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City’s Decision for Cabrini Green: Death by means of TIF By Fitzgerald Scott
Of all the deadly devices created against a marginalized community, TIF is one of the worse. Cabrini-Green is a public housing community located in the Near North Side Community Area of Chicago. The history of the buildings stretches back over 50 years. During this stretch of time, the Chicago Housing Authority and the residents of Cabrini Green Public Housing have shared a very antagonistic relationship, which seems to be in the last stages.
In 1997, the unnecessary Near North Side TIF District to aid development in the area around Cabrini Green Public Housing was created. Development in this area would have taken place without establishing a TIF because the property in the area is a hot commodity. The creation of the Near North Side TIF District was absolutely not a way to deal with the issues of affordable housing in Illinois, specifically concerning the Cabrini Green area. The original 3000 plus units which was dedicated 100% to public
housing will be replaced by 2000 plus units. The new units will only dedicate only 30% of the 2000 plus units to public housing. Many families will not be able to live in the new facilities which will obviously add to
Affordable 20% Market Rate 50% Public Housing 30%
the housing crisis. Establishing this TIF District was an unfair and unnecessary smack in the face of the already marginalized people who lived in the Near North TIF District. The problematic relationship between the residents and the
Chicago Housing Authority intensified and the fight over the land has taken a series of significant turns. During this war, the residents have taken on many casualties and the end seems very grim. We definitely cannot deny that the new Near North Side community residents are slowly, but surely moving in and there may not be a place for the old residents to continue living there.
In the beginning From its inception, the near north side was divided “between an expensive residential strip in the east and an industrial, low-income area in the west.”1 Originally the Near North side community was mostly Irish. Later into the 1840’s a mix of people from Germany or immigrants from Sweden occupied the area. In the Mid 1800’s, most of
these residents lived close to the river, in the central part of the Near North side, where Cabrini Green is now located. Living near the North Branch of the Chicago River was a foul situation to endure. The areas where people lived were called subdivisions and the most frequently built style of housing was either the frame cottages or tenements style houses. Rear Houses were also common.
“Prior to 1890, frame cottages were ubiquitous residences for the working class in Chicago. Typically one-story, rectangular buildings of four to six rooms, these cottages often were built without permanent foundations of brick or stone. Resting upon cedar posts sunk below the frost line, most cottages sat on narrow lots, usually 25 by 125 feet. These narrow lots permitted a row of cottages to crowd one against another and still provide ample space within the interior of a city block.” 2
Because of the rising value of land, property owners were forced to fit as many of these cottages on their property as they could.3 Tenement Houses are usually more than one floor style houses with more sturdy foundation. The difference between the cottages and the rear house is that the rear house was probably a cottage house that was condemned.
Instead of tearing it down, an owner might sell the damaged house to another landlord. The way the cottages were made, an owner could arrange for the entire house to be picked up and moved. The new owner usually put the damaged cottage on the rear of the property and subsequently, rented it out.4 New immigrants bunched up into these houses and quickly searched for work. These divisions were the make up of slum areas of the Near North Side. Besides being a health hazard and a dangerous place for children to play, these areas were prone to fire. In 1871, fire destroyed most of Chicago including most of the structures on the Near North Side.
Despite the fire, the industries where the people in the slums worked, on the Near North Side grew but the slums remained the same. By 1887, most of the industry in the Near North Side was located near the river. North Chicago Linseed Works, sawmills, an array of coal sheds, furniture factories, manufacturing companies, a wagon manufacturer, distilleries and an iron foundry are just a few industries that did business between East Division Street and Chicago Avenue by the Chicago River5. The famous McCormick Reaper Works was “located between Pine and Sand Streets, just north of the river”.6 In 1887, labor unrest was at a historical height. Over 35,000 employees walked off work to support the fight for an 8 hour day. At the McCormick Reaper Plant, police opened fire on strikers and killed at least two people. At the Randolph Street Haymarket, a meeting erupted in violence when someone threw a bomb at police. The bomb instantly killed
one of the police officers who were monitoring the meeting. These eruptions did little to immediately change things conditions in the slums.
