CHA Land Remains Vacant for Over a Decade (Commentary)


There used to be a 16-story open-gallery high-rise building at 6215 S. Wabash Ave. in the Washington Park neighborhood on the South Side.

Closed CHA building at 6215 S. Wabash awaiting demolition in 1998. Residents' Journal archive photo by Mary C. Piemonte

The Chicago Housing Authority imploded the building in 1998 and the space where it stood remains vacant to this day. That was the first public housing building my children and I lived in after leaving the private housing market in 1989.

The building was also the focus of my first article that I wrote as a professional journalist with Residents’ Journal back in the summer of 1997.

Last May 18, the CHA entered into a three-year lease agreement with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago, located adjacent to the building. To ensure that the Boys and Girls Club can continue to provide programs to residents, CHA approved the lease with a five-year option to extend the lease with a monthly rent of $100, according to the CHA Board documents.

I was wondering why the land had been vacant for over a decade. So, I asked the CHA in May 2010 what they intended to do with the place that had once been my home.

CHA spokesperson Matt Aguilar stated in an email during that time that “CHA has been focused on other Washington Park parcels in recent years….As far as I know, CHA has no immediate plans for the vacant land.”

I checked in with Aguilar again a few days ago, a year after my first inquiry. In a June 2, 2011 e-mail, Aguilar wrote: “CHA continues to not have specific plans for the site.”

This current view of vacant land, full of overgrown trees, was the location of where the Chicago Housing Authority's former 6215 S. Wabash high-rise building once stood over a decade ago. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte

There is more vacant space near the spot where my building stood. Another CHA 16-story open-gallery high-rise building known as the Randolph Towers once stood at 6217 S. Calumet, just a block away from the one on Wabash Avenue. This land also remains untapped since being demolished in 2006.

It was demolished “to prepare for the redevelopment that will take place on that land,” according to the CHA Moving to Work Annual Report that year.

To this date, Aguilar still hadn’t gotten back to me about what is to be done with the vacant land where the Randolph Towers once stood, along with several CHA Rowhouses adjacent to it.

It is a shame that nothing has been done with any of the vacant sites, especially since the public housing tenants were rushed out of the Randolph Towers building and led to believe that they would have the opportunity to come back to that area in a timely fashion.

Before and since the housing crisis, people have lost their homes to foreclosure, adding to the rate of homelessness. The vacant land, now full of overgrown trees, should have been used to provide affordable housing opportunities for them as well as the former public housing tenants, instead of being a haven for the birds.

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