Ickes Homes News: The Final Curtain?


For over two years, Residents’ Journal has been reporting how the Harold Ickes Homes Chicago public housing site was supposed to be rehabbed along with Dearborn Homes, Cabrini Green Rowhouses and the Altgeld Gardens far South Side public housing complex, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) April 2008 Moving to Work Agreement with the Chicago Housing Authority.

In the interim, CHA closed down and demolished most of all the buildings at Ickes, and gave residents the choice to relocate to another CHA-rehabbed property or use a Housing Choice ( Section 8 ) Voucher to rent housing in the private market.

At its peak, Ickes Homes—the boundaries of which are between Cermak and 25th streets on the north and south, and between State and Federal streets on the east and west—housed nearly 1,000 families in 11 buildings. Five buildings were closed in 2007, and six were still occupied until late 2008, when only 132 of 492 apartments were full. At that time, the CHA announced that they were consolidating six buildings to three because of “security concerns and the dilapidated condition of the buildings.”

As of July 16, 2009, there were just 79 households remaining in Ickes’ three occupied buildings.

On July 20, pre-demolition procedures for the $3.1 million project began and the actual demolition commenced on Aug. 3. The CHA said at the time they expected the demolition to take 150 days and that the two contractors for the demolition, Delta Demolition and Heneghan Wrecking, were expected to adhere to the contract compliance requirement of 40 percent minority and women-owned businesses and to carry out the Section 3 hiring law which dictates that public housing residents be employed with the contractors. Six Section 3 security and labor jobs were expected to be created from the project, CHA announced.

The demolition was funded by the American Recovery and Rehabilitation Act, the so-called federal stimulus.

In their July press release, the CHA quoted Ald. Pat Dowell (3) as supportive of the demolitions at Ickes. Nevertheless, the CHA assured Dowell that a working group would convene soon after the demolition to “map future development for the site.”

Dowell was unavailable for comment by RJ press time.

CHA Admits to Having No Formal Plan in Place for Ickes
CHA spokesperson Matthew Aguilar sent RJ an e-mail stating that Ickes will most likely be redeveloped into a mixed-income community, even though the agency has no formal redevelopment plan in place for the public housing site.

“While the CHA has annually reviewed its plans for the future of the Ickes property, it has not yet formally made the determination to redevelop the property,” Aguilar stated.

CHA’s FY 2009 Moving to Work (MTW) Annual Plan for Transformation Year 10 document states that “Although there are no finalized plans for the redevelopment/rehabilitation of Harold Ickes Homes….When complete, Harold Ickes Homes will contain 312 public housing units.”
The document states that 104 of the 312 public housing units will be rehabbed in CHA’s FY 2011, 104 public housing units will be rehabbed in FY 2013, and the remaining 104 public housing units will be rehabbed in FY 2015.

When asked about the Moving to Work document, CHA said the Plan for Transformation is reviewed on an annual basis.

“As it has with many other properties, the CHA has put together an overall plan with preliminary targets for bringing back units at Ickes over the next several years.
“The CHA anticipates that in the very near future, a working group will be established for formal consideration of the options for the future of the property.
“As with other working groups, residents, community members and stakeholders will all have a voice in the process,” the CHA statement read.

The CHA stated they made the decision over the last year to consolidate the six remaining buildings down to three because of “increasing vacancies, serious security concerns and the dilapidation of the buildings.”

The Final Curtain
There is no more mystery. The final days for Harold Ickes Homes are coming fast.

The CHA board approved the demolition of the remaining buildings at Ickes on February 10, 2010, upon “immediate” approval from HUD, and the date for the final closure of them has been set for this April.

Many of those residents who made the decision to remain until the last call to vacate are going through trying times. To move to a new or remodeled CHA property, or a mixed income space, or take a Housing Choice Voucher and fumble through the private housing sector are all daunting options, said Jacqueline Jamison, a 40-year resident.

“There are no direct paths to new housing with a voucher,” Jamison said. “You search and search as if in a jungle, and hope and pray you can be satisfied and accepted.”

Ickes LAC President Gloria Williams recognized the distress among the remaining residents and came up with an idea to smooth over the tensions betweens residents and management. Williams suggested a reunion of all former Ickes residents.

Williams explained, “This seemed like the perfect solution to the question, ‘What to do to change the climate in the area?’”
Williams said she planned the reunion with CHA employee Gloria Seabrook and other LAC representatives Martha Norris, Nancy Hill, Lori Williams, Diana Stone and Rhoda Ludy as well as Roy Saunders, a popular local DJ.

“We got busy working hard with me and we succeeded in hosting a party like no other get-together that was held before,” Williams said.
“I was very proud of the outcome. One set of sign-in sheets revealed that 220 persons came to meet and greet each other in fellowship, friendship and love. Not one negative incident occurred.
“All of our hopes for the event came true. We passed around a list for future reference to locate individuals to invite to the next planned gathering.
“The only let down was those who did not attend for whatever reason. They were missed. It was snowing and raining, so for sure, the weather was involved.
“The very idea has already allowed the dwindling community to feel better about their new place in society by being in touch with others again who they have had to separate from after long years of being good neighbors.”

Residents’ Moving Concerns
Many of the residents are still reeling from the quick moves from where they lived for 30 to 40 years.

Those that are still in Ickes are fenced out of the demolition areas and carefully skirting workmen who are shoring up the buildings they live in.