Changing the slums Condition grew worse. The Near North Side area by the Chicago River became know as “Little Hell”, in part because of the conditions created by a new wave of immigrants piling into the slums “between 1880 and 1914”.7 The influx of new immigrants was corresponded to the unrest in Europe. In 1890, the French were unsuccessful in an attempt to convince Russia to make an “alliance against Germany”8. The Europeans were preparing for a war that would last until 1919.
Starting in 1937, the city of Chicago charged The Chicago Housing Authority with the task of clearing slums in Chicago. Daniel Burnham, who is credited with the success of “The World’s Columbian Exposition”9 and the “Plan of Chicago (1909)”10, suggested that Chicago level “the areas around the loop and rebuilding on a scale to match Baron Hausmann’s Paris.”11 Pro-slum advocates used the studies that were produced by numerous sociologists during this era to qualify the need to remove the slums. The Master Plan of Residential Land Use of Chicago designated the residential area near the Chicago River in the Near North Side as a blighted area. Total, over 20 square miles which housed over 240,000 families received a blight designation.12
Pressure to clear the slums received even more attention because of veterans returning from the war. Veterans were placed in temporary emergency housing on vacant land or land owned by the city. Those areas quickly became few and far between. It became necessary to compile slum areas in order to satisfy the need for veteran housing. Who would complain about such a cause or deny the government, or anyone else for that matter, the need to fill the housing quota for the veterans? The end of World War One was less than 20 years past and the Second World War was quickly approaching. Since CHA was responsible for clearing the slums, it was also the Chicago Housing Authorities’ responsibility to relocate the slum dwellers.
In the Near North Side neighborhood near the river, this meant new housing equipped with plumbing, electricity and other conveniences the slum dwellers were not used too. In 1942, the CHA built “the Frances Cabrini Rowhouses”13. The population reflected the population of little hell; “poor Italians, Irish, Puerto Ricans, and African Americans lived among the war workers and veterans.”14
Cabrini-Green Specifically, Cabrini-Green is located between Evergreen Avenue and Chicago Avenue on the north and South. On the East and West, Cabrini-Green is located between Halstead Street and Orleans Street.15 Originally there were 86 buildings.16 There are four sections to the Cabrini Greens projects. The North and South Extensions were
finished sixteen years after the row houses were completed. These 15 buildings are known by the residents as the reds. The last section was finished in 1962. These 8 buildings are named the William Green Homes but are affectionately known as the whites.17 Initially, the row houses project worked well. Families were able to attain work and eventually move out of the projects in order for other poor families to take their place. At the time, the revolving door of the projects seemed to be a substantial means of upward mobility.
One of the reasons why the first section of Cabrini Green looks different than the second, third and fourth sections of Cabrini Green is because of financial impositions placed on the CHA by the Public Housing Authority. These financial restrictions would not allow the Chicago Housing Authority to build row house style housing. Because of these financial restrictions, one of the only options available to the CHA was to to build high rises. The first Mayor Daley and the Chicago Housing Authority was intensely against the high rise style of building because they were “seriously concerned about the problematic nature of its high- rise buildings. Maintenance and operating cost at existing high-rises were higher than in the rowhouse developments, and the designs were recognized to be less desirable for larger families with children”18.
Still, since the federal government would not budge, because of the already existing housing shortage in Chicago, the Chicago Housing Authority would build buildings that
they could not afford to maintenance, building that had a undesirable effect on families and buildings which the Chicago Housing Authority would not be able to operate efficiently. But, they did it anyway. Not only was Cabrini-Green built in an area of crime and poverty, but the last three sections were built in such a manner that the residents could not possibly make it. The chips were stacked against them. If I were a betting man (or a real estate professional) during these times, I would definitely bet against anyone who moved in these projects.
The problem of cost was worsened by rising inflation cost. In addition to rising inflation cost, black migration from the south had intensified during the 1940’s and the 1950’s, partly because of the World War II industrial effort which made for an abundance of employment opportunities in Chicago and partly because of the mechanization of cotton picking.19 This only added to the housing crises.
Close to the end of the 50’s things got worse. By this time, the 15 to 16 story north and south sections (the reds) of Cabrini had been completed, Black migration from the south was still strong but the packinghouses of Chicago were closing and the steel mills were in a state of decline.20 High rise buildings, concentrated poverty and a declining job market is a deadly combination.
