Skip to Content

Dream Town Realty


Cabrini Green
Real Estate and Neighborhood Information

Cabrini Green Overview

With one of the richest histories of any Chicago neighborhood, Cabrini-Green, once the site of one of the most infamous public housing projects in the entire country, is now experiencing a major revitalization that would have been undreamed of by residents just ten years ago. Nestled among some of the city‘s most sought-after neighborhoods, Cabrini-Green has long been targeted as a prime Chicago location. Now, row after row of new construction townhomes and condominium developments are replacing the rundown residences of yesteryear making Cabrini-Green a hidden gem that is still hovering under the radar. Forward thinkers are taking advantage of the neighborhood's top properties and getting in before the transition is complete and real estate prices shoot up. Already infused with chic dining spots, grocery stores and a growing shopping district, Cabrini-Green is the Chicago neighborhood of the future.

Read More About Cabrini-Green...

Cabrini Green History

The neighborhood that is now collectively known as Cabrini-Green was not known thusly until its latest incarnation as a public housing development, in the 1960s. Initially, around the time of the Civil War, it was tagged with a far more ominous moniker: "Little Hell."

The territory was first inhabited by a large community of Swedish immigrants that arrived to Chicago between 1850 and 1880. Swedes represented one of the largest immigrant populations in Chicago during that time, and they largely settled around the Chicago River in the Near North neighborhood that’s now known as Cabrini-Green. The Swedes weren’t alone though; they were accompanied by a large arrival of Irish immigrants, with whom the Near North was shared. But you’re probably wondering how a small Swedish enclave in the 19th century earned the name "Little Hell,"right? It actually had little to do with the relative prosperity of the neighborhood, although most of its inhabitants did suffer extreme poverty. Instead, the name was derived from the gas refinery that operated near the river, which spewed large fireballs into the sky and emitted a noxious odor of gas that plagued the nearby community. Fittingly, another popular name for the area was "Smokey Hollow."

As the Chicago economy boomed in the 1880s, so did the influx of Swedish immigrants, making Chicago the largest community of expatriated Swedes in the world. As a result, the incoming Swedes dispersed to new areas of the city, mainly Lakeview, Belmont-Cragin, and Andersonville, giving way to a new immigrant population that would rule the Near North: the Sicilians. In great numbers the Sicilians moved in, displacing the incumbent Swedish and Irish populations, which is why, for a brief period from the turn of the century to the 1920s, the area was called "Little Sicily."

With the onset of World War I, European immigration stalled, and the Great Migration of African Americans to midwestern and northeastern cities began. Chicago experienced one of the greatest surges in African American population of any American city, many of whom settled in the Near North neighborhoods. Little Sicily had been one of the most impoverished neighborhoods on the north side of the city, and with the beginning of the Great Depression, conditions worsened for the neighborhood’s new arrivals. In fact, the western portion of the Near North side, while very accessible to both the Chicago River and the city’s bustling downtown Loop, has always been a landing place for people—often migrants—that are in rather desperate circumstances.

By the start of the Second World War, city officials recognized a need to assuage the growing despair in the Near North. The city approached the problem by erecting the first public housing projects in the Frances Cabrini Row Houses that were constructed in 1942. The original Cabrini Row Houses were designed to accommodate returning war veterans and impoverished residents alike, and they housed approximately 600 families. Then, in 1958 the Cabrini extension was added to the project, adding the fifteen red and tan high-rise buildings with about 2,000 units that are what Cabrini-Green has come to be recognized as.

If the original Cabrini Row Houses were a success story for public housing and racial integration, the new extension prompted a rapid erosion of those achievements. War veterans shared the tenements with African Americans, Sicilians, Puerto Ricans, and Irish immigrants for the first 15 years, but beginning in the early 1960s, the projects became increasingly segregated. As conditions worsened, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) allowed Cabrini-Green to degenerate to a state of deterioration and disrepair. By the 1980s, Cabrini-Green had become the most notorious public housing project in the nation. However, as the industrial areas surrounding Cabrini-Green were replaced with residential, retail, and commercial businesses, the land on which Cabrini-Green sits became more desirable. In 1999, the CHA developed a 10-year plan that would effectively demolish the existing Cabrini-Green housing projects, and replace them with mixed-income housing that will be made available to former tenants of Cabrini-Green as well as new middle-class applicants.

Instead of attempting to restore any of the high-rise buildings that were part of Cabrini-Green, the CHA deemed every one to be beyond repair and has begun to raze all of them, except for the original Cabrini Row Houses, which will stay. Instead of replicating the old and now-defunct style of public housing, the new mixed-income housing will be low-rise constructions that provide residences in a wide range of prices, from government subsidized public housing (20% of the residences), to the midrange homes for $140,000, to the market rate homes (50% of the residences) that start at $300,000, seeking both to integrate and to gentrify the neighborhood. The new direction taken by the CHA in regard to Cabrini-Green is more consistent with the original concept behind the Cabrini Row Houses: a community of racially diverse and integrated affordable housing. It’s too soon to really determine whether or not the new plan is a success, but in recent years the neighborhood’s population has dramatically changed, crime has plummeted, and development is expected to be completed by 2008.

Of course, these days there’s more to the Cabrini-Green neighborhood than the infamous housing projects. In the 1990s, when word got out that the projects would be torn down and that the neighborhood would be changing, speculators starting buying up land in the surrounding streets, and in years since, much of what lies in Cabrini-Green reflects the culture of the neighboring Near North and Old Town neighborhoods. The neighborhood is now home to some of Chicago’s nicest restaurants and shops, which are testament to the changing nature of the neighborhood. Just a stone’s throw from the Gold Coast, River North, Old Town, and Lincoln Park, Cabrini-Green is easily one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in all of Chicago. A Starbucks recently opened on the corner of Division and Clybourn, if that can be an indication of the changes that are in store. And now, people are scrambling to get in line for condos and townhouses in the new developments that are emerging throughout this tiny Near North side Chicago neighborhood.

The Sights of Cabrini Green

Want More Chicago Photos?

Follow Us On Instagram

Surrounding Neighborhoods

Neighbor Photo