ever been or ever will be, until they start listening to what residents and neighbors want,” he said.

‘Fraudulent’

“We’re committed to a very engaged community planning process,” said Dickson.

That’s not how others see it.

“I told them straight to their face, they’re liars,” said long-time resident Mary Thomas, a leader of the Lathrop Leadership Team.

“They talk about community input,” she says.  “What it would be is, they would bring 20 or 30 pizzas and say, ‘This is what’s going to happen, this is what’s going to happen, this is what’s going to happen.’

“We were never involved,” she said.  “It’s fraudulent.”

According to Sajovek and John McDermott of Logan Square Neighborhood Association, LCP held three workshops late last year that were described as preparing members of the public to participate in a series of design charrettes.  But the charrettes were repeatedly postponed, and ultimately never happened.

Again, when LCP shared the three scenarios with the aldermen in August, they said an open house would be held “in a couple of weeks,” Sajovek said.  That too was repeatedly postponed.  Now it’s being touted as “the first of a series of community meetings.”

Dickson said the Lathrop Working Group – with representatives of CHA, residents, elected officials, and neighborhood groups – “has been involved in all phases of the planning.”

Sajovek, who represented Waguespack on the LWG, says LCP came to meetings to refute rumors residents were reporting or complain about LWG members’ public actions.  “There was never any discussion about preservation or about specific unit counts or anything substantive,” he said.

“Over the past ten months, there have been no opportunities for public input as LCP developed the three scenarios,” according to Waguespack’s letter to CHA, signed by the neighborhood groups.  “It follows that the scenarios are devoid of any evidence that key concerns of the surrounding residents were incorporated into the plan.”

“We had a collection of meetings and gathered information from the community, then we took that and spent time developing those ideas,” said Dickson.

“To understand the plans we’re proposing, and the reason and logic behind them – and the good planning behind them – people should come to the open house, where there will be continuous presentations about all three of the scenarios,” he said.

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Big plans for Michael Reese http://www.newstips.org/2010/12/big-plans-for-michael-reese/ Fri, 17 Dec 2010 20:32:46 +0000 http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=3131 Again Mayor Daley touts a “world-class technology park” on the nearly vacant site of Michael Reese Hospital.

As Jonathan Fine of Preservation Chicago said here in September, “Wouldn’t it have been nice if they came up with the idea of a technology park while all those laboratory buildings were still there?”

Not just handy lab buildings, either – the most significant collection in the nation of buildings whose design was guided by Walter Gropius, one of the major architects of the 20th century.  Blair Kamin called the demolition at the hands of Daley and Toni Preckwinkle “cultural vandalism.”

Lynn Becker recently pointed out that the 2009 demolition of Reese and the 1989 demolition of Block 37 – which included the landmark 1872 McCarthy Building, John Peter Altgeld’s 1892 Unity Building, the 1921 United Artists Theatre designed by Holabird and Roche, and the 1928 art deco Hillman Building with the venerable Stop & Shop gourmet emporium – are the “twin bookends” of Daley’s reign.

There was big talk of big plans back then too, but not until 16 years later was anything built, and what we got was a “sad, ‘better-something-than-nothing'” compromise on the original visions.

And much like Reese’s labs, the Stop & Shop would have suited today’s new Loop-dwellers, and the United Artists Theatre “would have provided a much-needed smaller capacity venue for the mayor’s revived Randolph Street district,” Becker points out.

Along the way he gives a fascinating view of the arc of Daley’s career, from “Dirty Little Richie” to the conciliator of his early mayoralty — till “the nasty habits of his youth returned: the bullying, the intolerance of dissent, the constant ridiculing of any ideas other than his own, the incoherent, angry rants.”

Says Becker: “The mayor’s most willful initiatives were often his most embarrassing blunders.”  Put Reese in that category.

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Michael Reese buildings threatened http://www.newstips.org/2010/09/michael-reese-buildings-threatened/ http://www.newstips.org/2010/09/michael-reese-buildings-threatened/#comments Wed, 29 Sep 2010 19:08:30 +0000 http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=2248 Despite 24-hour security, two remaining buildings at the historic Michael Reese Hospital campus are being stripped by scavengers, who have taken all copper and aluminum and much of the iron, along with radiators and air ducts, according to the Hyde Park Herald (September 22).

Now, with a cleanup fund nearly exhausted, radioactive chemicals have been discovered on the site.

