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Robert Taylor Homes, R.I.P.

By Scott Smith in News on Oct 9, 2006 6:00PM

The AP ran a story yesterday about the death of Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes housing 2006_10_rth.jpg project. It follows a similar piece from the Medill News Service back in April.

Once the largest housing project in the world and the home of Mr. T, the RTH occupied a two-mile stretch on State Street from 39th to 54th Street. At its peak, the housing project held 27,000 people. Now, only one building remains, and it will be torn down by the end of this month.

For Chicagoans of recent vintage, it may be difficult to look past the failure of the Robert Taylor Homes and how it symbolizes the problems of Chicago’s economic and racial segregation. But in the beginning, the RTH were a legitimate effort to fight poverty and to establish housing under President Johnson’s Great Society programs. But problems with the project dogged it almost from its inception, with the most recent controversy occurring last spring when a mentally ill woman was released from police custody and later fell from a seventh-floor window.

The CHA is now in the midst of its ten-year “Plan for Transformation,” which calls for rehabbing existing housing structures, empowering self-sufficiency for its residents, and reforming the CHA administration. It remains to be seen whether this plan will meet with greater success than Chicago’s original housing plans. CHA head Terry Peterson recently left his post to run Mayor Daley’s re-election campaign as the agency revealed the plan would not be complete until 2015, five years behind schedule.