CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday appointed a new head of the Chicago Housing Authority to continue the transformation from the depressing, crime-ridden high-rises of the past.

The backdrop couldn’t have been more dramatic: the former site of the grimy cinderblock high-rises of the old Cabrini Green. Today, there is mid-rise housing for residents of different income levels, under the CHA “Plan of Transformation” that began more than a decade ago.

“This is a different public housing than it was 11 years ago — different bricks and mortar, different residents, different philosophy, different approach,” Emanuel said at a news conference. “It has taken us far, but not all the way.”

The next steps, he announced, will be led by new CHA CEO Charles Woodyard, just in from Charlotte, N.C., who pledged to continue integrating low-income residents into the new neighborhoods.

“Neighborhoods are the building blocks of cities, and families are the building blocks of neighborhoods,” Woodyard said.

Ald. Walter Burnett, who was raised in the old Cabrini Green, marvels at the new look but admits there are still some old problems.

“The buildings are beautiful, people have doormen, doorbells, it’s safe, everyone wants to be safe,” he said. “We just have some cultural differences that we have to work out.” 

Resident Marvin Edwards said mixing people of different income levels has not gone perfectly smoothly.

“Now you got a little bit more racial tension between the different residents. You have the white condo association — seems like they want to dictate the pace to the public housing residents,” he told Levine.

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