Everyone has a memory to share of their time in Ickes. When asked, ‘How do you feel about the development being torn down?’ the most frequent ans

wer from tenants was, “I hate it that they’re tearing it down like this,” or “They don’t tell you nothing but they’re tearing it down and we have no answers as to what’s going to replace the demolished buildings.”

Some of the residents left at Ickes wanted to remain anonymous. Yet they felt the need to vent. Many of them were still just getting over being relocated from one building to another recently.

One resident who wanted to be called Mrs. R stayed in her apartment two hours after all of her things had been taken to the new apartment. “I was just sitting and staring,” she said.

Some residents got sick because of the quick move. The idea of being forced to move again is not sitting well with the majority of people, and there are many older people who have not made any relocation decisions.

Ickes resident L. Sanders was concerned about her handicapped brother, who she said would have to learn to maneuver in a totally different neighborhood.

Like many Ickes residents, Willie Reed was sad. Reed said he grew up in Ickes from age two and is now in his 40s. He shared some of his thoughts with RJ:

“I grew up down here,” Reed said. “I figured they should have rehabbed Ickes like they did Hilliard Homes, Archer Courts and Dearborn Homes. They could have done this to Ickes Homes. During my life in Ickes, I have seen some good and bad things but what I’ll miss is the good times. We had laundry rooms in our basements. For us kids, there were drill teams and the Twigs program.
“I remember good neighbors. If you needed anything, you could get it.
“I’m very sad about it all because my memories keep coming from age 10 on through, baseball in the back, sprinklers on the side, giant slides and merry-go-rounds in the front.
“Sometimes we could go out and help the janitors.
“Life in the Ickes is going to be missed. My friends and neighbors are going their separate ways. People are so scattered over west, south and southeast. I have so many memories. I hope they don’t dissolve when the buildings are torn gone.
“My mother moved into a senior building and one day, before she died, I brought her down here to reminisce and she thoroughly enjoyed going up and down on her motorized chair from 22nd to 25th and back. When she had seen enough, she went home satisfied.
“I plan to relocate to Dearborn Homes or get reinstated in the Housing Choice Voucher program and move to Evanston where my sister lives. Maybe I won’t feel so bad. It seems like they are tearing down everybody’s memories,” Reed said.

Some residents were concerned with what would happen to the free CHA-related resident programs that supported the children during the summer months, such as the breakfast and lunch programs, and basketball tournaments.

One resident asked, “Are those services part of the new neighborhood?”

Amid the many lamentations on the subject of relocating and staying in Ickes, Mrs. W. said, “Since I haven’t moved yet, it’s no wonder there’s a sadness flavoring every conversation.”

New Park Proposed for Ickes Residents Opens Soon
A new park located near the Harold Ickes public housing site opened Sept. 28, despite the fact that the majority of the families at Ickes had moved out and most of the buildings had been demolished by that time.

The park dates back to Sept. 2, 2003, when leaseholders at Ickes were invited by former Ald. Dorothy Tillman to attend a public meeting to discuss with city Department of Planning and Development and the Chicago Park District.

The majority of residents who attended the September 2003 meeting have relocated to other areas of the city.

Hopefully, the few remaining residents and their families will have plenty of fun and recreation on the new sports field and play lot before they too have to face the dreaded relocation orders.

Ickes Students’ Trip to Springfield
Fulfilling a promise she made to Ickes residents, state Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) hosted a trip to Springfield for the National Teachers Academy’s (NTA) outstanding football team and their coaches, along with the girls winter basketball team who won the Area 9 regional championship tournament on May 20, 2009.

The fun began with the sun. Warm weather, good spirits and everyone being on time for the bus got the day started on the good side. However, the best was yet to come.

Hunter provided the best of services for the 3-hour trip to Springfield. A huge interstate coach bus arrived on time for pick-up with the name of the company SPIRIT emblazoned in giant lettering on side, as if they knew the students’ own spirit of sportsmanship had earned them this trip.

The good behavior exhibited by the students was commendable and the bus driver was expert. However, the ride was long. We were all grateful when we pulled in to a buffet for lunch and had a chance to stretch our legs. The food was delicious and we came away satisfied, eager to be on our way.

We headed straight to the state capital and were directed to one of the assembly rooms where we found Hunter, who greeted her guests with joy and open arms.

The excited students then climbed into the chairman’s bench area for an official photo shoot of their presence. From there, they roamed the halls and galleries of the capital breathing in the history in oil paintings of past governors and huge statues of past outstanding senators. Lo and behold, there was a statue of Mayor Richard J. Daley, father of our present Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Soon we left the building to visit the Illinois State Historical Museum founded in 1877, and ran into our own state representative, Ken Dunkin, who was visibly surprised to recognize the children and coaches from NTA in Springfield.

Dunkin insisted that the whole group return to the capital and take an official photo with him before we left.

“You give me energy and hope to see you here,” said Dunkin
“Write to us and give us ideas. I am so happy to see you. I would like to have an opportunity to explain taxes to you. Get all As and Bs in high school. Don’t follow a fool. Do your own work.”

Deiandre Strickland, one of the NTA students on the trip, said, “I’m having a good time learning something I did not know. I thought the Democrats and Republicans met in separate rooms to have their discussions. I did not know that there were two groups, the Senate and the House,” she said.

James Dorsett told me that, “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I would like to come here again.”

Dakeya Perkins said, “I’m enjoying myself and learning a lot.”
Ariel Jones, smiling brightly, said, “It’s FUN, FUN and we’re learning, learning!”

The TRIP to Springfield was a huge success. Satisfied coaches and happy students all relished the day.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Categories: Uncategorized