Schmich: Cabrini gone, superstore coming

"And this right here, it was 714 W. Division and 1230 N. Burling."

In short, it was a piece of Cabrini-Green, the most famous of Chicago's vanished housing projects, where building addresses were practically the equivalent of neighborhood names.

The last Cabrini high-rise, in what is now the grassy field, was torn down in 2011. Last fall, Target broke ground on a 150,000-square-foot store on land it bought from the Chicago Housing Authority.

Part of the deal was that 75 of the 200 jobs in the new store would go to people in the Cabrini community. The history of Cabrini's long redevelopment hasn't inspired trust in that promise.

"Of course they say they're going to hire the community," said James Fitch, who was passing the site on his way to visit someone incarcerated at the police station across the street. "But there's no more people left to hire."

Barely more than a third of the 1,200 replacement units promised to displaced Cabrini residents have been built. Years have passed. People have scattered.

Fitch, 56, lives on the Far North Side now and hauls scrap for a living, but he grew up in Cabrini and remembers exactly what was here before Target.

The bad, the good. Horror and home.

"Look at that fire station," he said, pointing across Larrabee. "See those bullet holes?"

Those were from the days, he said, when Cabrini's white high-rises stood on the Target land and gangbangers shot from the windows.

Two decades ago, he said, his own sister was found dead in a Cabrini sewer. He lost too many friends in the violence.

"Horrendous," he said.

And yet, like many former Cabrini residents, he still feels the sting of watching a community forcibly uprooted, generations of families fractured.

"Condos have replaced all the projects," he said, sweeping a hand past the new homes that have risen in fits and starts on the old Cabrini neighborhood. "Now the violence is just spread out."

In the peaceful day, the joggers, bicyclists and drivers kept passing, oblivious to what used to be here, heading for a time when the biggest horror will be traffic to the superstore.