Plans to redevelop Ickes announced, while opponents fear funds diversion
February 4, 2017

By Lisa R. Jenkins

Redevelopment plans for Ickes include public, workforce, and market rate housing along with retail, athletic facilities, and parking.

When the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) demolished the South Side’s former Harold L. Ickes Homes public housing development in 2010 to make way for a new mixed-income community, it promised to replace the units occupied at the time with affordable housing. Seven years later, no new units occupy the still vacant 11 acres that once held Ickes.

Located between Cermak Road and 24th Street and State and Dearborn and Federal Streets, the Ickes Homes went up in 1955, named for a former U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

Recently, the Chicago Housing Authority chose McCaffery Interests and The Community Builders (TCB) to develop the site. The architectural firm Gensler is the master planner, and Antunovich Associates, Brook Architecture, Nia Architects, and Worn Jerabek Wiltse are the architects. W.E. O’Neil Construction Co. and Powers and Sons Construction Co. are the general contractors.

According to the office of Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd Ward), workers will create 877 housing units in three phases to provide rental and for-sale housing. Each phase will include rental housing of approximately 50% market rate, 30% public housing, and 20% workforce housing (aimed at households earning from 60% to 120% of the area’s median income). The project also will provide retail and 800 parking spaces.

“We’re excited to work with TCB, CHA, and the City on this important redevelopment of the former Ickes Homes site,” said Ed Woodbury, president of McCaffery Interests, who noted his company “has been active in the South Loop and greater South Side for a number of years, and this development continues that commitment.”

TCB has developed Oakwood Shores and Shops and Lofts at 47, while McCaffery has developed the Roosevelt Collection and Chicago Lakeside and provides the retail leasing and property management for the University of Chicago.

“This is the first step in the future of a redeveloped and re-imagined Harold Ickes Homes, and after months of meetings with residents, the Ickes Working Group, the alderman and development team, we arepleased to see this project take shape,” said Eugene Jones Jr, CHA CEO. “This kind of public-private partnership will help revitalize the Ickes Homes and bring a new vitality to the area, and most importantly, help reconnect and reintegrate the community into the fabric of the greater South Loop neighborhood.”

Divide and conquer?
Rod Wilson, executive director of Lugenia Burns Hope Center, a Bronzeville leadership development and organizing institute, disagrees. He feels the CHA is playing divide and conquer at the expense of the very people the CHA was created to help. Community members, the center, and CHA residents held a press conference in December to voice their concerns over the possibility of the CHA taking money intended for funding in Altgeld Gardens on the Far South Side to rebuild housing at the former Ickes site instead. Wilson claims the CHA has a cash surplus of $379 million, so his group believes it has ample resources to accomplish both tasks.

“There is no reason to steal from one community to give to another when CHA is sitting on a pot of gold today, which could create jobs and housing for thousands of individuals in need,” Wilson said.

“This is but the latest in a decades-long pattern of abuses against low-income and working families and fuzzy math that misuses taxpayer dollars,” Wilson said.

“In addition to the exorbitant cash reserves on hand, CHA has already received $2.2 million annually from the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for at least the last six years to replace the demolished housing at the Ickes site, which has yet to be replaced.”

Phase 1 predevelopment loans from CHA totaling approximately $3.6 million will fund design and master planning for the overall Ickes redevelopment and for Phase I predevelopment activities. The Phase I plan calls for constructing a mixed-income, mixed-use development with retail and commercial space along with 319 housing units—a mix of 94 CHA units, 53 affordable units, 150 market rate units, and 22 home ownership opportunities.

Former Ickes residents, who moved out of the original development’s 1,006 public housing units, said this plan presents only half as many units as promised. In 2007, when the demolitions first started, planned replacement units did indeed number 402; by 2009, CHA had decreased that to 312. It is unclear when the CHA reduced the public housing units again to 204.

Wilson said he just wants the CHA to do what it promised—simply replace the housing that had been occupied at the time of demolition. “The City is constantly investing in the area but doesn’t appear to want us to return,” Wilson said. “The delays and routine decreases in the amount of planned housing is a slap in the face of the very people that the CHA was designed to help,” he added.

A website, www.ickesfuture.com, is under construction and will follow the redevelopment’s progress. Alderman Dowell and the CHA were unavailable for further comment.