LOGAN SQUARE — Developers, public officials and benefactors on Tuesday afternoon celebrated a milestone in the transformation of Lathrop Homes from the largest public housing complex on the North Side into a mixed-income community.
Under rainy skies, supporters gathered on the “great lawn” at 2808 N. Leavitt St. to congratulate each other on getting past the first phase of the four-phase redevelopment project.
The first phase brought 414 new and rehabbed apartments, a new riverwalk, landscaped green space and a new coffee shop, called Hexe Coffee, to the 32-acre campus, bordered by the Chicago River, Diversey Parkway and Clybourn and Damen avenues.
“This vision of luxurious apartments, green space, just community — we dreamed this dream a very long time,” said Juanita Stevenson, longtime president of the Lathrop’s Local Advisory Council.
“We asked, we begged, we searched, we researched and researched and now this day is finally here.”
Construction on the first phase started two years ago, but planning stretches back as far as 20 years. Proponents of the project fought for years with residents and housing activists on the best path forward for the historic but deteriorating public housing complex, which was named after social services and civil rights pioneer Julia C. Lathrop.
Now that the first phase complete, the redevelopment project is a little more than a third done.
The development team — Related Midwest, Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation and Heartland Housing — has built and rehabbed a little more than 400 apartments and the project calls for a total of 1,116 apartments, a mix of public housing, affordable housing and market-rate units.
The CHA is required by law to replace 525 public housing units, though, when it was built in 1938, Lathrop offered more than 900 public housing units.
As part of the first phase, the developers built a half-mile riverwalk with birch trees and benches, as well as a boathouse and a kayak and boat launch and a circular dog run. The amenities are now open to the public.
The developers also revived Lathrop’s two-acre “great lawn,” which was originally designed by renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen. The lawn connects Clybourn Avenue to the riverfront.
Stevenson was joined by a host of public officials at Tuesday’s ceremonial event, including Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st), Chicago housing commissioner Marisa Novara and Chicago Housing Authority’s acting CEO James L. Bebley.
Novara and other officials noted that it took a “dream team” of project partners to get the project off the ground, starting with Lathrop residents.
Nivea Sandoval, a 30-year resident, said at first she was against the redevelopment of the public housing complex, but has since come around. Sandoval was able to stay in the complex and move into a new apartment last year.
“I love my apartment,” Sandoval said to applause.
The next phase of development, which will focus on the south end of the campus, is expected to be complete sometime in 2020, according to the development team and Curbed.
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