Cabrini-Green Residents Say Goodbye


Young people in the Cabrini Connections Marching Band. Photo by Quintana Woodridge

Demolition started today, March 30, 2011 on the last high-rise building standing in the Cabrini-Green public housing development.

Former residents gathered to say their goodbyes to the last visual proof that life and memories were created on the grounds of the building at 1230 N. Burling Ave. Former and present residents gathered in the vacant lot adjacent to the building sharing memories and their thoughts on the art project that was created to commemorate the high-rises – LED lights were placed in the Burling building’s 134 apartments by Jan Tichy, a professor at the Art Institute of Chicago. Many of those gathered in front of the building talked about the proposed Target Store that may be built on the property where the building currently stands.

There were various views on the store potentially replacing the high-rise. Reginald Grant, a former resident of Cabrini-Green who founded the mentoring organization 100 Men Standing, came back to guide young men and women in the Near North community.

“I see the lights blinking,” Grant said. “It’s a good change from the lights we use to see. It was thunder behind the lights we used to see blinking.”

He went on to say that the building’s demolition is progress. “It’s a lot of sad memories over here and sometimes people want to forget those memories. I could never forget the community because the community is the people,” Grant said.

He added that he hopes the Target will bring more jobs and opportunity to the people living in the Cabrini-Green Row Houses, approximately 300 units that remain standing.

Tanisha, 17, is a former resident of the Burling building who said she is sad to see her home go. Commenting on the art project, Tanisha said it was nice to know that people cared enough to turn youths’ thoughts of Cabrini-Green into light art.

“It could be nice to have the Target over here, but it makes me mad to think that the house I grew up in will be gone forever,” Tanisha said.

“I like the fact that the artist brought all the youth together from Cabrini Connections to write the poetry about how they feel about their community being demolished and using this last building as closure” said Deidre Brewster, a resident of the Cabrini-Green Row Houses, about the LED light display. She also said there are supposed to be 75 jobs set aside for the public housing residents when the Target is built.

“The community is not being split apart because we always find each other and I’m still in my community and I’m not leaving my community until I choose to go to another community,” Brewster said. “I just think with this building and the children giving the whole community closure – which it hasn’t had – when a building is scheduled for demolition is a wonderful thing.”

As the residents left for their various destinations, the participants in the Cabrini Green Marching Band played their instruments.

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