Reporting on a meeting with residents of the nearby Prairie Shores development on September 16, the Herald says Ald. Toni Preckwinkle “appeared receptive to neighbors’ calls to tear down the remaining buildings,” though she “declined to state explicitly that she was considering” demolition.

Last year Preckwinkle and the city agreed to preserve the Old Main Hospital Building, a prairie-school structure built in 1907, as preservationists fought demolition of over two dozen buildings designed by and with Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius.

Demolition proceeded, even as the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council endorsed the nomination of the campus to the National Register of Historic Places.

In addition to the 1907 building, one Gropius building remains, the seven-story Singer Pavillion.  The rest of the site is completely bare, including lush landcapes created by world-renowned designers, now stripped away.

The city bought the campus last year for $86 million – with $32 million rebated to pay for cleanup – expecting to sell it to developers who would build an Olympic Village there (see last year’s Newstips report).  It now appears nothing is to be done with the 37-acre site.

Mayor Daley recently floated the idea of developing a biotechnology center there, but it has generated little enthusiasm.

“Wouldn’t it have been nice if they came up with the idea of a technology park while all those laboratory buildings were still there?” said Jonathan Fine of Preservation Chicago.

Fine questioned the city’s commitment to preserving the remaining buildings and challenged the quality of security there.  “Taxpayers are paying for security and they’re not getting it,” he said.  “It reeks to high heaven.  They’re using this to justify their own cultural vandalism.”

What are the lessons of the Reese debacle?  “First, that haste makes waste,” Fine said.  “Second, that arrogant, unilateral urban planning serves no purpose.  Third, that the people who have been elected to watch out for the City of Chicago’s financial interests have failed miserably.”

Hospitals are a major focus for preservationists at the moment, Fine said.  They’re keeping an eye on plans to redevelop the old Cook County Hospital building as medical offices.  And they’re gearing up an effort to save the “old” Prentice Women’s Hospital, designed by Bertrand Goldberg in the early 1970s; Northwestern University wants to tear it down to make room for a new research center.

Metropolis Magazine has a report on Prentice.  Blair Kamin reports it will be included in an October 9 Chicago Architecture Foundation tour of Goldberg buildings called “Architecture in the Round.”

[Correction:  Northwestern University and Bertrand Goldberg were misidentified in an earlier version.]

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Olympic Legacies: Give or Take? http://www.newstips.org/2009/08/olympic-legacies-give-or-take-2/ Sun, 09 Aug 2009 06:00:00 +0000 http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=3087 Chicago’s historic parks and its rich architectural legacy are among the strongest selling points for promoters seeking to attract the 2016 Summer Olympics to this city.

In selling the games to Chicago’s residents, meanwhile, promises of park enhancements and sports programs for kids, as well as affordable housing, have been featured alongside visions of jobs and boom times.

But current plans put great burdens on parks, and they involve the imminent demolition of a major responsitory of the city’s historic architecture (see part two).

In many cases promised “legacy” facilities seem designed not to meet actual needs of current park users but to accommodate the requirements of Olympic planners. In many cases they involve taking away existing resources while promising residual benefits sometime in the future.

In some cases they involve taking away facilities that have been only recently built.

In Jackson Park, an Olympic field hockey venue is planned — on the site of a world-class track and football field next to Hyde Park Academy. It’s one of only three regulation tracks at Chicago schools.

The track and field opened just eight years ago, funded by a community-led drive which raised well over half a million dollars, including support from the National Football League.

“It’s eight years into a minimum 35-year lifespan,” said Ross Petersen, president of the Jackson Park Advisory Council.

Under the current plan, the new track will be bulldozed, along with an adjacent baseball diamond, he said. Chicago 2016 has promised to rebuild it after the games, he said, although a permanent field hockey field facility has also been touted as a possible “legacy.”

The field hockey was moved to the school after the original proposal, using popular soccer fields near a lakefront nature sanctuary, led JPAC to vote against using the park for the Olympics. Petersen said the council is grateful for the site change, but when he asked at a recent meeting whether members wanted to pass a new resolution updating their stance, no one offered a motion.

In Douglas Park, recently rebuilt gymnasiums and a pool serving the Collins Highcampus — reportedly updated at a cost of $30 million — will be demolished to make way for a $37 million velodrome for bicycle racing. Afterwards a pool “may” be moved to the park from the South Side aquatics center, and Chicago 2016 promises to convert the highly specialized, elite outdoor venue into a year-round “multisport facility.”

