1999 photograph looking northeast on
|Location||Bordered by the apex of Clybourn Ave and Halsted Street (north), N. Larrabee St. (east), Chicago Ave (south), Halsted St. (west)
|Status||Redeveloped 2009– (Cabrini Row-houses)|
|Demolished||1995–2011 (Green Homes/Cabrini Ext.)|
|Chicago Housing Authority|
Cabrini–Green (Frances Cabrini Row-houses and William Green Homes) was a Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) public housing project located on Chicago's Near North Side. It was bordered by the apex of Clybourn Ave and Halsted Street on the north, North Larrabee Street on the east, Chicago Avenue on the south, and Halsted Street on the west. Today, only a set of row houses, built in the 1940s, still remain (south of Oak Street, north of Chicago Avenue, west of Hudson Avenue, and east of Larrabee Street).
At its peak, Cabrini–Green was home to 15,000 people, living in mid- and high-rise apartment buildings totaling 3607 units. Over the years, gang violence and neglect created terrible living conditions for the residents, and the name "Cabrini–Green" became synonymous with the problems associated with public housing in the United States. The last of the buildings in Cabrini–Green was demolished in March 2011. The area has been undergoing redevelopment since the late 1990s, into a combination of high-rise buildings and row houses, with the stated goal of creating a mixed-income neighborhood, with some units reserved for public housing tenants. Controversy regarding the implementation of these plans has arisen.
Cabrini–Green was composed of 10 sections built over a 20-year period: the Frances Cabrini Rowhouses (586 units in 1942), Cabrini Extension North and Cabrini Extension South (1,925 units in 1957), and the William Green Homes (1,096 units in 1962) (see Chronology below). As of May 3, 2011, all high-rise buildings have been demolished. The Frances Cabrini Rowhomes (south of Oak Street, north of Chicago Avenue, west of Hudson Avenue, and east of Larrabee Street) remain inhabited and there are no plans to demolish them.
The construction reflected the "urban renewal" approach to United States city planning in the mid-20th century. The extension buildings were known as the "red " for their red brick exteriors, while the Green Homes, with reinforced concrete exteriors, were known as the "whites." Many of the high-rise buildings originally had exterior porches (called "open galleries").
Demographics of residents
According to the CHA (Chicago Housing Authority), the early residents of the Cabrini row houses were predominantly of Italian ancestry. By 1962, however, a majority of residents in the completed complex were black. Crime and radical culture change drove whites from the complex over the following decade; by the 1970s, its population was almost entirely black.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (September 2007)|
Poverty and organized crime have long been associated with the area: a 1931 "map of Chicago's gangland" by Bruce-Roberts, Incorporated, notes Locust and Sedgwick as "Death Corner": "50 murders: count 'em". At first, the housing was integrated and many residents held jobs. This changed in the years after World War II, when the nearby factories that provided the neighborhood's economic base closed and thousands were laid off. At the same time, the cash-strapped city began withdrawing crucial services like police patrols, transit services, and routine building maintenance. Lawns were paved over to save on maintenance, failed lights were left for months, and apartments damaged by fire were simply boarded up instead of rehabilitated and reoccupied. Later phases of public housing development (such as the Green Homes, the newest of the Cabrini–Green buildings) were built on extremely tight budgets and suffered from maintenance problems due to the low quality of construction.
Unlike many of the city's other public housing projects such as Rockwell Gardens or Robert Taylor Homes, Cabrini–Green was situated in an affluent part of the city. The poverty-stricken projects were actually constructed at the meeting point of Chicago's two wealthiest neighborhoods, Lincoln Park and the Gold Coast. Less than a mile to the east sat Michigan Avenue with its high-end shopping and expensive housing. Specific gangs "controlled" individual buildings, and residents felt pressure to ally with those gangs in order to protect themselves from escalating violence.
During the worst years of Cabrini–Green's problems, vandalism increased substantially. Gang members and miscreants covered interior walls with graffiti and damaged doors, windows, and elevators. Rat and cockroach infestations were commonplace, rotting garbage stacked up in clogged trash chutes (it once piled up to the 15th floor), and basic utilities (water, electricity, etc.) often malfunctioned and were left unrepaired. On the exterior, boarded-up windows, burned-out areas of the facade, and pavement instead of green space—all in the name of economizing on maintenance—created an atmosphere of neglect and decay. The balconies were fenced in to prevent residents from emptying garbage cans into the yard, and from falling or being thrown to their deaths. This created the appearance of a large prison tier, or of animal cages, which further enraged community leaders.
