It’s been an exciting start to the year for the Dorchester Artist Housing project in Chicago. Back in January, we found out that the project, led by a partnership between Rebuild Foundation and Brinshore Development, and designed by Landon Bone Baker Architects, will be the recipient of low-income housing tax credits. These tax credits will contribute significantly to the cost of renovating the 32 units and build out of a community arts center within the project.
Then, a few weeks ago, the project was overwhelmingly approved by the City of Chicago Plan Commission. The Plan Commission is a 22 member group made up of individuals appointed by the Mayor’s Office as a well as some elected officials. You can read a list of these officials, as well as view the agendas for future hearings here.
While the project is located within an existing Planned Development, the introduction of an arts center (which is a public gathering space) as an accessory use within an existing residential space requires that the Planned Development be modified to accommodate this. Additionally, the overall reduction of existing dwelling units from 36 to 32 represents a decrease in density, even though the buildings have been vacant for about 5 years. Anytime these modifications are made, they go through a two-part process, one of which is a review by the city’s Plan Commission in a public hearing.
As it turns out, there were members of the public on hand to voice their opinion about this project specifically. One person expressed their appreciation of the project in its adaptive reuse of an architecturally modest, yet interesting set of buildings that would otherwise have likely been torn down. Two or three other people who live in the Grand Crossing/South Shore area near where this project is located had come to the hearing to voice their disapproval of the project. They had significant concerns over the potential negative side effects that a project like this could have on their neighborhood, which had already experienced the turbulence that goes with the closing of a public housing project. They said that, since the closing of the buildings, they had worked hard to make the spaces around there safe for the neighborhood, and didn’t want to see that disrupted by bringing in another new set of residents. However, once they saw our presentation, made by architect Catherine Baker, attorney Steve Friedland, and Theaster Gates, they were convinced that the project could have a very positive impact on the neighborhood and actually reversed their opposition.
It was very encouraging to us to have concerned, yet supportive neighbors participate this early on in the process. We are hopeful that this marked the beginning of an exciting process of community engagement in developing all aspects of the project, from the design of outdoor spaces to the programming of the art center.
To hear more about the project, or to talk with us directly, please come to the Creative Chicago Expo on March 23-24. Rebuild Foundation will have an expo booth where we’ll be gathering suggestions on artist live spaces and discussing the potential of shared-interest communities. Additionally, we’ll be participating in a panel discussion on artist live/work developments that are happening throughout Chicago right now. The panel discussion happens on Saturday, March 24 at 12-1pm at the Claudia Cassidy Theater in the Chicago Cultural Center.
And, in case you missed it, the Architect’s Newspaper had a wonderful article about Dorchester Artist Housing back in November that you can read here.