There were other social issues that were also pertinent to this era of Chicago Housing Authority history. According to an interview with a teacher who witnessed the changes in the projects during the 60’s, the Chicago Housing Authority stopped thoroughly screening people. The new residents were single mothers. This was a problem because the children’s father was not allowed to stay in the apartment unless he was married to the mother. Too add to the social crisis, families who were making a decent wage were paying up to $700 a month in rent. It was better to move than continue lining in the declining conditions of the housing projects.21 As stated earlier in this paper, Chicago Housing Authority did not have the funding needed in order to maintain the high rise buildings. So, in addition to concentrated poverty, southerners coming to the city in droves, high rise building that were destined for an undesirable outcome, and a declining job market; the situations created from absent fathers and single moms were added to the stresses of life in public housing. How would these residents make it?
The Character of the community, the problems of the neighborhood In 1962 the last section of the Cabrini-Green Housing Project was finished. Total, Cabrini-Green covered some 71 acres.22 Somehow, with all the chips stacked against them, the Cabrini-Green community managed to beat the odds. According to residents, Cabrini was still a decent place to live and raise a family.23 After 1968, Cabrini-Green went through a series of radical changes. Probably one of the first signs that things were going bad was the complaint heard around the city from the Catholic Charities:
“Terming the amount “totally inadequate and another example of tokenism to the poor,” Marillac settlement house and 44 inner city parishes have turned down the city’s offer of $140,000 for summer recreation programs.”24
This was an indication of government budget cuts for federally funded programs. This particular program was a summer programs for over 16,000 people. Again, a combination of bad circumstances would play itself out on the residents of CabriniGreen. In 1966, Martin Luther King Jr. marched through segregated neighborhoods in Chicago. He lived for a short time with his family on the West Side of Chicago.25 In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. There were riots all over the United States. The Chicago West Side riots of 1968 were massive.26 Of course the fires left many families homeless. Some of the families settled in Cabrini-Green.27
West Side gang activity during the 1960’s was an acceptable way of doing business in Chicago. Gangs “in the black communities of Woodlawn and North Lawndale, the Blackstone Ranger Nation and the Conservative Vice Lords, procured government and private grants to conduct job training and community improvement programs.”28 But later, gangs started dealing drugs. The beginning of the 70’s also was a time of civil unrest. The country witnessed riots and civil disobedient on college campuses and communities across the United States over Civil Rights and Vietnam. Even today, it is easy to get a Vietnam Veteran to tell the tale about how disheartening the return home was in the 60’s and 70’s. Keep in mind that Chicago Housing Authority gives priority for veterans. This was another bad mix for Cabrini-Green. In addition to the buildings constructed in a manner that produces an undesirable outcome, building placed in an area
of crime of poverty, the black migration, a declining job market and inflation, drugs, displaced gang members, absent dads, single moms; trained soldiers who have lost honor in public eye, were mixed in during a time of civil disobedience. This Cabrini projects did not fare well. By 1970, there were over 300 vacant apartments in Cabrini- Green29 which by this time housed over 17,000 people30. The spotlight was put on Cabrini-Green residents after two police officers “were killed by snipers”31, from one of the buildings, in broad daylight. After a thorough search, police were not able to find the sniper. Three hundred plus empty apartments, spread over a 3000 square foot area is a lot of room to hide. Police dubbed Cabrini-Green “combat ally”32. A fourteen
year old, an eighteen year old and a twenty-three year old were eventually charged with the death of the two police officers.33
Sniper fire was a common instance around Cabrini during these times and police officers killed on duty was just as common around the City of Chicago. In Cabrini, gangs took overt the hallways and elevators. The residents lived in regular and constant terror and it didn’t help that the elevators continually broke down.34 The Chicago Housing Authority’s answer was firm. The Wells Fargo guards were replaced with 55 police officers who were charged with 24 hour patrols. As part of the plan, vacant apartments were supposed to be turned into recreation areas and 300 of the residents would get the
opportunity to be “employed as community service workers and recreational coordinators.”35
Reading this may instigate a person to believe that the tenants were living in a disorganized state. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This was a community in every sense of the word. Even before the displaced west side and south side people moved into Cabrini, residents were filing complaining about the lack of security on the property. The tenants of Cabrini-Green as well as tenants from 19 other projects were represented by the Chicago Tenant Housing Organization.
