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Little Italy’s SOM-designed Roosevelt Square library cleared to break ground

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The seven-story development features a new public library topped by 73 mixed-income apartments

Skidmore, Owings and Merrill

The third and final new development combining a Chicago Public Library branch with affordable housing has been awarded its first construction permit this week. Joining the freshly permitted Northtown Branch and Independence Branch (respectively located in West Ridge and Irving Park), the new Roosevelt Square Branch was cleared to begin foundation work at a Chicago Housing Authority-owned lot at 1340 W. Taylor Street in the Little Italy neighborhood.

Skidmore, Owings and Merrill

A collaboration between the CHA, Chicago Public Libraries, and private developer Related Midwest, the upcoming seven-story building will feature a 17,000-square foot library space topped by 37 public housing units, 29 affordable rate units, and seven market rate apartments.

The design of the Roosevelt Square Branch comes from local architect Skidmore, Owings and Merrill—a firm responsible for a number of notable libraries including Chicago’s lantern-like Chinatown Branch and Yale University’s stone-clad Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

While Chicago’s two other library and housing developments faced a relatively minimal amount of push-back from local residents, the Roosevelt Square project has been a bit more controversial. Despite being approved by the Plan Commission in August, more than 500 Little Italy residents had signed petitions urging the group to delay its vote, reported the Chicago Sun-Times in August.

Skidmore, Owings and Merrill

In November, The Chicago Gazette mentioned that the neighborhood group Little Italy Chicago Neighborhood Association (LICNA) was considering legal action to delay construction until “20 to 30” unanswered questions we addressed. Issues cited by the report include the project’s height, mix of low income units, and the loss of the site’s existing parking lot.

To address some of the aforementioned concerns, the building was re-designed with setbacks in an effort to appear lower from Taylor Street. The development will also include a new parking lot for 26 vehicles. Located on CHA property earmarked for future redevelopment, the lot would offer only temporary parking relief, argue its opponents.