June 06 2013

The On-Going Redevelopment Controversy at Cabrini-Green: Chicago, Illinois

Cabrini-Green Chicago, Illinois

Cabrini-Green Housing Project at its dedication in 1942

The failures of idealistic public housing projects have been studied and debated by many, and tarnished the credibility of American urban planners for a generation. Urban renewal policies in the middle of the twentieth century advocated the clearance of entire neighborhoods, and their replacement with high-rise housing projects. With a lack of community structure these projects often became synonymous with gang activity, crime, and violence. Chicago is certainly no exception to this trend, as the notorious Cabrini-Green housing projects (along with St. Louis’s Pruitt-Igoe projects) became nationally infamous as a symbol of urban blight.

Cabrini-Green Chicago, Illinois

The last of the Cabrini-Green high rises was demolished in 2011

Since 1996, when the federal government abandoned the urban renewal strategy of high-rise projects, cities like Chicago have struggled to re-develop the projects equitably. Chicago demolished the last of the high rises in 2011, putting the finishing touches on a ten year Plan for Transformation, yet controversy is still ongoing. The overall fate of residents displaced by the plan remains unclear (undoubtedly some have moved to neighboring areas, while others have likely relocated to other parts of Chicagoland, and others likely became homeless).

Cabrini-Green Chicago, Illinois

Tenants filed a lawsuit regarding the stalled rehab of the rowhouses at Cabrini-Green

In May of 2013, tenants filed a lawsuit regarding the fate of the Cabrini rowhouses, which were originally slated for rehab and preservation as public housing. The suit alleges that only a quarter of the units have been rehabbed while the rest remain vacant. It’s doubtful that economic development interests like the Target that just broke ground in Fall 2012 would want a large concentration of public housing as a neighbor. It remains to be seen if the city and the Chicago Housing Authority would be so bold as to break their original commitment to Cabrini residents, paving the way for gentrification and redevelopment of the larger area. The contemporary challenge is to make this redevelopment work for all, but it seems certain stakeholders wield more influence.

How has your city addressed the challenges of public housing?

Credit: Photos and data linked to sources.

Andrew Kinaci

After graduating from Princeton University with an A.B. in Architecture and a Certificate in Urban Studies, Andrew Kinaci set out to the Midwest to break out of the insular world of academia, and into the direct service of non-profit work. After a year working on Chicago’s West Side with a social enterprise specializing in re-entry employment training for ex-felons, Andrew now works for an organization conducting energy audits of multi-family affordable housing buildings. He will be blogging about the many ways Chicago is seeking a more sustainable and equitable urban future.

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 6th, 2013 at 9:08 am and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Government/Politics, Housing, Social/Demographics, Urban Development/Real Estate. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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