Local Federal officials expect to answer, soon, formal charges levied by a dissident tenant group, accusing the Chicago Housing authority of denying tenants their rightful role in planning a $28 million modernization program for Chicago’s 61 Housing projects.36
Even in the midst of the turmoil surrounding project living during these times, the Cabrini-Green community managed to open the Cabrini-Green Community Market in 1970.37 The financial vice was tightened by President Nixon after his spending cuts to welfare programs.38 Still, members of the Cabrini Green Community stayed diligent. In 1973, about 50 of the residents got together to form a community patrol39 but, the group was eventually labeled by the police as vigilante and members of the group were jailed
for “unlawful restraint and impersonating a policeman.40 Less than a year later, CHA received a grant for over $3 million “to improve community services, resident security, and physical conditions at the Cabrini-Green public housing project”41 By this time, the
population in the Cabrini Green projects had dwindled to a little over 13,000.42 Still, the character of the community is sometimes reflected in the activities of the positive youth. In 1970’s, Cabrini-Green had the nations biggest Cub Pack and there was no larger collection of Boy Scouts in the nation.43 Again, the character of the community was displayed to the city when the maintenance staff received a citation for “best maintenance of buildings and grounds among the authority’s large developments” in 1979. 44
While Cabrini-Green was fighting to keep its’ community together, the rest of the Near North Side continued to prosper. Property values around Chicago were rising and the Near North Side was a real-estate hotbed. To give an idea of the importance of Clark Street in Chicago, the Historical Society Building, The Lincoln Park Zoo, and condominiums to numerous to list are located on Clark Street. In Downtown Chicago, Clark Street is the location for City Hall. In the Near North side community area Clark Street is about 6 long blocks east if Cabrini. Around the corner from Cabrini, on the southeast side of is the prestigious Loyola Law School. Further south another 5 blocks is the Merchandise Mart. The Merchandise mart plays host to Chicago’s most prestigious events including antique shows and fashion events. From the early 80’s into the new millennium, the industrial area around Cabrini was “transformed into “River North,” a 15
focus of arts and entertainment.”45 Huge amounts of land was transformed into “office, retail and housing.”46
The Mayor steps in Crime and violence in Cabrini continually got worse. In 1979, Chicago elected its’ first female Mayor, Mayor Jane Byrne. Because of outrage over the rape of a young girl in Cabrini, Mayor Byrne decided to move into the Cabrini-Green Projects until the projects were cleaned up. According to residents, things slowed when the Mayor moved in but things did not stop. Gangs still extorted up to $30 a month from residents, drug dealing continued, and the garbage shoots continued to back up. The Chicago Housing Authority was also in an uncomfortable bind. Money was running out fast. The Chicago Housing
Authority projected problems paying utility bills and salaries. Convinced that the projection was not well founded, President Reagan’s administration simply ignored the crises.47
The Mayor stayed for about a month. The following year, Cabrini was as if the Mayor had never moved in. By 1987, Chicago turned its’ attention away from the social problems of Cabrini and started looking at the financial promise of the Cabrini neighborhood land values.48 It was inevitable that eventually the prosperous Near North Side Area would spread beyond bounds. I’m surprised that it took this long. But, the residents of Cabrini-Green would not go without a fight. Regardless of the neighborhood’s slighted predicaments, this is still their neighborhood. A period of 16
uncertainty did ensue. Would the Chicago Housing Authority sell the Cabrini-Green to developers? On occasion, the Chicago Housing authority denied that the prospect of selling Cabrini-Green to private developers was even a consideration. Of course, that did not stop developers from making offers. Sometime in the mid 1980’s an enterprising developer offered the Chicago Housing Authority “Dollars 150 m for the site”49.
What redevelopment looks like Agitation around the Cabrini-Green Development issues heated up in the early 1990’s. residents conversation in the news changed from the previous topics surrounding building maintenance. Questions about possible relocation or dislocation of current Cabrini residents seemed to take center stage.
