LeClaire Courts is a large complex of row homes and townhouse-style public housing apartments that was constructed in 1950. A group from the Chicago Housing Authority began talks in March 2006 to discuss what the future might hold for LeClaire Courts, which is destined to be razed for a beautiful new development of mixed-income family homes. An elementary school and small park with a baseball diamond and indoor gym share the land with LeClaire Courts.
LeClaire Courts Facts
Location: About 13 miles southwest of the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: Vittum Park, Sleepy Hollow
Boundaries: The Stephenson Expressway to the north, Cicero Avenue to the east, 47th Street to the south and Laramie Avenue to the west
Then and Now
LeClaire Courts were named after Antoine LeClaire, a prominent fur trader and revolutionary activist and fighter in the early 19th century. LeClaire was an Indian interpreter who reportedly spoke close to a dozen native tongues as well as French, Spanish and English. LeClaire reportedly came to Chicago in 1809 and conducted business with John Kinzie, the first permanent white settler of Chicago. The story of the LeClaire Courts has little in common with Antoine LeClaire though, as there is little evidence that he ever even ventured to this far southwest neighborhood.
Soon after the end of World War II, the Chicago Housing Authority purchased land in the southwest portion of Garfield Ridge and began planning a public housing project that would provide affordable homes for both low-income residents and war veterans. The LeClaire Courts Housing Project opened in 1950 as the city’s first attempt at fully integrated low-rise public housing. Initially, the government subsidized residential development was a success; so much so that the Chicago Housing Authority decided to add to the complex. In 1954, federal funds were allocated for the construction of the 300-unit expansion which would nearly double the size of the existing complex. This section was referred to as the LeClaire Courts Extension.
The Housing Authority announced demolition plans for the LeClaire Courts housing projects in 2007, which would include the LeClaire Courts, the LeClaire Courts Extension, as well as a daycare center and the Hearst Elementary School—in effect, the entire neighborhood. The CHA has designs to replace the low-income housing projects with brand new mixed-income units (much like the strategy for the Cabrini Green neighborhood on Chicago’s north side), but a final development proposal has not yet been selected. All of the drafted plans, though, include demolishing the existing units, replacing them with 547 housing units, and replacing the housing along Cicero Avenue with retail storefronts.
In the northwest corner of the LeClaire Courts neighborhood sits LeClaire Hearst Park (4410 S Laporte Ave, 773-767-5170), a small recreational spot with a baseball diamond, a gymnasium, and basketball courts. The park was landscaped and opened just a couple of years before the opening of the LeClaire Courts Housing Projects. The park was expanded twice—once in 1978 and again in 1991—on land purchased from the Board of Education.
LeClaire Courts Real Estate
Though no timetable has been set, the Chicago Housing Authority has announced plans for a complete overhaul and facelift for the housing projects in LeClaire Courts. The current suggestions also call for a significant expansion of LeClaire Courts from the current 270 units to 900, with properties ranging from heavily subsidized homes for low-income families to market rate condos. At the same time, a private developer has proposed to lead the way by erecting a condominium complex on the opposite side of Cicero Avenue in what is now a scrap yard. The whole development would cost upwards of $35 million and it would serve as a catalyst for the CHA to go forward with the proposed mixed-income housing complex.
There’s reason to believe that the overhaul of LeClaire Courts neighborhood is indicative of a wider change in the southwest side of Chicago near Midway Airport. While on the north side and closer to the city center land for building is growing increasingly scarce and existing properties are becoming more expensive, the area surrounding LeClaire Courts continues to be relatively cheap and ripe for development, and chances are, it will be in much higher demand in the coming years.
Though it is on the outlying southwest side of the city, bordering Chicago’s suburbs, it’s fairly quick and easy to get from LeClaire Courts to anywhere in the city. If you have a car, you’re in luck, because the neighborhood is situated right next to the Stevenson Expressway (I-55), which takes commuters directly downtown. If you’re heading north or south, Cicero Avenue is the major artery traveled by local traffic which also houses LeClaire Courts’ tiny commercial district.
The public transportation options around here aren’t too shabby either, as LeClaire Courts is fairly close to the CTA Orange Line Kedzie station located at 49th Street. A quick bus ride on the #47 bus (which runs along 47th Street) will take you directly from LeClaire Courts to the Orange Line stop, where you can catch a train to take you directly into the Loop. An express bus (the X54 bus) also runs north and south along Cicero Avenue, all the way from the Jefferson Park Blue Line station to Midway Airport.
School’s in Session
LeClaire Courts is currently served by one primary education facility, Hearst Elementary School. It has been suggested in the media that the school will be demolished in the near future. If that is the case, it is almost certain that the Chicago Public Schools will open a new school as its replacement. In addition to the following, for a complete listing of Chicago area schools and more information, visit our Chicago Guide Schools page
Hearst Elementary School 4640 S Lamon Ave - (773) 535-2376
Here’s the scoop on what LeClaire Courts neighborhood has to offer, from stuff to stock the fridge to tasty fast food to stuff the belly.
Chicago Transit Authority - (888) 968-7282
Stevenson 2 South Inc. 4500 S Cicero Ave - (773) 735-888
JJ Fish & Chicken 4646 S Cicero Ave - (773) 767-5060
Sometimes it makes more sense to view the city of Chicago as a bunch of separate neighborhoods—especially when it comes to real estate. Whether you are in the market for a loft, condo, townhome, or house, it is just as important to inspect the surrounding area as it is to inspect the home’s foundation. LeClaire Courts neighborhood is just one Chicago community with an abundance of residential properties, and a life all its own. From where you send your kids to school to where you dine at night, the information we provide is an essential piece of the puzzle when you’re trying to decide whether or not to buy that beautiful loft or adorable house in LeClaire Courts.