Mixed-income housing to be co-located with libraries


Maria Cardona

4024 N. Elston Ave, the future location for the Independence Branch Library, will be one of the housing developments to feature a co-located library, through a collaboration,announced on Oct. 21 with the Chicago Housing Authority and Chicago Public Library.

By Metro Reporter

A partnership between the Chicago Public Library Commissioner Brian Bannor and the Chicago Housing Authority will create new mixed-income housing developments that contain small public libraries in neighborhoods across Chicago, according to a Oct. 21 press release from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s press office.

Molly Sullivan, senior director of Communications and Media Relations for CHA, said having the self-contained libraries in mixed-income housing developments is a smart financial decision because of its affordability and access. 

“This is leadership and creativity at its best,” Sullivan said. “We follow the lead of Mayor Emanuel on this. We will join a few other cities like Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Brooklyn [and] New York in [building] actual libraries that are co-located in publicly supported housing.”  

Locations for the new housing developments include a senior housing building on Pratt Boulevard and Western Avenue that will feature a ground level library, one on the Near West Side, and one in the Irving Park Community, according to the Oct. 21 press release. There will also be a new Roosevelt Branch Library near Taylor Street and Aberdeen Street, and a new Independence Branch Library near Elston Avenue and Pulaski Road.

CHA and CPL will request qualifications and proposals from several design firms. There will also be a two-stage design competition with up to three different firms, from which a finalist will be selected to design the new buildings. According to Sullivan, the plans are to be drafted  by the end of the year.

Once the architects are selected for each project, CHA, CPL and the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development will host a design workshop with the community, according to the Oct. 21 press release. 

Thomas Bowen, spokesman for Alderman Danny Solis (25th Ward), said the new mixed-income housing developments will be a great addition to the Lower West Side area.

“This innovative plan will give communities in the 25th Ward much needed affordable housing and a public asset in an accessible library,” he said.

The new libraries will be offering programs to those living in the housing developments, as well as families throughout the community. The Oct. 21 press release stated that each branch will include an early childhood active learning space, in which school-aged children will have access to the Teacher in the Library program, and teens will have access to technology and teaching resources.

Patrick Molloy, director of Government and Public Affairs for the CPL said housing and libraries are both vital to the Chicago neighborhoods and communities. 

“Libraries have resources for people of all backgrounds,” Molloy explained. “Libraries are places for life-long learning, and there’s so much to a library  that it’s a natural community anchor for housing developments.”