LITTLE ITALY — A new joint library and public housing development in Little Italy — a project that sparked controversy in the neighborhood — is being hailed as “the renaissance of Taylor Street” by Ald. Jason Ervin (28th).
Ervin joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other city officials to unveil the new neighborhood library Tuesday afternoon in Little Italy library branch at 1336 W. Taylor St.
“Taylor [Street] has had its challenges, but this library will bring the people, the foot traffic,” Ervin said. “I look and see some of the businesses that have shuttered, and I think this library will be the key point that will turn things around.”
The single-level library will be topped with the Taylor Street Apartments, a 73-unit apartment development — 37 units of which will be set aside for the Chicago Housing Authority, 29 will be affordable units and seven will be market-rate units.
The Taylor Street Apartments are expected to open this spring. The entire building is seven stories tall.
The new library includes a children’s area and a YOUmedia space, which will allow teens to learn digital design, music and recording, and 3-D technology.
In a statement, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the city was “breaking the mold and uniting the strengths of our neighborhood libraries” with accessible affordable housing.
“Bringing …world-class libraries together with housing builds strong neighborhoods and provides a place for all community residents to gather, share and succeed,” Emanuel said.
Emanuel said leaders from other cities like Houston and New York City have taken note of Chicago’s combination library-affordable housing developments and are attempting to replicate the concept.
The mayor said the concept for a multi-use development like the Taylor Street came after a library in Back of the Yards burned down, and a new neighborhood library in that neighborhood was built on the first floor of a high school.
City officials first announced plans to build a new Taylor Street library in 2017. The inclusion of CHA housing in the development was controversial, and some residents complained that the development would spell trouble for Little Italy, as low-income tenants returned to the area.
At a community meeting in August 2017, some neighbors said that the project could cause crime to increase in the area and property values to plummet. And more 560 neighbors signed a petition asking the city to delay votes on the project so their concerns over the height of the building, breakdown of the mixed-income housing units and parking could be heard.
At the time, the library’s developer said it would be impossible to build the library without the housing.
The project was approved later than year.
Little Italy’s library was previously located at 1101 W. Taylor St.
The Taylor Street library designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merril (SOM) and built through a partnership with the Chicago Housing Authority, Related Midwest and the Bowa Construction Group.
City officials also cut the ribbon at the Independence Branch Library in Irving Park Tuesday. The two libraries are among three libraries that were developed jointly by Chicago Public Libraries and the Chicago Housing Authority that includes affordable housing and a branch library.
The city is currently constructing a similar library and affordable housing development at 6800 N. Western Ave. in West Ridge. That project is expected to be completed this year.
Calling it a “historic day,” Chicago Housing Authority CEO Eugene Jones Jr. said they looked “forward to the opening of the apartments soon.”
“Our investment in these innovative developments will serve neighborhood residents well for years to come,” Jones said.
Library Commissioner Bannon said joint library and affordable housing development represented the “future of how we should be thinking about investment in neighborhoods, investment in communities, and doing those investments through our public libraries.”
The Little Italy Branch is open Monday and Wednesday from noon-8 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
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