In response to the various problems associated with living in Cabrini–Green, residents have organized over the years both to pressure the city for assistance and to protect and support each other. In 1996, the federal government mandated the destruction of 18,000 units of public housing in Chicago (along with tens of thousands of other units nationwide). In response, some Cabrini–Green tenant activists have organized to prevent themselves from becoming homeless and to protect what they and their supporters see as a right to public housing for the city's poorest residents. The activists succeeded in obtaining a consent decree guaranteeing that some buildings will remain standing while the new structures are built, so that tenants can remain in their homes until new ones are available. The document also guarantees displaced Cabrini residents a home in the new neighborhood.
In 2001, a tenants group sued the CHA over relocation plans for displaced residents of Cabrini–Green under the city's Plan for Transformation, a $1.4 billion blueprint for public housing renewal. Richard Wheelock, an attorney representing the tenants, said the authority's demolition program had outpaced its reconstruction program, thus leaving families with few options beyond equally dangerous and segregated areas elsewhere in the city, or simply becoming homeless.
Though Chicago has had a number of notorious public housing projects, including the Robert Taylor Homes and Stateway Gardens on the South Side, and Rockwell Gardens and the Henry Horner Homes on the West Side, Cabrini–Green's name and its problems were the most publicized, especially beyond Chicago. Cabrini–Green often gained press coverage for its chaotic New Year's Eve celebrations when gang members fired guns into the air causing police to block off nearby streets every year. Several infamous incidents contributed to Cabrini–Green's reputation.
An unanticipated result of the steel fencing installed to secure the previously open gangways at Cabrini–Green was that it became difficult for police officers to see through the steel mesh from outside; in 1970, Patrolman Anthony N. Rizzato and Sergeant James Severin were shot and killed by gang members while patrolling community housing for an all-volunteer "Walk and Talk" project. As the officers proceeded across the Cabrini–Green baseball field, the assailants opened fire from an apartment window. The purpose of the shooting was to seal a pact between two rival gangs. Both officers were mortally wounded in the attack. Three adults and one juvenile were later apprehended and charged with murder. The two shooters were sentenced to 100–199 years in prison for two counts of murder. In 1981, the gang killings of 11 made national attention.
In an effort to demonstrate a commitment to making the complex safer, then-Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne moved into a fourth-floor apartment with her husband in 1981. Backed by a number of police officers and a substantial personal bodyguard presence, she stayed for only three weeks, and this incident contributed to public perception of Cabrini–Green as the worst of the worst of public housing. As a security measure, the rear entryway of the unit Byrne stayed in was welded shut. This had the unforeseen impact of creating a fortification for gang members when Byrne left. Many other gangs copied this technique in other units.
In 1992, seven-year-old Dantrell Davis was killed by a stray bullet while walking to school with his mother. In 1997, nine-year-old "Girl X," was raped and poisoned in a stairwell, leaving her blind, paralyzed and mute. The Gangster Disciples, the primary gang in Cabrini, were so incensed that their letters were scrawled on the girl's stomach that they ordered members to find the attacker, police said. The attacker, Patrick Sykes (who was not a gang member), was later apprehended by police and sentenced to 120 years in prison. While many nonresidents regarded Cabrini–Green with almost unalloyed horror, long-term residents interviewed by a Chicago Tribune reporter in 2004 described mixed feelings about the end of the Cabrini–Green era. They told the reporter that, in the face of their shared hardships, many residents had developed bonds of community and mutual support. They lamented the uprooting and scattering of that community, and worried about what would become of the residents who were being moved out of the old buildings to make way for new development.
Since the 1980s, a Catholic lay worker, William "Brother Bill" Tomes, Jr. frequently visited Cabrini–Green in an effort to stop the violence. His efforts received national attention and he was interviewed by Time magazine and several television networks.