Some residents were probably more angry than worried. “They took the Indians’ land. Now they’re coming for ours,”50said one of the residents. Still denying that the Chicago Housing Authority will sell the projects, the CHA submitted a requested $50 million from the federal government to help overhaul Cabrini Green.51 Reports suggested that land speculators had been buying vacant property in the area since the early 1980’s in order to cash in on the areas obvious financial potential.52 The situation took a very serious turn when the Chicago Housing Authority switched from the normally loose policy to a more strict policy. This meant that it would be easier to evict the tenants of the Cabrini–Green projects. The tight knit community reacted quickly by filing a lawsuit against the Chicago Housing Authority in April, 1992.53 The community maintained its’ composure
during the time of distress. Again, the character of the community was mirrored through the conduct of the children.
“Chicago baseball legends Ernie Banks and Bill Melton threw out the first pitches at the second annual inner City Little League World Series, which is sponsored by the Chicago Police Department’s Public Housing Unit, the Cubs and the White Sox. The defending champs, the Cabrini-Green Nubians, faced off against the Robert Taylor Players. The Nubians won, 5-2.”54
The Clinton administration dealt another deadly blow to the Cabrini residents with the release of the budget plan in 1995. Billions of dollars were made available to local
officials for the purpose of tearing down the most decrepit housing.55 Also in 1995, Walter Burnett Jr. was elected Alderman of the 27th Ward. Coincidently, Alderman Burnett grew up in Cabrini.56 CHA didn’t wait; demolition of the Reds began that same year.57 A settlement was reached between the tenants and the slum lord in the form of a consent decree. The 1996 court decision document is inundated with partnership terms and cooperative language between the Chicago Housing Authority and the tenants.
According to the Consent Decree, there will be plans for at least 700 units dedicated as public housing units before CHA could continue with demolition.58 The Near North Redevelopment Plan does call for over 2000 units at completion of the project.59 The mechanisms for public participation are there. It is too bad that public has to go through the court systems in order to gain attention and influence, but at least there is some mechanism in place for the public to get involved and have a say.
The vultures were circling. Things looked grim. As part of the city’s development scheme, Dominick’s supermarket was chosen as an anchor for 130,000 Square feet of shopping center less than two blocks away from Cabrini.60 Less than three months after this announcement appeared in the Sun Times, the Near North Side Tax Increment
Finance District was established. By this time, the number of residents had dwindled to 6000.61
TIF Tax Increment Financing is a financing tool used by local governments in order to finance growth.62 First, an area is designated as a TIF district by the local government.63 In order for a local government to assign an area as a TIF district, an eligibility study “a “redevelopment plan” and a “project budget”64 has to be done. These three tasks can be done by a private consultant.65 There are 13 guidelines which can be considered in order
for a space to be considered blighted.66 A space need only meet 5 of these criteria.67 Also, if there is a possibility that the area could be developed without the use of TIF then, the area cannot qualify as a TIF district.68
The Near North Tax Increment Redevelopment Plan and Project was prepared by Camiros, Ltd. and associates and prepared in June 1997.69 After reviewing an excerpt form the plan, I don’t get the impression that the plan was developed with the mindset that would allow for the current residents of Cabrini to continue living there. The purpose of the plan is set to redefine an area and makes no remarks about preserving or maintaining the communities that currently occupy the space. My concern is that the plan deals with physical space without dealing specifically with the existing community. Of course there are places where the plan mentions possible solutions to the issues
concerning the current residents but, there is no place in the sections I have read that deals with the existing community specifically. To me, the plan reads, “this is for the area but not exactly for the people who live there. There is one exception. There are places where the plan directs attention to relocation.
Another point of order which could be questioned is the sections of the plan that deal with the development potential of the area. How in the world did this company conclude that this area would not be developed without the use of establishing a TIF?70 This area has been one of the hottest real estate areas in Chicago since the 1800’s. There may have
been some oversight on behalf of the researchers at Camiros and it is possible that someone overlooked the real estate section of the newspaper that day. Then later in the plan, the description of the surrounding areas and the development over the years disqualify Camiros earlier claim, that this area would not have been developed without the use of TIF.71 If this is true, The Cabrini-Green area should have never been designated as a TIF in the first place.