In Lincoln Park, Chicago 2016 is touting a legacy of 20 new tennis courts after the Olympic tennis venue is taken down. They will replace 20 existing tennis courts.

Washington Park has attracted the most attention. There a $400 million temporary stadium for opening ceremonies and track events, along with a $100 million aquatic center featuring four pools, will be sited on the open meadow that dates to Frederick Law Olmsted’s 1870 design.

The thousand-acre park, listed on the National Registery of Historic Places, comprises one-seventh of the Chicago’s parkland and features 14 baseball diamonds, football and soccer fields, and cricket pitches. Under current plans, it will be closed for at least four years to accomodate the two-week 2016 extravaganza.

The Washington Park Advisory Council has endorsed the siting, although only a few of the 26 conditions it issued two years ago as requirements for its support have been addressed. But a number of community, citywide and national groups have opposed the use of the meadow for the stadium, including the Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference, Friends of the Parks, Preservation Chicago and the National Association for Olmsted Parks.

NAOP objects that Chicago 2016 plans “threaten the park’s signature public open spaces and sweeping vistas, jeopardizing [the] integrity, significance and public use” of “a masterpiece of America’s preeminent landscape architect.” According to NAOP, “plans to tear down the stadium following the Olympics are unrealistic” — and even if they are carried out, the new ampitheater and aquatic center would “take a major open space and restrict its use to specific activities, and a much more limited user population.”

The group urges Chicago 2016 to use the Chicago Park District’s South Lakefront Framework Master Plan as a basis for restoring the park” and cites London’s plan for its Olympics, “taking brownfields and adding new parks” instead of “damaging existing historic park resources.”

NAOP executive director Iris Gestram said Chicago 2016 president Lori Healey has not responded to their letter, which was sent in April. Chicago 2016 did not respond to inquiries for this article.

At a recent community meeting at the Washington Park refectory, Chicago 2016 legacy director Arnold Randall was asked if the Olympics planners would consider an alternative site for the stadium. He said that while planning is “a work in progress,” siting the stadium in Washington Park “is part of the bid. That’s the plan and that’s the policy and that’s not going to change.”

Some think that means it won’t be addressed before the host city is chosen in October, however.

“Nothing is hard and fast,” said Erma Tranter of Friends of the Parks, pointing out that London made dramatic changes in its venue siting after winning the 2012 bid. She said Olympic planners have told her “we have some flexibility…we can change some sites.”

The money spent burying stadium infrastructure in the ground — millions of dollars spent on water, sewer and electrical lines — will be wasted in Washington Park and could spur development at other sites, she said.

“They’re spending millions of dollars on things nobody is ever going to use” after the Olympics, said Jonathan Fine of Preservation Chicago. “It’s a complete and total waste of money.”

Advocates point to the USX site on the south lakefront, where a large residential and commercial development has stalled for lack of financing; or the 92-acre, 15-block site where CHA’s Robert Taylor Homes were demolished — 1800 units of mixed-income housing are planned for the site, and so far 181 have been built; or the former site of Comiskey Park.

Tranter points out that the city owns about a third of the extensive vacant tracts to the west of Washington Park. “They have options,” she said.

Other U.S. cities that have hosted Olympics have added parkland, but Chicago’s plan doesn’t, she said. “A $5 billion budget and not a square inch of new parkland,” comments Fine. Tranter adds that Chicago is last among the nation’s largest 20 cities in park acreage per person.

Chicago 2016 plans to leave 5,000 or so of the stadium’s 80,000 seats to serve as a neighborhood concert and sport facility which “can be expanded to host major international athletic events” and “will be the centerpiece for the revitalization of the Washington Park area,” according to the bid book. The ampitheatre will be four feet deep and surrounded by six-foot berms.

For some years, some residents have wanted a festival site in the park to handle summer events (others fear the noise levels that will result). The park’s playing fields were not the location envisioned, however. At the recent community meeting, residents discussed the best location for the festival site — though no one from Chicago 2016 or the park district suggested the question was open for discussion.

Olmsted’s original plan had a concert and parade ground in front of the parks’ Refectory, which is now a parking lot across Garfield Boulevard from the meadow. That’s the best place for a festival site, Tranter said.