Recent history and future plans
While Cabrini–Green was deteriorating during the postwar era, causing industry, investment, and residents to abandon its immediate surroundings, the rest of Chicago's Near North Side underwent equally dramatic upward changes in socioeconomic status. First, downtown employment shifted dramatically from manufacturing to professional services, spurring increased demand for middle-income housing; the resulting gentrification spread north along the lakefront from the Gold Coast, then pushed west and eventually crossed the river. Then, in the 1980s, the Lower North Side industrial area (just across the river from the Loop, west of Michigan Avenue, and south of Cabrini–Green) was transformed into the "River North" neighborhood, a focus of arts and entertainment. By the 1990s, developers had converted thousands of acres of former industrial lands near the north branch of the Chicago River (and directly north, south, and west of Cabrini–Green) to office, retail, and housing.
Over time, Cabrini–Green's location became increasingly desirable to private developers. Speculators began purchasing property immediately adjacent to the projects, with the expectation that the complex would eventually be demolished. Finally, in May 1995, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) took over management of the CHA and almost immediately began demolishing the first of the vacant "reds" buildings in Cabrini Extension, intending to make Chicago a showpiece of a new, mixed-income approach to public housing. Shortly thereafter, in June 1996, the city of Chicago and the CHA unveiled the Near North Redevelopment Initiative, which called for new development on and around the Cabrini–Green site. Under a ten-year Plan for Transformation, which was officially enacted in 2000, the city plans to demolish almost all of its high-rise public housing, including much of Cabrini–Green (except the original row houses, which will remain). Demolition of Cabrini Extension was completed in 2002; part of the site was added to Seward Park, and construction of new, mixed-income housing on the remainder of the site began in 2006.
Subsidized development of mixed-income housing on vacant or underused parcels adjacent to Cabrini–Green, including a long-shuttered Oscar Mayer sausage factory, the former headquarters of Montgomery Ward, and an adjacent senior housing project named Orchard Park, began in 1994. New market-rate housing now almost completely surrounds the remaining public housing. Cabrini–Green once housed 15,000 residents. New housing built on the 70-acre (280,000 m2) Cabrini–Green site will include 30% public-housing replacement homes and 20% "workforce affordable" housing, while many adjacent developments (almost all targeted at luxury buyers) include 20% affordable housing, half targeted as public-housing replacement, with a goal of 505 replacement units built off-site.
In February 2006, a unique partnership between CHA, Holsten, Kimball Hill Urban Centers and the Cabrini–Green LAC Community Development Corporation began a 790-unit, $250-million redevelopment of the 18-acre (73,000 m2) Cabrini Extension site, to be called Parkside at Old Town. Plans for the demolition and redevelopment of Green Homes are still under negotiation, while the original Cabrini row houses are currently undergoing rehabilitation. The Plan for Transformation's relocation process was the subject of a lawsuit, Wallace v. Chicago Housing Authority, which alleged that many residents were hastily forced into substandard, "temporary" housing in other slums, did not receive promised social services during or after the move, and were often denied the promised opportunity to return to the redeveloped sites. The lawsuit was settled in June 2006, as the parties agreed to two relocation programs for current and former CHA residents: (1) CHA's current relocation program, encouraging moves to racially integrated areas of metropolitan Chicago and providing for case-managed social services, would be applied to families initially moving from public housing; and (2) an agreed-upon modified program run by CHA's voucher administrator, CHAC Inc., would encourage former CHA residents to relocate to economically and racially integrated communities as well as give them increased access to social services.
Some former CHA residents have moved out of Chicago to nearby suburbs such as Harvey or to other housing developments in nearby cities. New residents have successfully moved into CHA replacement housing, and to date, residents of the mixed-income developments have reported fewer problems. The last two families in Cabrini–Green were forced out by a federal judge's decree on December 1, 2010. Crime has dramatically decreased as the area's population has shifted; in the first half of 2006, only one murder occurred. Demolition of Cabrini–Green continued slowly and was completed in 2011. Plaintiffs in Wallace and others allege that CHA's hasty removal of residents has exacerbated socioeconomic and racial segregation, homelessness, and other social ills that the Plan for Transformation aimed to address by forcing residents to less-visible but still impoverished neighborhoods, largely on the south and west sides of the city. Retail chain Target is building on the site at Division and Larrabee Streets, formerly occupied by 1230 N. Larrabee and 624 W. Division high-rises of the Green Homes. The new address will be 1200 N. Larrabee, and it is expected to open in October, 2013.
