In a boost to historic preservationists fighting to save Chicago’s Julia Lathrop Homes, state officials announced Monday that the North Side public housing complex has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The riverfront complex was built during the 1930s and designed by several distinguished Chicago architects, among them Robert DeGoyler, Hugh Garden, Hubert Burnham, Vernon Watson and Thomas Tallmadge, as well as landscape architect Jens Jensen. With 925 low-rise units on 35.3 acres, it differed dramatically in scale and design quality from the massive high-rise projects that the Chicago Housing Authority erected during the 1950s and 1960s.
The listing on the National Register does not automatically protect Lathrop’s three- and four-story apartment buildings from demolition. But it would trigger a review by state historic preservation officials if federal or state funds were going to be used to tear down the complex.
The private real estate developers who the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) has charged with transforming Lathhrop into a mixed-use development could apply for federal tax credits if renovations of the historic brick buildings and the brick arches connecting them meet federal standards.
However, the buildings have tiny bathrooms, built to 1930s standards, and their kitchens are small, posing a problem because the rehabbed buildings are supposed to be wheelchair accessible, as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act. That’s likely to mean larger–and fewer–units inside the historic buildings, according to one of the developers.