Still little movement on Roosevelt Square redevelopment
October 4, 2019

SOS Illinois is raising money to build a Roosevelt Square Village Community Center to provide a variety of services for underserved families.

The last several months have seen no movement concerning the ongoing plans to redevelop the former ABLA Homes public housing site into the Roosevelt Square mixed-income development.

In the mid-1990s, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) embarked on the ambitious Plan for Transformation to replace highrise developments with lower rise, mixed income developments offering a mix of market-rate housing, public housing, and housing affordable to tenants earning up 50% of Cook County’s area median income. At the time, prevailing wisdom held that highrise apartment blocks reinforced the cycle of poverty, while mixed-income communities would encourage upward mobility.

ABLA homes consisted of four public housing developments located in the area bound roughly by Cabrini Street on the north, Ashland Avenue on the west, 15th Street on the south, and Blue Island Avenue in the southeast: the Jane Addams Homes, Robert Brooks Homes, Loomis Courts, and Grace Abbott Homes. ABLA stands for Addams, Brooks, Loomis, and Abbott. Together, they held 3,596 units.

The CHA teamed with Chicago-based Related Midwest to redevelop the property. The most recent master plan, which dates from 2015, called for 1,466 market-rate units as well as 755 public housing and 720 affordable units. A number of rehabilitated Brooks Homes and Loomis Courts developments would count toward the latter two numbers.

While workers demolished Abbot Homes and the highrise portion of Brooks Homes, building replacement housing has gone slowly. According to a statement by Related Midwest, they built 664 homes that included a mix of rental apartments and for-sale condominiums. According to the CHA, however, they built 282 units, “leaving a balance of 473 public housing units to construct.”

The CHA’s proposed Fiscal Year 2020 Moving to Work Annual Plan, which outlines exactly how the housing authority plans to spend money and how many units it plans to build, makes no mention of any new units at Roosevelt Square.

The only development activity it mentions is the project that would be built near the intersection of 13th Street and Blue Island Avenue: the Roosevelt Square Village Community Center, the brainchild of the Illinois chapter of SOS Children’s Villages, an Innsbruck, Austria based organization that provides support for disadvantaged and impoverished families. According to SOS Illinois, the community center will span around 11,000 square feet and include a culinary training space, community meeting spaces, and “academic, therapeutic, social, and recreational outlets for youth and families.”

SOS Illinois is attempting to raise $7.6 million to build the community center and has raised about half that sum.

The plan went through a public comment period in between July 26 and August 27 and is expected to win adoption later this year.

According to the proposed plan, another mixed-income redevelopment project Related Midwest is involved with (the Lathrop Homes in the Lincoln Park area) is getting some new units.

Related Midwest also is building The 78, a large mixed use community in the South loop that will include residential, retail, and office space; cultural institutions; and public spaces. The 78 will be connected to downtown and Chinatown by a new street, the Wells-Wentworth Connector.

Gazette Chicago attempted to reach Related Midwest regarding the status of the Roosevelt Square redevelopment, specially asking about the delays and Related Midwest’s plans for the project’s market-rate portions. After several calls and e-mails from Gazette Chicago, Related Midwest issued a statement reiterating its commitment to redevelopment without providing any specifics.

“Related Midwest is committed to creating vibrant, unique, mixed-use communities where residents of all different backgrounds can work, live and play,” the statement read. “We continue to work with CHA, City of Chicago, Alderman [Jason] Ervin, the ABLA Local Advisory Council, and prospective retailers to create more modern and mixed-income residences and retail options in the community.”

For more on Related Midwest, log on to www.relatedmidwest.com. For SOS Illinois, call (312) 372-8200.

—Igor Studenkov