Cabrini Green- Formally Home to Chicago’s Most Infamous Project Housing Now Turned Mixed-Income Community

For my evaluation for Cabrini Green I used Division as the northern border, the Chicago River as the western boundary, Orleans as the eastern border (south of Oak) and LaSalle as the eastern border (north of Oak), and Chicago Ave as the southern border.

The Cabrini Green neighborhood was originally a shantytown built on low-lying land along Chicago River in the 1850s. The population was predominantly Swedish, then Irish. By the 20th century the neighborhood transitioned into a heavy Sicilian population and became an area of concentrated poverty and organized crime. With this history its not surprising that Cabrini Green was one of the first urban renewal and affordable housing targets in Chicago. In 1942, Frances Cabrini Homes (two-story rowhouses), with 586 units in 54 buildings were the first public housing units built. This was only the beginning as at its peak Cabrini–Green was home to 15,000 people mostly living in mid- and high-rise apartment buildings. Crime and neglect created hostile living conditions for many residents, and “Cabrini–Green” became synonymous for problems associated with public housing across America. In 1995, the Chicago Housing Authority began tearing down many of buildings,  Today, only the original Cabrini Green rowhouses remain.

On a positive note, Cabrini Green has become a testing ground for trying out new mixed-income housing models where in many buildings high end condos abut subsidized rentals without any difference in appearance nor layout. Cabrini Green has also seen a significant amount of purely market rated development thanks to its proximity to River North.  Building by building quality urban form and density are returning to Cabrini Green and cohesive business districts along Chicago, Wells, and Division are beginning to coalesce. With more infill development I’m also confident that missing retail and cultural amenities will improve and Cabrini Green will once again be a vibrant walkable community that it once was before its misplaced urban renewal.

Click here to view my Cabrini-Green Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Pretty poor density for a Chicago neighborhood.
* Good overall ADA and sidewalk infrastructure. A couple spots of deteriorating sidewalks and dated curb cuts.
* Excellent access to Dwtn esp. River North just east of Cabrini Green.
* Great public transit access. 3 subway lines run through the neighborhood.
* Great bike amenities too including great bike rental coverage and a couple good dedicated bike lanes.
* Good overall diversity. Certainly more racial and economic diversity in Cabrini Green than other Near Northside Neighborhoods.
* Okay # of schools in Cabrini and surrounding area but generally well rated.
* Good diversity of for sale housing mixed moderately price and upscale. Fewer hsg options than surrounding River North but still pretty good. 1-bed condos sell btwn 200K-550K, 2-beds btwn 250K-750K, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 450K- around 1 M. Some products sells for more.
* Significant amount of dedicated affordable mixed-income buildings have been constructed in the neighborhood with the demo of Cabrini Green.
* Good park amenities including several nice small-medium sized parks.
* Other than the remaining Cabrini Green Rowhouses (the last of the larger Cabrini Green projects) the neighborhood is pretty safe.
* Generally pretty good urban in-fill stretching from the 90s to the present day. The newer infill is the best.
* Streetscaping in Cabrini Green is generally pretty good.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Cabrini Green and several other mid century development messed up the street grid in parts but the neighborhood still has the solid grid of the main street and other historic streets that were unaffected.
* Lots of rents but generally expensive. Studios and 1-beds lease btwn the low 1Ks-3K, 2-beds 2.5K-5K, 3-beds lease btwn 3K-6K.
* Ok cultural amenities within Cabrini Green including some restaurants, cafes, bars, and night clubs. Tons of art galleries a couple blocks south of Chicago and lots of other amenities in adjacent River North, Gold Coast, and Old Town.
* Retail amenities are pretty limited being so close to Dwtn. But some good stuff including a target (which has a pharmacy & supermarket), a couple banks, a couple gyms, a book store, and public library. Good access to all the retail amenities in neighborhood River North.
* Historic architecture is limited.
* Much of the urban fabric was wiped away with Cabrini Green but it is being built and merged with what wasn’t demolished esp. along Chicago, Wells, LaSalle, and Division. Vacant lots are also filling in the interior too.
* Ok tree canopy. Has a ways to rebound.
* The Neighborhood image is certainly improving.

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