After the towers: the destruction of public housing and the remaking of Chicago

Document
Description

This dissertation examines the history of Cabrini-Green through the lens of placemaking. Cabrini-Green was one of the nation's most notorious public housing developments, known for sensational murders of police officers

This dissertation examines the history of Cabrini-Green through the lens of placemaking. Cabrini-Green was one of the nation's most notorious public housing developments, known for sensational murders of police officers and children, and broadcast to the nation as a place to be avoided. Understanding Cabrini-Green as a place also requires appreciation for how residents created and defended their community. These two visions—Cabrini-Green as a primary example of a failed public housing program and architecture and Cabrini-Green as a place people called home—clashed throughout the site's history, but came into focus with its planned demolition in the Chicago Housing Authority's Plan for Transformation. Demolition and reconstruction of Cabrini-Green was supposed to create a model for public housing renewal in Chicago. But residents feared that this was simply an effort to remove them from valuable land on Chicago's Near North Side and deprive them of new neighborhood improvements. The imminent destruction of the CHA’s high-rises uncovered desires to commemorate the public housing developments like Cabrini-Green and the people who lived there through a variety of public history and public art projects. This dissertation explores place from multiple perspectives including architecture, city planning, neighborhood development, and public and oral history. Understanding how Cabrini-Green became shorthand for failed program design while residents organized and fought to stay in the area provides a glimpse into possible futures of an emerging Chicago neighborhood.