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The Next Step In Cabrini Green's Redevelopment Is Underway

By Mae Rice in News on Jan 6, 2016 9:22PM

Cabrini Green in 1999. (Photo Credit: Jet Lowe, U.S. National Park Service)

On Wednesday, the city put the next stages of the redevelopment of Cabrini Green in motion. The city is now accepting proposals from developers who will build on the North Side site, according to a statement from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Housing Authority.

The public housing towers in Cabrini Green, built in 1942 and razed in 2011, were famous for a few violent incidents, most notably the fatal shooting of 7-year-old Dantrell Davis in 1992. A sniper in a vacant apartment killed Davis while he was walking to his elementary school, holding his mother’s hand.

Since the project’s internationally-famous towers fell, the area has remained mostly vacant lots, as past public housing tenants, developers, and government officials wrestle over what, exactly, the land will become.

According to Wednesday’s statement:

[T}he [RFP] calls for the development of approximately 900 units of housing in a mixed-income residential community on approximately 17 acres of land at three separate sites. The RFP requires between one-third and 40 percent of the housing be reserved for public housing residents with both rental and home-ownership opportunities. In addition, the RFP calls for proposals for retail and commercial developments on designated sites that meet community needs for amenities and employment.

Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), who himself grew up in the Cabrini Green projects, said the community is changing "for the better:"

Many feared that the take-down of the old high-rises would be bad for the community, but the opposite has occurred… Our community has changed for the better. We’ve maintained or found housing for long-term community members while adding opportunities and services. Thanks to the vigilance of the community, we’ve seen new housing, schools and stores built by and employing neighborhood residents. The Near North Side has become a place where people of different incomes and backgrounds live and work side-by-side - we are what every Chicago neighborhood should be.

It’s debatable how successful the city has been at relocating displaced Cabrini Green residents. As Chicago writer Ben Austen explained in a 2012 piece for Harper’s:

Of the thousands of residents relocated from public-housing high-rises in the plan’s early years, the majority had ended up in areas of highly concentrated black poverty. The CHA has since improved its relocation process, reducing counselors’ caseĀ­loads, hiring a new social-services provider, and adding job-training opportunities. Even in 2009, though, the CHA had to place a full-page advertisement in the Chicago Sun-Times announcing that it didn’t know the whereabouts of some of the former residents it was supposed to be tracking, and would the following 3,200 people please get in touch.

However, new development in Cabrini Green—which this request for proposals is just the beginning of—could help restore some of the old community. Or, if developers like the ones behind the area's Xavier building have their druthers, the whole area will be rebranded "NoCa," short for "North of Chicago Avenue."