Friday, June 8, 2012

"Notorious Building" Profiled In The Tribune

Even when the heat and hot water were shut off during a stretch of cold weather this spring, Iris Delgado chose to stay in her modest, one-room apartment because she didn't want to leave her two pet canaries.

For more than a week, Delgado buried herself under layers of blankets on her couch and walked around her one-room studio wearing two pairs of pants, three sweaters and her heavy coat. She ate dry foods and frozen dinners cooked in the microwave. When she absolutely needed hot water, she heated it in her microwave too.

"I got very sick. I developed bronchitis. … I was stuck in here for 4 days," she said. "Dealing with this stuff is a lot depressing."
Thus begins an article in the Trib today about Lawrence House, from the tenants' point of view.  For many of them, there is nowhere cheaper to go, and many of them have lived there for many years and have a real sense of community with their friends. It mentions their fears of what will happen to them if the building is sold, and yet we have to ask, is living in wretched and deteriorating conditions acceptable for anyone?

As James Cappleman is quoted: "It's not enough to encourage affordable housing, we have to put a process in place to maintain it. [...] We're in the mess that we're in because this was created as a place for affordable housing and there was nothing in place to ensure it was maintained well."

With the many code violations, the utilities being shut off, the questions about where the rent payments go, the mold, the criminal element preying on the vulnerable residents, and the poor on-site management (which was recently let go when receivers took over the building), we can only say "shame!" to the owners who allowed the building go to hell like it has.

It's a terrible situation all around, and we salute the people who have gone to Housing Court and criminal court on Lawrence House cases, and who are working to help its vulnerable residents.  We salute Ald. Cappleman and his staff for working to get the utilities turned back on and for attempting to clean up a mess that's not of their making.  We hope, whatever happens to Lawrence House, that it's enough of a cautionary tale that safeguards are enacted to ensure that this cannot happen again.


  1. Before we start with the demonization of LH residents let's. Keep in mind that Iris D is not some excetion to the rule.
    The great majority of LH residents are just decent people.
    Please save the venom for the former owners/profiteers.

    There is a very good reason why it cannot be converted to larger units. No reason to get into it now.

    Demolishing it would be obscene. It is an architecturally significant building.Uptown is and should remain a high-density neighborhood.

    There is more to the story then the Trib or people who "drive by all the time" can possibly know.

  2. No one is going to drop the obscene amounts of cash required to bring this up to code without any chance of return. Demolition will come sooner or later.

  3. I agree with Alek.... And I'm tired of all these comments about how great the architecture is. No one is checking out the building when the surrounding area is ALWAYS full of trash, crack being smoked around the corner, and gangbangers dealing drugs.

    I don't understand that just because this is a low income building that this kind of behavior is excused... This not only makes it unsafe for the people living in the build but also those in the neighborhood.

  4. What will happen to that pharmacy attached to it? It is a wonderful family run pharmacy & I'd hate for them to close.

  5. Agreed with justanotherdudeblog.
    Concentrated poverty doesnt work and hasnt been working for a long
    time at Lawrence House. So much so that many would argue a permanent change is in order. No demonizing here just an observation that the status quo has been a cancer on that block for a very long time.

  6. In the spirt of moving on from the Mennetti era of LH can we seriously look at some out-of-the-box options.

    LH isn't going anywhere fast, the asbestos abatement alone would cost more the the land is worth. So it will be there...

    It may take some creative thinking and either a new model or a combination of models to have a LH we can all welcome as neighbors....almost all...let's be realistic.

    A rough draft of an idea I posted up, that is all it is...

  7. The other 2 major issues about this building are:
    * the exponentially high rate of 911 service calls to this building
    * the amount of drug trafficking that occurs in and around this property

    In 2011, one-tenth of all 911 calls within the entire ward occurred in or around this building. One firefighter told me that many of the calls were related to drug overdoses and people not taking their medications. There's also a high tolerance for drug activity throughout this property, making the situation miserable for the other tenants who want to live peacefully within this building.

    I am in constant contact with the receiver of this building and have placed demands to make this building safer for everyone. As I have said to police officials, the receiver, and the bank, public safety for the residents and the rest of the community must be one of the primary goals.

    I recently learned of a potential buyer for the Lawrence House. You can be assured that in the future, there will be better screening and management of this building. As we know more details about this purchase, we will keep the residents of Lawrence House informed.

  8. poverty/crime issues are really not what i'm talking about here. Cappleman has alluded to this much...these people are paying 150-250 dollars + govt subsidies to live here...the math does not work. The govt. funds for subsidized lakefront housing are not long for this earth and those kinds of rents are simply not enough to make rehabbing this building a worthwhile venture. It's a numbers game and they won't work. The only way this place survives as low income housing and is brought up to code is if a private party donates millions out of the good of their heart.

    1. Dude....your the same guy who sais Maryville was NOT lakefront property.

      But Lawrence House is? My o my......

      It is not a numbers game as you have stated.

      But numbers are involved. There are more Mercy Housing residents alone within a few blocks of LH. And we are long for this earth and Uptown.

      The difference is beyond screeening as Ald. James said it continues with "case management". This is true for any community lakefront or otherwise.

      There are success stories in Uptown.

  9. It's nice to see the Capplemaniac post here. Refreshing even. Almost like a 7UP. He's the UnAlderman.

    I like me an alderman who focuses on the large and the small stuff. Sweeping up bread crumbs.......refreshing. He's like a Broken Windows theory manifested in the body of a Chicago alderman. The only way he could be better would be if he were female and the identical twin sister of Scarlett Johansson. It would also be helpful if Alderwoman Johansson had a thing for mildly sarcastic, tall middle aged Celtic looking guys!

    The last alderman's interaction with the web mainly involved whining and having her slackeys file lawsuits and subpoenas.

    As for Lawrence House I don't know what the economics are of renovating it and maintaining it as affordable housing, but whether as market rate housing or in some improved version of its present form change is needed. The status quo ain't acceptable.

    Now since Roger Waters played Wrigley earlier tonight I leave you with "Shine on you Crazy Diamond".

  10. Thank you for the article. As an owner in Uptown, it's all too easy to only see the positive effects of gentrification. I think that the process of gentrification in Uptown will be watched and copied across the nation if done successfully. It looks like we're working on it. I hope that we can find a way to make this neighborhood a nice, clean, safe place to live for everyone in it with as little disruption as possible.

  11. It is a unsafe and unhealthy building that has very few good people and is mostly full of undesirables that we all talk and want thrown out of out our neighborhood. When I see a building as this one and all the others like it around this area, I can see why these type buildings need to be demolished to eliminate the breeding grounds that point to our unsafe and unhealthy conditions. Until they are crime will always be a present condition we will just have to live with.

  12. There is a band called Life without Buildings. They have a good song called new town.

    We will only have a NEW TOWN (city), when we have life without this building in its current state.

    Its a very good song too. From the eighties.

  13. I'll probably get sued but I could do a write-up on the living hell that is Lawrence House that would blow your jaded minds.

  14. The history of uptown ...being the cities dumping ground for the poor and handicapped...people who never got or were given lick of hope...they can see that things are still the same ...when it comes to be seen as a human with rights.....

  15. I'm curious how they were able to renovate and turn around the classic buildings on Bryn Mawr while still making them low-income housing. Clearly Bryn Mawr has improved and it didn't require tearing down the buildings that were causing problems on that street. Anyone know?