This TIF designation process is usually initiated by someone or some organization who wants to see the area become a TIF district. After the research is done and the plans are made, the city must have a public hearing concerning the impact of housing. This hearing is mandatory only in areas where there are over 74 residential units located within the proposed district or more than 9 residential units which are occupied will move
because of the TIF is established. This hearing has to take place 21 days before the TIF district is established. Then the Joint Review Board votes on it. The ordinance can pass with just a 60% approval. The state also requires the locality to hold monthly meetings in the afternoons at City Hall. The problems with all these meetings are that the public has no say in the votes. The public can kick and scream all they want, but it is the vote of the City Council, The Joint Review Board and the Community Development Commission that count. But there is a place for people to get involved. Unfortunately, by that time, the public has taken on the role as a plaintiff and the city and other interested parties have taken on the role as defendants.
Once an area is designated as a TIF district, the tax base of the area is frozen. The “Equalized Assessed Value” of the properties in the Near North Side Tax Increment Finance district is the term used to describe the total property value in a defined area.72 The Equalized Assessed Value of the properties in the Near North Side TIF when the TIF was created is $49,369,679.00.73 The taxes on property in 1996 for Chicago were 2.182 per “$100 EAV” 74. This would mean, in the Near North Side TIF district, collected about a million dollars in property taxes. Those million dollars is used as a tax base and combined with property taxes from the rest of Chicago in order to offer public services. These public services include: public schools, police, libraries, parks etc. In 1997, the Equalized Assessed Value of the properties in the Near North Side Tax Increment Finance district was “49,369,678” 75. The property tax was about 2.024 per $100 EAV.76
This is “$709,768.00” 77 more than the year the TIF was created. This would mean that the government collected about $14,000 more in taxes that year. Instead of devoting this increase to public service, the increase is put into a fund. The Near North Side TIF is due to terminate in 2020. Local government can borrow on an estimate of the TIF earnings over the life of the TIF (however long the TIF District last) and use the money to develop the area. As the area becomes more developed, property values increase. When property values increase, more property taxes can be collected. The extra property taxes collected before the expiration of the TIF will be added to the TIF fund. The local government has borrowed $55 million in bonds against the estimated taxes in the Near North Side Tax
Increment Finance District. 78 A little over $10 million of the $55 million has been issued thus far. 79 Part of the funds seems to be also dedicated to relocation expenses, public improvements and job training.
If we were to assume that the plan from Camiros, Ltd is good, then the TIF that was developed from the plan is doing exactly what it implied. There is growth and the tax base has increased exponentially. Their plan still has time to play out. After most of the Cabrini residents leave, the buildings are torn down, and there are new residents, there is still space to execute the other community oriented parts of the plan. The beauty of the plan is that there is no timeline specified about when things are to be implemented. I think it’s all a farce and the People who live in Chicago are being played on by divergent
Feeding Time for the Vultures The year after the Near North Side TIF was established, the City of Chicago sent out a “Request for Proposals” “for purchase and redevelopment of the Halsted North Property The Clybourn Ogden Redevelopment area and Near North Tax increment Finance redevelopment Project Area”80 Putting the words TIF on a “Request for Proposals” is like screaming come and get it to a bunch of hungry cowboys. Developers know what it
means to do development in a TIF area. Of course there is a financial incentive but honestly, the money a developer gets from the TIF fund does not seem very substantial. The North Town Village, LLC developer received $8.6 million in TIF assistance but, the developer invested over $46 million into the project.81
So why build in a TIF district if not for the money? In order for an area to receive a TIF designation, the area must be considered blighted. Once an area receives this designation the developers knows that the property values are low. Land is cheap. Tax breaks are available and the municipality will accommodate you. In addition, a developer has the freedom to build high end housing. Property directly behind Cabrini-Green has been advertised as high as $700,000. In other words, there is a chance to make a lot of money. In Cabrini-Green this is especially true. With fabulous Clark Street and the Gold Coast in walking distance, the prestigious Loyola campus just around the corner and downtown Chicago just a hop skip and a jump away, the financial potential for a development in the
Cabrini neighborhood is too attractive to pass up. Designating this area as a TIF district is overkill.