Most of the Cabrini–Green teenagers attend William H. Wells High School CPS. Waller High School, now known as Lincoln Park High School (Chicago), operated by Chicago Public Schools, also serves area students. Near North Career Metropolitan High School located at Larrabee and Segwick evolved from Cooley Vocational High School and served area students from the 1980s until 2000. At Cabrini–Green's height when over 15,000 residents lived in the neighborhood, there were five neighborhood elementary schools operated by Chicago Public Schools serving the neighborhood: Richard E. Byrd Community Academy, Jenner Academy of the Arts, Manierre School, Schiller Community Academy, and Truth School. As of 2008, only three of the schools remain in use.
During the 2003–2004 school year, fifth-grade students from Room 405 at Richard E. Byrd Community Academy developed a comprehensive action plan to push the City of Chicago and the Chicago Board of Education to fulfill an old promise of building a new school for the community. They cited that their school had no lunchroom, no gym, and no auditorium. The heat often did not work and students were forced to wear hats, gloves, and coats in the classroom, among many other inadequacies. As they researched reasons for the decrepit and shameful conditions of their school, they examined issues related to equity in school funding. To further their cause and implement their plan, the young activists wrote letters and emails, surveyed, petitioned, interviewed legislators, developed and produced a DVD, video documentaries, and a website  in an effort to "get the word out" and garner support in hopes of seeing the new school built. Their fight for the new building garnered local and national attention. As of 2008, the school's students have transferred to other schools in the Chicago area and the school has been left vacant.
- 1850: Shanties were first built on low-lying land along Chicago River; the population was predominantly Swedish, then Irish. The area acquires the "Little Hell" nickname due to a nearby gas refinery, which produced shooting pillars of flame and various noxious fumes. By the 20th century, it was known as "Little Sicily" due to large numbers of Sicilian immigrants.
- 1929: Harvey Zorbaugh writes "The Gold Coast and the Slum: A Sociological Study of Chicago's Near North Side," contrasting the widely varying social mores of the wealthy Gold Coast, the poor Little Sicily, and the transitional area in between. Marshall Field Garden Apartments, first large-scale (although funded through private charity) low-income housing development in area, completed.
- 1942: Frances Cabrini Homes (two-story rowhouses), with 586 units in 54 buildings, completed. Initial regulations stipulate 75% white and 25% black residents. Holsman, Burmeister, et al., architects. (Named for Saint Frances Cabrini, an Italian-American nun who served the poor and was the first American to be canonized.)
- 1957: Cabrini Homes Extension (red brick mid- and high-rises), with 1,925 units in 15 buildings, is completed. A. Epstein & Sons, architects.
- 1962: Green Homes (1,096 units, north of Division Street) is completed. Pace Associates, architects. (Named for Great Society era congressman William J. Green.)
- 1966: Gautreaux et al. vs. Chicago Housing Authority, a lawsuit alleging that Chicago's public housing program was conceived and executed in a racially discriminatory manner that perpetuated racial segregation within neighborhoods, is filed. CHA was found liable in 1969, and a consent decree was issued in 1981.
- April 1968: In the days immediately following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, constant gunfire from snipers, positioned on the upper floors of Cabrini–Green caused many casualties and much property damage. The sniper activity would return periodically throughout the 1970s.
- July 17, 1970: Sergeant James Severin and Officer Tony Rizzato of the Chicago Police Department are fatally shot.
- February 8, 1974: Television sitcom Good Times, ostensibly set in the Cabrini–Green projects (though the projects were never actually referred to as "Cabrini-Green" on camera), and featuring shots of the complex in the opening and closing credits, debuts on CBS. It would run for six seasons, until August 1, 1979.
- 1981: Mayor Jane Byrne moves into Cabrini–Green to prove a point regarding Chicago's high crime rate. Considered a publicity stunt, she stays just three weeks.
