Luxury apartments with Cabrini-Green heritage

A new luxury apartment building on the location of the Cabrini-Green public housing high rises appears ready to build on the site’s heritage:

A new luxury apartment tower at 625 W. Division Street is set to open this autumn, delivering 240 new rental units and 5,500 square feet of retail space to the former Cabrini-Green area. And instead of fighting the neighborhood’s name or trying to rebrand it as something else, developer Gerding Edlen is perfectly fine with describing the area as Cabrini-Green. In a press release, a Gerding Edlen rep states that they are very well aware of what is happening in the area and want to embrace the neighborhood’s past. “With Xavier, we had an opportunity to be part of the continued story of this neighborhood,” their Director of East Coast and Midwest Acquisitions Matt Edlen says, “We are particularly conscious of this neighborhood’s rich and long standing history, and feel the project will have positive long-term impacts on the area.” In embracing the area’s history, Gerding Edlen might help other developers come to terms with and accept the Cabrini-Green name and the neighborhood’s next chapter—which is looking to be dominated by high-end rental towers.

Designed by GREC Architecture, the 18-story tower dubbed Xavier is not unlike many other luxury towers being built throughout the greater downtown area. It’ll boast many upscale amenities such as a fitness center, both an indoor and outdoor dog run area, an outdoor terrace and pool deck and a rooftop lounge space. The LEED Gold-certified tower will also include some high tech offerings like electric car charging stations, and its units will feature finishes made some sustainable materials and Nest thermostats.

Presumably, the new building will be cast as part of the rebirth of the neighborhood. New residents can be part of something new. But, how exactly do the luxury apartments fit with the legacy of the public housing project (which could be remembered by different people for their crime, lack of maintenance, a land grab by the city) or even with the Little Sicily area that preceded the high rises? (Hence the name borrowing from Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, the patron saint of immigrants.) Who exactly gets to decide what the new neighborhood will be called – new developers, former residents, others? Location names aren’t just geographic; they have social connotations that often do not change quickly.

Those opposed to the teardown of the high rises might see this as another instance of whitewashing history by removing public housing residents from the public eye. In a few years, perhaps Cabrini-Green will simply mean another luxury apartment neighborhood outside of Chicago’s Loop.

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