Lathrop, Chicago

2020 Landmarks Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award for Rehabilitation

A brilliant rehabilitation of the National Register-listed Julia C. Lathrop Homes has produced 414 mixed-income residences for Chicago’s North Side and restored 16 of the original 32 buildings first constructed in 1938 under the Public Works Administration. The first phase of the project – completed in 2019 –  is the result of a seven-year planning process led by Lathrop Community Partners that included community engagement and thoughtful consideration for how one of the nation’s earliest public housing projects should be reused to serve residents today. In 2007, Landmarks Illinois included Lathrop on its Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois. Today, the rehabilitated campus is home to two- and three-story, walk-up rowhouses, property management and retail space, a boat house, woodshop and a future community room for residents. The property’s Great Lawn, which fronts the Chicago River, originally a Jens Jensen design, has also been restored as a green space for both the Lathrop residents and the surrounding community to enjoy. During the redevelopment, preserving architectural elements like stair rail, stair towers, exterior masonry, finials, copings and the limestone entry portals was prioritized. Most commendable, is the high-quality residential spaces that make up Lathrop, offered for a range of income levels, ensuring current Lathrop residents could stay while attracting new residents from the surrounding North Side neighborhoods.

Project Principals

Lathrop Community Partners:

  • Related Midwest
  • Heartland Housing
  • Bickerdike Redevelopment Corp.


  • Harley Ellis Devereaux
  • bKL Architecture
  • Juan Gabriel Moreno Architects

Landscape Architect: Michael Van Valkenburgh Architects

Exterior Envelope Consultant: McGuire Igleski

Historic Consultant: MacRostie Historic Advisors, LLC

Master Plan: Farr & Associates


Lathrop Community Partners

We are proud of the standard Lathrop sets for future mixed-income developments. First, the scope of the renovation brought new life to these historic buildings, addressing the tired exteriors of the buildings through full brick restorations that included the meticulous replacement of the brick and mortar along with replacement of coping and preservation of the unique finials. Stripping away the years of paint highlights the beautiful limestone entry portals and glazed block stairwells. Replacement of the existing windows with historically accurate casement windows dramatically transformed the buildings. And renovating the interior units to a modern standard that is the exact same across all income spectrums has enabled LCP to attract a diverse range of residents.

LCP also preserved and improved more than 11 acres of open space at Lathrop, including a half-mile of riverwalk that features native plantings, a kayak launch and an enhanced walking path connecting the north and south ends of the site by a pedestrian bridge that extends over the Chicago River. The first phase also included the preservation of the Jens Jensen designed “Great Lawn” and the enhancement of courtyards between buildings, along with a newly constructed Elizabeth Wood Park children’s playground and a dog park.

Lastly, LCP with the help of its construction team of LendLease, BOWA, UJAMA, HACIA and CIC, worked diligently to maximize construction opportunities for both businesses and individuals. Lathrop not only met, but exceeded standards for minority and women-owned business participation, along with the local and community hiring goals. Together with community residents, housing advocates and the Chicago Housing Authority, the Lathrop project encapsulates an important piece of America’s history, preserving the physical homes of so many that have lived here for decades while simultaneously ensuring future residents of all income levels a beautiful place to call home for years to come.

How did saving this place impact people in your community?

Lathrop Community Partners

By saving the buildings and preserving the Lathrop name, LCP sought to honor the legacy of the Lathrop community, which includes the individuals and families who live there now or lived there in the past. LCP also seeks to honor the advocates who fought to ensure that Lathrop would remain affordable and would not be demolished and wiped clean. The landscape plan designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates – the firm behind Maggie Daley Park, The 606 and Bennett Park – helped LCP achieve a design that opens access to the riverfront so that both Lathrop residents and surrounding neighbors can now engage with one of the city’s greatest natural assets, the Chicago River. The construction team, which included general contractor Lendlease and subprime general contractors BOWA Construction and UJAMAA Construction (both black-owned businesses), developed a comprehensive, project-specific community engagement plan to strengthen the bonds of trust with the existing residents and to facilitate economic development through contracting, employment and training. Roughly 35% of contracts were awarded to minority owned businesses and 9% were awarded to women-owned businesses.

The project provided a substantial number of construction jobs, with upwards of 1,846 trade personnel working a total of 655,760 hours, 44 of which were local residents or CHA residents. The conversion of the townhome buildings into flats along with the introduction of the new construction building also ensures that Lathrop can now accommodate elderly populations and people with mobility impairments as 20% of the units now meet accessibility requirements. LCP, through its member Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, is actively engaging with residents and neighbors through outreach and programming. With the help of Friends of the Chicago River, LCP brought together neighbors and residents to participate in paddling events that encourage access to and appreciation for the Chicago River. LCP has hosted many events, including Neighbor Nights, movies in the park, and block parties that bring residents of all income levels together.

(Photos Courtesy Related Midwest)

Learn more

Attend the 2020 awards ceremony!


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