Public housing museum plan moving ahead (Chicago)

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Architects are optimists by nature, as Chicago architect Peter Landon demonstrated last week as he took me on a flashlight-guided tour of an abandoned, derelict Chicago Housing Authority building near the fashionable Taylor Street restaurant strip. Paint was peeling off the walls. Thieves had stripped bathtubs of their hardware. Steel stairs were covered with rust.

Landon thinks the 70-year-old, three-story building, empty since 2002, would make a terrific site for a national public housing museum. So does a non-profit headed by CHA resident leader Deverra Beverly and Sunny Fischer, the executive director of the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and herself a former public housing resident.

"Look at the concrete work," said Landon, of the firm Landon Bone Baker Architects, as he shone a flashlight on an exposed concrete ceiling. "Pretty nice."

The proposal for the public housing museum, which first came to public attention four years ago, is gathering steam, though "not in my backyard" opposition still could thwart it.

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