A TIF designation in the Near North Side community also means that the people who lived in the area will probably not be able to afford to live there anymore nor will there be space for the old residents to move back. Originally there were “3,608”82 units in the original projects and all of these were public housing units. The most pronounce loss in
the Consent Decree is the stipulations concerning the availability of housing after development. Notice that space that was almost totally devoted to public housing will be devoted to other uses. Are we so strapped for space that it has become necessary to take space that was otherwise dedicated to provide homes for the needy or are we just greedy?
So if developers wanted the Cabrini Space, why didn’t the Chicago Housing Authority sell it when developers began to show interest? Why not take some of these offers years ago? A politician that backs selling the projects would risks loosing resident support in the upcoming election.83 Not only does that politician lose resident support, that politician looks really bad to the rest of the constituency. Although Mayor Daley and the Mayors before him had the power and the means to do this development project in Cabrini long ago, I think none of them dare not for the political fallout that may have ensued afterward.
A politician who knows how to use TIF as leverage can dodge the fallout derived from relocating poor people. TIF can act as the qualification needed to get things done. As stated before, in order for an area to qualify as a TIF district it has to qualify as a blighted space. Qualifying an area as blighted space opens the Pandora’s Box of misery for the marginalized residents in the space. Development then becomes a savior rather than an invader. Instead of violators of personal space, the developers become saints, helping the government do the job government could not do on its own. Support for the people who
want to stay in the blighted space could possibly dwindle and the decision to continue living in a blighted space may seem immature and irresponsible.
On the other side of the coin, development in the Near North area will increase because property in the area is so valuable. This is especially true because the area has been designated as a TIF district. As the area is de-marginalized and as the less fortunate are moved out, high end businesses and developments can be established. Otherwise undesirable spaces i.e. vacant lots can be converted into usable space. After development is complete, the new residents and some of the old residents will probably enjoy the close proximity to downtown Chicago, and the many amenities that are there and soon to come. Some of the old residents that will stay will be from the Cabrini rowhouses because this section of Cabrini-Green will not be torn down; instead, the rowhouses will be rehabbed.84
More fighting The housing argument between the Cabrini residents and the CHA remained heated. A blow from the Cabrini-Residents was issued in 2004 when the residents filed another lawsuit against CHA because; residents in seven of the Cabrini buildings were given a six month notice to relocate. 85 A blow to the Cabrini-Green residents was issued from the
CHA in 2005 with the announcement to; replace the “resident run management company at Cabrini-Green”86 because of mismanagement of money. Of course, the Cabrini-Green residents will fight this decision.
The new development does not only spell out a certain doom to the Cabrini Residents, it also means that people who own property in the area may have to give it up. Mr. Larry Burns bought his “property in 1980 for $45,000. It is now appraised at around $1.5 million.”87 Many people, especially those that live on a fixed income will probably not be able to afford the taxes on the property that they own.
Even if they win they may still loose Whether or not the people who are living in the dilapidated Cabrini-Green housing units will be able to stay or not is questionable. Regardless, the Near North Side will change. High end development has already been created less than a block from any boundary that
surrounds what is left of the Cabrini-Green. The lawsuits pursued by the Cabrini-Green residents seem to sometimes slow the process but by no means does the process stop. Every time I pass the buildings there seems to be another board on the windows or another building disappears. When given the opportunity, the demolition takes place at an alarming rate. Even those who are able to stay will find themselves in a new neighborhood, with new neighbors and new surrounding. The schools and other public institutions will not be as it was. For some this will be a good thing. For others it will
mean losing home, family and old friendships. For some of us, establishing these kinds of relationships is a difficult task and takes a lifetime. I don’t know if the same holds true for the residents of Cabrini-Green. Some of the networks, that so many inner city marginalized residents use, will be saved, some will be completely lost.
Could there have been another way? Doubt it. The market calls, and very few ignore it. The Near North Tax Increment Financing district will expire in 2020. All interested parties have until the expiration to take advantage of the opportunities afforded through the TIF, therefore, time is of critical importance to all interested parties. There is no more time consuming process than the bureaucracy involved in housing development processes. To cut to the bureaucracy, CHA seems to involve the residents only when necessary. The entire process seems to suffer from extreme circumstances of miscommunications.
