THREATENED: Francis Parker School Consolidates Control Over Historic Belden Courtyard Buildings

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“A private school near the Lincoln Park Zoo is moving forward with a controversial plan to expand its campus, as it nears the purchase of a historic condo building on Belden Avenue.The Francis W. Parker School plans to seek a zoning amendment that would allow for the future expansion, and the school will discuss its plans in a virtual meeting next month, it said in an email sent Monday morning to neighbors.

“The school is close to completing the purchase of a condo building at 317-325 W. Belden. It also owns several units in the Belden by the Park condo building at 327-335 W. Belden, and is interested in owning that entire building.

“Parker’s plans have rankled residents of nearby condominium buildings, who have criticized what they view as a lack of transparency around the school’s long-term plans. Neighbors have said efforts to buy individual units and entire buildings has created instability and infighting among residents.

“Opponents have protested the moves by signing petitions, passing out flyers opposing the expansion and speaking out in community meetings. In May, the condo board of Belden by the Park filed a lawsuit against the school, describing efforts to buy up units there as a “covert scheme” to gain control of the entire 15-unit building at 327-335 W. Belden. The lawsuit remains unresolved.

“The city is considering a proposal to create a landmark district that would include the two brick buildings Parker wants to redevelop. The school plans to keep the facades whether or not they become city landmarks, but the email does not indicate whether the entire buildings would be preserved.

“‘We make this commitment irrespective of whether or not the buildings become part of an official landmark district,’ the email said. ‘We also make this commitment in addition to our prior commitments that include limiting the height of any renovation to be essentially consistent with the current buildings in the interest of maintaining the feel of the existing streetscape.

“The school will unveil more details, including plans to preserve the historic buildings’ facades, in the Sept. 16 virtual meeting to be hosted by 43rd Ward Ald. Michele Smith, according to the email.” (Ori, 8/24/20)

Read the full story at the Chicago Tribune.

Lincoln Park private school Francis W. Parker moving ahead with controversial plan to expand 6-acre campus, Ryna Ori, Chicago Tribune, 8/24/20

Homeowners Accuse Lincoln Park Private School Of ‘Hostile Takeover’ Through Campus Expansion Plans; Francis W. Parker School is buying up units in a condo building to take control of the condo’s board, neighbors say. The school has “shattered our dreams of staying in our dream house,” a neighbor said, Jake Wittich, Block Club Chicago, 8/26/20

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