Fine argues that the ampitheater is just the concrete foundation of the stadium, and its main function is to lessen the enormous cost of removing concrete. Indeed, the temporary stadium will require many tens of thousands of tons of concrete to be poured into — and removed from — the historic park.

London’s 2012 Olympic stadium (which is now projected to cost twice as much as estimated in the city’s 2005 bid) features permanent and temporary seating, as does Chicago’s. Its foundation consists of 4,000 concrete columns, with permanent seating attached to 12,000 concrete terrace units weighing as much as ten metric tons each. Over that goes a concrete upper tier and a hundred 3,500-ton steel terracing supports for the temporary seating.

George Rumsey of HPKCC worries that “when it’s over they’re going to look at it and say, why should we tear it down? It would be perfect for the Bears.” (The team has the smallest stadium in the NFL, and Soldier Field could be downsized to the concert venue long desired by the powers-that-be. Or the Washington Park facility could be turned over to the University of Chicago, which already administers Midway park and which has been buying land west of King Drive.)

“They say they’re going to downsize it, but what if they change their mind? What guarantees are there? None,” he said. “It’s a land grab, taking over our park with no accountability — and there’s no accountability on what’s going to happen afterwards.”

Chicago 2016 did not respond to repeated requests for information regarding the source of funding for restoring Washington Park, relocating pools from the aquatic center to other parks, restoring Jackson Park’s $500,000 track, or converting the open-air velodrome in Douglas Park into a year-round recreation center. Those costs don’t seem to be included in projected construction costs; $400 million for the stadium is obviously a low-ball figure.

“It’s very unclear” where the money is supposed to come from, Tranter commented. FOTP’s principles for Washington Park state: “Funds must be budgeted to dismantle the stadium.”

***

As far as track: A serious commitment to providing track and field opportunities for Chicago youth would require better facilties, most crucially an indoor facility; a commitment by the schools and the park district in order to reach all ages; and a significant increase in the hours for which school track coaches are compensated, currently far less than for other sports, said Bill Gerstein, an educator who spearheaded the fundraising drive for the Jackson Park track.

Chicago 2016 has dangled the possibility of turning the National Guard Armory near Washington Park into the city’s first public indoor track facility — a longstanding proposal of sports advocates. But no commitment has been made.

Chicago 2016′s “legacy” group World Sports Chicago touted a summer track and field program in May which they said would serve 3,500 kids; in July the Tribune reported that 300 had participated. (Most WSC events appear to be Olympics-boosting rallies for children who are already attending park district camp or public school.) Inquiries yielded no response.

Continued: Architectural Legacy

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Architectural Legacy Threatened http://www.newstips.org/2009/08/architectural-legacy-threatened/ http://www.newstips.org/2009/08/architectural-legacy-threatened/#comments Sun, 09 Aug 2009 06:00:00 +0000 http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=3086 (Continued from Part 1: Parks)

There are parks, schools, and community institutions that could be impacted if the Olympic Village is built on the site of Michael Reese Hospital.

At 3113 S. Rhodes, Pershing East Elementary, a small Bauhaus-style gem, sits exactly where the Chicago 2016 bid book shows a “transport mall” the Village. Though the school does not appear in the bid book’s renderings, Chicago 2016 has reportedly said it will not be torn down. But questions from Newstips about whether it would be closed to accommodate construction were not answered.

On the same block, Lake Meadows Park will be paved for a parking lot, with subsequent restoration reportedly promised. A large wooded section of Burnham Park east of the village will be leveled to provide facilities for athletes, and the bid book shows a “security command and fire brigade” in the historic Olivet Baptist Church. A city spokesperson referred questions to Chicago 2016, which did not respond.

But the urgent concern of local preservationists is the imminent demolition of the hospital campus, much of it designed after World War II under the guidance of Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius, a seminal modernist architect. The campus includes the only buildings in Chicago designed by Gropius and is one of a small number of extensive Gropius projects in the world.

IIT architecture student Grahm Balkany was researching Gropius’s role when the city began moving to purchase the campus for an Olympic Village. So far he’s documented Gropius’s direct involvement in eight Reese buildings; he believes there are probably more. As the “guiding hand” to the hospital’s campus master plan, Gropius had a wide influence on its post-war expansion.

At the time Balkany went public with his preliminary findings, Chicago 2016 said no decisions had been made about what buildings to demolish. Since then, however, they’ve taken a hard line, citing an earlier agreement to preserve the original 1907 hospital building as if that precludes further consideration.

