Bidding Starts for Vacant Cabrini-Green Site in Chicago

Windy City officials have put out an RFP for the redevelopment of the derelict Cabrini-Green site in Chicago’s Near North Side.
Draft Development Zone Plan

Draft Development Zone Plan – courtesy of the CHA

Chicago—A long-awaited makeover is in store for the notorious Cabrini-Green site that now lies in neglect in Near North Side Chicago.

The City of Chicago and the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) are seeking proposals for the first phase of the redevelopment of the remaining 65 acres of vacant land in the city’s historic Cabrini-Green area. The announcement was made this week by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Acting Chicago Housing Authority CEO Eugene Jones.

Part of a larger community plan developed by the CHA, the City of Chicago and the Near North Working Group, Phase I of the project calls for the development of 900 residential units on approximately 17 acres of land at three separate sites. Responses are due April 29 2016, with each of the sites requiring a separate proposal.

  • The first site consists of eight acres of land bounded by Clybourn Avenue, the former Blackhawk right-of-way to the north, Larabee Avenue to the east, and the Clybourn Medical Center to the south.
  • The second site, comprised of roughly seven acres, is bordered by Halsted Street to the west, the former Scott Street right-of-way to the north, a Target store to the east, and Division Street to the south.
  • The third site consists of approximately 1.6 vacant acres bounded by Larabee Street to the west, Oak Street to the north, Cambridge Avenue to the east, and residential buildings to the south.

The RFP requires between one-third and 40 percent of the housing units be reserved for public housing residents, and also calls for proposals for commercial developments at designated sites. The redevelopment of the Cabrini-Green area is a crucial part of the CHA’s “Plan Forward: Communities That Work” initiative and its new Development Zone Plan. The project consists of four developments: Francis Cabrini Homes, Extension North, Extension South and the William Green Homes. When completed, the Development Zone Plan is expected to create roughly 2,830 housing units, of which at least one-third will be dedicated to public housing.

One of the first large scale efforts between local and federal governments to provide housing to low-income families, Cabrini-Green was originally developed between 1942 and 1962. Made up of four separate developments, the project incorporated 23 multi-story buildings and row houses totaling more than 3,600 units.

At its peak, the neighborhood was home to 15,000 residents, but over the years it was overtaken by crime, gang violence, vandalism and neglect. Confronted with issues stemming from unemployment and the withdrawal of crucial city services such as police patrols and routine building maintenance, the neighborhood soon became ill-famed as a high crime area, and the CHA started demolition work at the site in 1995. Only the 586-unit Frances Cabrini row houses remain of the former development, of which 440 units are vacant and have been the subject of a lawsuit between the CHA and a Cabrini-Green tenant group. According to DNAinfo Chicago, the lawsuit, which was settled this fall, was the main obstacle standing in the way of redevelopment at the site.

“Many feared that the take-down of the old high-rises would be bad for the community, but the opposite has occurred,” Alderman Walter Burnett said in a statement. “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.”