The Urbanophile on LEED-ND and Chicago's Lathrop Homes

This following post comes courtesy of Aaron Renn, aka The Urbanophile. In recent years, Renn has emerged as the one of the leading voices on all matters urban. This piece is his first contribution to the CNU salons and focuses on how LEED-ND can be applied to the remediation of the Chicago Housing Authority's Lathrop Homes in Chicago.

We don’t often associate public housing with innovative, sustainable solutions, but a public housing redevelopment project in Chicago offers the prospect of the city’s first LEED-ND development.

Think of public housing in Chicago and the notorious high rises like Cabrini-Green and the Robert Taylor Homes come to mind. But during the Great Depression, the WPA built Chicago’s very first public housing project in a very different style. The Julia C. Lathrop Homes on the north side was built as a series of low rise buildings featuring high quality brick construction and a delightful landscape plan in a site along the Chicago River.  Perhaps because of this, Lathrop Homes never developed the type of extreme dysfunction of other Chicago projects.

Time has taken its toll on the buildings, however. And the Chicago Housing Authority also has a program called the Plan for Transformation to eliminate 100% low income projects in favor of mixed income communities. This program has now turned its attention to Lathrop.

A desire to create a more sustainable community in what is a corridor too often characterized by suburban style big box retail and the occasional lingering industrial use, and to reconnect Lathrop with the neighborhood north of Diversey Ave., has led the CHA to select a team with sustainable development in mind and the new LEED-ND neighborhood development standard as a possibility for the site 

The development team, Lathrop Community Partners, is still collecting public input and working on a master plan. So we won’t know the results for some time yet. But with Farr Associates, whose principal Doug Farr helped develop the LEED-ND standard, on the development team, it’s fair to say that LEED-ND will get a very close look at a minimum.

While certification to a standard should certainly take a back seat to actually producing a quality urban product, it would be exciting news if a LEED-ND plan carried the day. That would help establish the use of LEED-ND locally in Chicago, and encourage others throughout the country to start signing up to more sustainable neighborhood development practices.

-- Aaron Renn, 2011. 

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For previous CNU coverage on

For previous CNU coverage on potential LEED-ND prescriptions for the Lathrop Homes, click here.


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