“We’re trying to show the world that we’re a world-class city, and the first thing we’re going to do is tear down a huge collection of buildings by arguably the greatest architect of the 20th century,” said Jonathan Fine of Preservation Chicago. “It’s kind of insane.”

Many of the most significant buildings are “perfectly adaptable,” he argues. Balkany points out that the Olympic Village will require a laundry, a clinic, and a main dining hall, all of which exist or could be served by Gropius buildings, which include large and small structures.

Instead, Chicago 2016 is planning 21 identical 12-story buildings — reminiscent to some of Robert Taylor Homes, except they’re placed on huge parking pedestals, like the new developments plaguing the Near North Side.

Fourth Ward Alderman Toni Preckwinkle is backing Chicago 2016′s plan, based in part on her attachment to “restoring the street grid.” But Balkany points out that before the Reese campus, the old industrial area was a maze of zig-zagging streets and dead ends. And podium parking garages tend to transform city streets into dark, lifeless canyons.

Fine argues that Village planners should “exercise a little more creativity and ingenuity, reconfigure the site, get the best architect you can and really leave a legacy.” Currently private developers are set to choose the architects and design the buildings.

“With tweaking, Chicago’s [Olympic] Village could become more village-like, incorporating buildings of a variety of scales and ages, including the best of the Reese buildings (and courtyards) in which Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius had a hand,” the Blair Kamin writes in the Tribune.

That approach would be much closer to Chicago 2016′s professed ideal of a “green” Olympics, said Chris Morris of the Midwest office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, speaking with the Trust’s magazine Preservation in June.

“The wholesale demolition of 29 buildings, many of which are in excellent condition and could easily be adapted for residential or retail purposes, is definitely not a sustainable or green approach,” Morris said.

“The city should be looking at ways to adapt and highlight this incredible collection of modern architecture for the international audience that will be drawn to Chicago in 2016, not scraping the site clean and dumping the work of Walter Gropius in a landfill simply for the sake of expediency.”

“The Gropius buildings could benefit the Olympics, and the city, and Bronzeville,” said Balkany. For a community striving assiduously to raise its profile, the proximity of the Reese campus to Mies van der Rohe’s IIT campus offers Bronzeville a potent opportunity, he says,

“Here are two of the leading architects of the 20th century, at the close of their careers, ending up on the South Side working on large projects within walking distance of each other.”

Also in walking distance are important works of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, who were both influences on Mies and Gropius. Sullivan’s Pilgrim Baptist Church (awaiting restoration) is at 33rd and Indiana, and his ]Eliel House is at 4122 S. Ellis. Wright’s only rowhouses, the Roloson Houses, are on the 2300 block of S. Calumet.

It would seem like a natural for a city recognized worldwide for its architectural treasures; it would cement Chicago’s place as the center of the second wave of modernism.

Gropius’s master plan for Reese is also part of Bronzeville history, the large post-war urban renewal project that responded to slum conditions. While nearby residential developments replaced a dense urban neighborhood with “towers in the park,” Gropius’s design for Reese was quite varied and (to cite the architect’s concept) “organic,” Balkany argues. Together with nearby Prairie Shores and Lake Meadows, the area stands as a success in terms of establishing a stable, integrated, working-class community, he says.

And while that project involved widespread land clearance, Balkany points out, Gropius’s plan included valuable older buildings, including the old Prairie-style Reese Main and the 1876 Olivet Church.

Although last week the staff of the Chicago Landmark Commission agreed that the Gropius buildings are probably eligible for listing on the National Registry of Historic Places (the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency has already ruled that they are), the clear-cutting of the lush landscapes of the hospital campus last week indicates that Chicago 2016 and the city are gung-ho for demolition.

“From the point of view of a real estate developer, a 37-acre tract that is vacant is the most attractive proposition,” said Fine. Balkany argues that a more attractive, historic, and environmentally-sensitive design could help with sales in a tough market. And James Peters of Landmarks Illinois points out that, along with National Registry listing, preserving and reusing some of the existing buildings would give developers access to potentially huge tax credits, amounting to 20 percent of the cost of construction.

“One of the challenges is to have something that works for the market, and we’re stressing that if you do some rehabilitation along with new construction, you’ve got some significant incentives available,” Peters said.