After the TIF is expired, the tax base is returned, in full, to the city. By the time the TIF Districts expire, the City of Chicago may be looking at a budget that will double, triple or possibly quadruple. That essentially could mean: the quality of city services will increase exponentially. This means relatively nothing to the people of Cabrini-Green who have been forced to move out of the city in order to survive. For those who stay, there is a possibility that they may be on the negative end of better services i.e. policing service. If you think about it, who will be the undesirables in an area where condos cost upwards of
$700,000 and property is assessed at upward of $1.5 million. The biggest question has yet to be addressed. Since Chicago is in a huge housing crises, especially when it comes to affordable housing; where will all these people go? I think, if the goal of TIF was to ease the housing crisis, this experiment has failed miserably. Good luck to the people who can afford a $700,000 condo. I hope they never become unemployed because; there is no place in Chicago for them to go.
Notes Time line is constructed from information on Encyclopedia Britannica online with information retrieved on May 10, 2006. Information not on the Encyclopedia Britannica website has been referenced in the endnotes. The graph has been constructed from data on the Chicago Housing Authority website. The information was retrieved March 10, 2006. The picture of the slum was extracted from the Encyclopedia of Chicago website on March 10, 2006. The picture of the Reds was extracted from the Chicago Housing Authority website on March 10, 2006. The Maps were extracted from Google Maps and the City of Chicago websites on March 10, 2006.
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45 46 47
56 57 58
62 63 64 65 66 67 68
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2006. Blackboard Spring 2006 UPP 533 Urban Space, Place and Institutions (17206)--UPP 533s06, resources Near North Tax Increment Redevelopment Plan and Project, pg 2. Retrieved April 30, 2006. Blackboard Spring 2006 UPP 533 Urban Space, Place and Institutions (17206)--UPP 533s06, resources Near North Tax Increment Redevelopment Plan and Project, pg 4 & 6. Retrieved April 30, 2006. Blackboard Spring 2006 UPP 533 Urban Space, Place and Institutions (17206)--UPP 533s06, resources NCBG’s TIF Almanac. Retrieved April 29, 2006. Neighborhood Capital Budget Group, TIF profile: Near North. Retrieved April 11, 2006. Cook County, Media Center, Cook County Property Tax Rate Drops for tenth consecutive year (PDF file). Retrieved April 29, 2006. Neighborhood Capital Budget Group, TIF profile: Near North. Retrieved April 11, 2006. Cook County, Media Center, Cook County Property Tax Rate Drops for tenth consecutive year (PDF file). Retrieved April 29, 2006. Neighborhood Capital Budget Group, TIF profile: Near North. Pg 2 Retrieved April 11, 2006. Neighborhood Capital Budget Group, TIF profile: Near North. Pg 2 Retrieved April 11, 2006. Neighborhood Capital Budget Group, TIF profile: Near North. Pg 2 Retrieved April 11, 2006. Blackboard Spring 2006 UPP 533 Urban Space, Place and Institutions (17206)--UPP 533s06, Resources RFP. Retrieved April 29, 2006. Blackboard Spring 2006 UPP 533 Urban Space, Place and Institutions (17206)--UPP 533s06, resources RFP. Retrieved April 29, 2006. Chicago Housing Authority statistical Profile 1991/1992. P 2 The Financial Times Limited (December 23, 1986, Tuesday); LexisNexis Financial Times (London, England) section I, pg 4 American News, Developers Eye Chicago Ghetto. Retrieved April 26, 2006. Chicago Sun Times (November 1, 2005); LexisNexis Chicago Sun-Times pg 60, CHA drops tenant-run management company. Retrieved April 26, 2006. Chicago Sun Times (June 4, 2004); LexisNexis Chicago Sun-Times pg 29, Cabrini-Green residents sue CHA over relocation notice. Retrieved April 26, 2006 Chicago Sun Times (November 1, 2005); LexisNexis Chicago Sun-Times pg 60, CHA drops tenantrun management company. Retrieved April 26, 2006. The Chicago reporter. July/August 2005. Rising Values. Retrieved April 30, 2006.
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