In Humboldt Park, residents will soon be able to skip down a yellow brick road honoring the creator of The Wizard of Oz who lived in the neighborhood.
While L. Frank Baum was writing the iconic children’s novel he lived at 1667 N. Humboldt Boulevard in a home that is now long gone. Now, Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation is wrapping up a rehab of nine units in a group of buildings constructed in the 1980s that sit in the same location near Humboldt Boulevard and Wabansia Avenue.
Instead of letting a rather lonely plaque tell the story, the developer decided to add a playful yellow brick sidewalk and later this fall or spring a mosaic mural by Chicago artist Hector Duarte, according to Crain’s Chicago. The project’s art installation cost $65,000 and was funded by donors separately from the housing.
“Beautification, in the way of art, is a way to increase people’s sense of investment in the community,” said Joy Aruguete, chief executive officer of Bickerdike Redevelopment. “We are delighted at the opportunity to bring art to our West Town Housing Preservation project and connect it to such an important author and the story of home that people young and old have enjoyed for over a century.”
This isn’t the first time the developer has incorporated art into one of its housing projects—the entrance to the Rosa Parks Apartments has colorful images depicting Parks’ contribution to the Civil Rights Movement.
Aruguete said that the “there’s no place like home” signage and movie theme is in line with the developers mission of preserving affordable housing.
“It’s meaningful for the development because the location at Humboldt & Wabansia is now home to nine families. The book has a rich connection to housing and home,” said Aruguete. “In our current time, it can be linked to the housing instability that so many families and individuals are facing due to rising housing costs,” she said.
There are a few new affordable housing projects that are pushing against the stereotype of low-income housing design. For example, three new public library and housing projects opened this year one of which was designed by John Ronan. His firm said the bright, colorful project aimed to “transcend the brutal pragmatism which has characterized Chicago’s past efforts in this area.”