Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Long Road to Rebuilding Chicago Public Housing

Cabrini Green in 1999, before extensive demolition began. All of Cabrini Green's towers would be demolished by 2011. (Jet Lowe/Wikimidia Commons)
 "From the time of its earliest German settlers, the area now known as Cabrini–Green has been a space of displacement, and more often than not, neglect. The area was first a landing site for European immigrants fleeing poverty and famine in their home countries—first German, then Swedish, followed by Irish, and lastly settled by Sicilians, the area was known as Little Hell. The fire spewing stacks of the People’s Gas Light & Coke Co. plant and squalid conditions made the name unfortunately appropriate. By the early 20th century the area became known as Little Sicily, despite few improvements to living conditions."

"By the 1940s the newly founded Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) had begun a slum-clearing program. Eventually, there would be few traces of the area’s history. Though few would feel nostalgic for the over-crowded, unplumbed tenements, the complete displacement of the Sicilian community would eventually ring familiar for the area’s future residents."
"Today, like Little Hell and Little Sicily before them, there is barely a trace of the Cabrini–Green Homes left. Starting in the mid-1990s, the city began a 15-year plan to demolish most of the then-dilapidated projects."

This article was originally printed in full in August 2016 print issue of The Architects Newspaper and online as "How developers are rebuilding affordable units 20 years after Chicago began to dismantle its public housing" by Matthew Messner. Read the complete article here