- October 13, 1992: Dantrell Davis was holding his mother's hand on his way to school, when he was fatally shot by a stray bullet.
- 1992: Candyman is released, the story taking place at the housing project.
- 1994: Chicago receives one of the first HOPE VI (Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere) grants to redevelop Cabrini–Green as a mixed-income neighborhood.
- September 27, 1995: Demolition begins.
- January 9, 1997: Nine-year-old "Girl X" found in a seventh-floor stairwell at 1121 N. Larrabee Street after being raped, beaten, choked, poisoned by having a can of insecticide sprayed down her throat, and covered in gang symbols. Her attacker then stepped on her throat. She was left for dead. Ultimately, the attacker was identified as Patrick Sykes and was found with the assistance of community members and building gang members, all of whom were outraged by the attack. Sykes had a history of sexual crimes against women and girls, and admitted he covered Girl X with gang symbols in an attempt to throw off investigators. Girl X survived, but was blinded and left with significant brain damage.
- 1997: Chicago unveils Near North Redevelopment Initiative, a master plan for development in the area. It recommends demolishing Green Homes and most of Cabrini Extension.
- 1999: Chicago Housing Authority announces Plan for Transformation, which will spend $1.5 billion over ten years to demolish 18,000 apartments and build and/or rehabilitate 25,000 apartments. Earlier redevelopment plans for Cabrini–Green are included in the Plan for Transformation. New library, rehabilitated Seward Park, and new shopping center open.
- December 9, 2010: The William Green Homes complex's last standing building closes.
- March 30, 2011: the last high-rise building was demolished, with a public art presentation commemorating the event. The original Francis Cabrini Homes row houses remain.
In popular culture
In the Starz television series Boss, Cabrini–Green served as the inspiration and filming location for the "Lennox Gardens" housing project. Cabrini Green also appears in the 1992 horror film Candyman as the focal point of the titular character's supernatural activity. Frank Miller-created comics heroine Martha Washington is born in a dystopian alternate-universe Cabrini–Green that has been physically walled off from the rest of Chicago. Her father is killed by police in a demonstration protesting the prison-like conditions. Eventually, Martha appeals to a liberal president, who orders the enclosing structure to be torn down. Cabrini-Green is also the home of the Evans family in the television series Good Times.
- Edifício São Vito, a similar problematic building in São Paulo City, Brazil
- Frances Xavier Cabrini
- Robert Taylor Homes, Chicago
- Pruitt–Igoe, St. Louis, Missouri
- List of public housing developments in the United States
- Chicago Housing Authority website "Cabrini–Green Homes."
- Guzzardi, Will (March 30, 2011). "Cabrini-Green Demolition: Last Building Coming DowWednesday (VIDEO)". Huffington Post.
- Saulny, Susan. "At Housing Project, Both Fear and Renewal". The New York Times March 18, 2007.
- Chicago Housing Authority website "History"
- Map of Chicago's Gangland, 1931
- Gottfried, Keith E. "Remarks of the Honorable Keith E. Gottfried, General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development". Presentation at the Multi-Housing World Conference and Expo, September 21, 2006. Page 3 
- Schmich, Mary. "Buildings stand because a leader stood her ground" Chicago Tribune Web Edition July 9, 2004 
- Hawkins, Karen. Associated Press. "Chicago closes Cabrini-Green projects", December 2, 2010, edition of USA Today, National, A2.
- Chicago-Kent College of Law. "Media Advisories" February 28, 2005
- Chicago Tribune 04-06-1997 The Tragic World Of Girl X
- THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS vs PATRICK SYKES Circuit Court of Cook County case No. 1-01-2942. June 30, 2003. 
- U.S. News Story Page. "Bail set at $6 million for alleged assailant of Girl X" CNN interactive April 5, 1997 
- Schmich, Mary. "Future closes in on Cabrini" Chicago Tribune Web Edition July 4, 2004 
- In The Line Of Fire
- Chicago Housing Authority website "The CHA's Plan For Transformation"
- Business and Professional People for the Public Interest website. "Public Housing Transformation: Physical Planning, Relocation, Social Services, and Mobility Counseling Families Left Behind" 
- National Center on Poverty Law. Poverty Law Library. "Wallace v. Chicago Housing Authority: Chicago Housing Authority and Housing Advocates Settle Lawsuit over Resident Relocation" 
- Hawkins, Karen. Associated Press. "Chicago closes Cabrini-Green projects", December 2, 2010 edition of USA Today, National, A2. -- "With the last high-rise slated for demolition in January or February, a federal judge on Wednesday[December 1] gave the last two families 10 days to move out."