“Let’s not throw out any options until we know what we’re dealing with.”

The future of the Reese campus will be one of the prime topics — along with a community benefits agreement for jobs, business and affordable housing and general concerns about city finances — at Chicago 2016′s community meeting for wards 3, 4, and 20, on Tuesday, August 11 at 6 p.m. at the Chicago Urban League, 4510 S. Wabash.

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Lathrop Residents: Lease Vacant Units http://www.newstips.org/2008/10/lathrop-residents-lease-vacant-units/ http://www.newstips.org/2008/10/lathrop-residents-lease-vacant-units/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2008 19:34:09 +0000 http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=308 Lathrop Homes residents and supporters will rally Thursday, October 23, for a new proposal to lease vacant apartments at the CHA development. Lathrop Homes Local Advisory Council president Juanita Stevenson was scheduled to present the proposal to the CHA board today.

On Thursday residents and supporters from the Lathrop LAC, Lathrop Leadership Team and Logan Square Neighborhood Association will march through Lathrop Homes starting at 4 p.m. at Clybourn, Wellington and Leavitt, and rally outside a vacant home at 5 p.m.

Two-thirds of Lathrop Homes’ 900 units are vacant. Recent residents report that many are in “pretty good shape,” and some have been rehabbed within the past 15 years, said LSNA organizer John McDermott. The groups are proposing that 300 vacant units be leased, and has identified a variety of possible funding sources.

“Leaving units vacant leaves them at risk of break-in, vandalism, and arson,” he said. And it costs CHA in lost rent revenues.

CHA stopped filling vacancies at Lathrop Homes in 1999, when it announced its Plan For Transformation aimed at mixed-income redevelopment. In 2006 the agency said it intended to demolish the development and rebuild 1200 new units, including market rate, affordable, and public housing. Shortly thereafter the working group discussing plans for Lathrop Homes was disbanded, and its future is still listed as “to be determined” by the CHA — the last development with that designation.

“Ms. Stevenson keeps asking when will the meetings resume and we get different answers,” said Tami Love, an LSNA organizer at Lathrop. “They say the working group will resume when [CHA] figure[s] out what they’re going to do with Lathrop; or they say they’re out of money and they’re not going to move forward with anything.”

Meanwhile the CHA’s Plan For Transformation is now ten years or more behind schedule, and the housing downturn has further slowed plans that hinge on the sale of market-rate housing. The plan “seems to be falling apart,” Love said. At the same time, “the homeless problem is getting worse and worse.”

“Keeping these units empty in the midst of a housing crisis is a terrible waste,” said resident Cynthia Scott, a member of the Lathrop Leadership Team. “Leasing 300 units would help families avoid homelessness and reduce the crime and maintenance problems that come with vacancies.”

Unlike other public housing developments which were often isolated, Lathrop Homes are close to transit, manufacturing and retail jobs, social services and good schools, Love said.

Ultimately, residents and supporters are calling for 100 percent affordable redevelopment of the Homes — mixing public housing with affordable rentals and home ownership, with no market-rate component, McDermott said. “It’s in a neighborhood surrounded by market-rate housing, a neighborhood that has lost thousands of units of affordable housing,” he said.

First Ward Ald. Manny Flores has backed their plan.

Preservation groups have called for saving the 70-year-old buildings, built by the New Deal’s Public Works Administration, as one of the last examples of the city’s early public housing. Last year Preservation Chicago listed Lathrop Homes as one of Chicago’s most threatened buildings. The group’s designation (pdf) noted:

“Julia Lathrop Homes is the best public housing development Chicago ever built, representing a racially mixed, remarkably stable community for generations of Chicagoans. Beautifully sited along the Chicago River with a magnificent and mature landscape, the buildings are low-rise and gently ornamented, creating an intimate, humane atmosphere. The development is small scale, low-density and well integrated with the surrounding neighborhood.”

Using the existing structures would minimize disruption for current residents and allow the Cotter Boys and Girls Club and the Mary Crane Center, which offers preschool and child care center, both now located in Lathrop Homes to continue operating. Founded by Jane Addams in 1907, the Crane Center moved to Lathrop in 1963, the same year the Boys and Girls Club opened there. This past April, Cotter Club member Krystal Lewis, a Lathrop resident who was a senior at Prosser Career Academy at the time, was named Youth of the Year for Illinois by Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

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