Ickes residents could have to relocate

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Residents in a South Side public housing development may find out Wednesday if they will have to vacate the premises later this year to make way for mixed-income housing. At a forum last month, Lewis Jordan, the Chicago Housing Authority’s new chief execu

A spokesman for the CHA said the housing authority is looking at all options and it’s a matter of economics, however, there is no final decision on the Ickes’ fate. “Is it worth rehabbing those buildings, or replacing them with other properties? We are looking at everything, but no concrete plans have been made,” said Derek Hill, press secretary for CHA.

Under the Chicago Housing Authority’s $1.6 billion “Plan for Transformation,” several public housing sites have been razed to make way for mixed-income development. If the Ickes development is next, it will follow other South Side sites that no longer exist, such as Stateway Gardens, Robert Taylor Homes and Ida B. Wells.

One resident said there have been rumblings for the last three to four years that the place would close. She is now making plans for what she considers the inevitable. “They (management) are working on us being gone by September, October the latest, from what I’ve been hearing,” said Audrey Johnson, a 30-year resident of the housing development.

If the decision is made to shutter the site, residents will be given at least 180 days notice, housing on other CHA sites would be found for them and they would be moved at the housing authorities expense, Hill said. The Ickes development, located between 22nd and 25th and South State Streets, opened in 1955 with 738 units. At its peak, it housed more than 1,600 residents. As of October 1999, occupancy stood at 823 families.

Now, there are roughly 180 residents left in the 53-yearold development, according to the CHA. It has been coined by long-term residents as a haven for drug dealers, drug users, criminals and the homeless. Johnson, while she loves where she spent most of her life, mildly welcomes the housing development changing. “I’m ready to go because there haven’t been any changes here in a long time,” she said after returning from the management office to sign up for a housing voucher and a relocation certificate.

“I will take whichever one I’m eligible for. Relocation is considered other CHA sites, so I prefer to go to Wentworth Gardens or on 39th and Prairie,” the 38-year-old mother of five said. “They are closer to my son’s high school and I wouldn’t have to take my children out of the National Teacher Academy, located in the development.” The development’s local advisory council president does not welcome the possibility of the Ickes being torn down, but admits that it would take too much time, and money, to rehab the buildings.

“I would prefer to stay. I would like for them to rebuild and make it three-story walkups. It’s so much work that needs to be redone in the buildings. By the time they pay for renovations, we could have brand new housing,” said Gloria Williams, president of the Ickes advisory council. Williams has lived in the housing development since 1967 and has been president of the LAC for more than 20 years. She has raised two children and three grandchildren on the site. She is not alone in her quest to stay at the Ickes.

Many residents have told her they want to stay as well because they were born there, Williams said. “They have no roots anywhere else. Where would they go?” she asked. Instead of temporarily or permanently moving residents to other locations, CHA should tear down the buildings that are currently vacant and rebuild them.

Once they are completed, residents could move into them. There would be no need to shut the entire development down, Williams suggested. She said if the property is met with a wrecking ball, and then rebuilt, it would never be named Harold Ickes Homes again. “Like Stateway and Robert Taylor, they are never coming back,” she said.

If she has to make the move, Williams said she is done with public housing. “I would move to private housing. I won’t take another apartment,” Williams said. An informational meeting about the future of the Ickes Homes will be held May 7, 5 p.m., at the National Teacher Academy, 55 W. Cermak.

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