- Austen, Ben (May, 2012). "The last tower: The decline and fall of public housing". Harper's Magazine. Retrieved June 6, 2012.
- Rainey, Amy; Woodward, Whitney (July 1, 2005). "Rapid change: teardowns bring new residents to once-unappealing areas". The Chicago Reporter.
- Sink, Todd; Ceh, Brian (January 2011). "Relocation of urban poor in Chicago: HOPE VI policy outcomes". Geoforum 42 (1): 71–82. ISSN 0016-7185.
- Mayor's Press Office (October 18, 2012). "New Target Store Coming to Near North Side". City of Chicago.
- Schultz, B.D. (2008). Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way: Lessons from an Urban Classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.http://store.tcpress.com/0807748579.shtml
- Schmich, Mary (March 19, 2000). "30 Years After 2 Cops Killed, A Bid To Remember"., Retrieved 2013-05-28.
- Mayor Byrne moves into Cabrini-Green -- 1981
- Kirby, Joseph A. (October 13, 1992). "The death of Dantrell Davis"., Retrieved 2013-05-28
- Smith, Janet L. (April 19, 2002). "HOPE VI and the New Urbanism: Eliminating Low-Income Housing to Make Mixed-Income Communities"., Retrieved 2013-05-28.
- McRoberts, Flynn (September 27, 1995). "Demolition Is Finally Set At Cabrini-green"., Retrieved 2013-05-28.
- Ex-convict charged in sexual assault of 'Girl X'
- Ihejirika, Maudlyne (9 December 2010). "Last Cabrini–Green residents prepare for move, pack up". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 9 December 2010.
- Project Cabrini Green
- Windy-City Woman - Sanaa Lathan on Her Good-Girl Role Opposite Chicago's Bad-Boy 'Boss' | The Daily
- 'Boss' Takes On Public Housing, Sex and Politics in Second Season | ThinkProgress
- Ambrose-Van Lee, Doreen. Diary of a MidWestern Getto Gurl. PublishAmerica. ISBN 1-4241-4676-3. Memoir of a childhood at Cabrini–Green.
- Ambrose-Van Lee, Doreen. Raised in Da Sun: A Gettogurl's Story. PublishAmerica. ISBN 1-4241-2315-1. Poetry by a former resident of Cabrini–Green.
- Cabrini–Green in Words and Pictures (2000). ISBN 0-942986-80-6.
- Dizikes, Peter, "Chicago hope: Ambitious attempt to help the city’s poor by moving them out of troubled housing projects is having mixed results, MIT study finds", MIT News, MIT News Office, March 3, 2011.
- "Cross The Bridge" by author and Cabrini resident Pete (K-SO G) Keller.
- The Paw Print. Walter Payton H.S., February 2009. Special Issue on Cabrini–Green.
- "Gang Leader For A Day" By Sudhir Venkatesh
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cabrini-Green.|
- Residents' Journal—written, produced & distributed by Chicago Public Housing residents; archives contain many articles on activism at Cabrini–Green, particularly around the plans for redevelopment
- Chicago Coalition to Protect Public Housing
- Photos, Paintings and Discussions about Cabrini–Green
- Voices of Cabrini—Documentary film by Ronit Bezalel
- Mixing it Up (New title: 70 Acres in Chicago) — a film by Ronit Bezalel and a follow up to Voices of Cabrini. Still in production
- Frances Cabrini Rowhouses 2010-2013 Photography by Satoki Nagata
- CBS News: Tearing Down Cabrini–Green
- Chicago Tribune: Cabrini–Green Columns
- North Town Park site plan (redevelopment of Cabrini Extension site)
- Map of Cabrini–Green Area at Google Maps
- The Encyclopedia of Chicago has very detailed background information on the history of public housing and the Near North neighborhood: