“Some applause is in order for a network of Englewood community organizations working now to transform a vacant and crumbling Chicago public school building into a community center designed to serve the needs of the area. If successful, the effort gives people in Englewood a place to get much-needed free transitional housing, vocational training and health care. And it helps the neighborhood heal a bit from former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2014 decision to suddenly close 50 schools all at once — and failing to develop a reuse plan for the vacated structures.
“On Wednesday, Chicago Public Schools approved transferring ownership of the former Granville T. Woods Math & Science Academy building, at 62nd Street and Racine Avenue, to the city.
“City officials are working out a redevelopment agreement with the nonprofit Inner-City Muslim Action Network — known as IMAN— which is leading a set of community organizations that is behind a plan to repurpose the three-story, 65,000-square-foot midcentury building. ‘How do we sit by in these communities and allow 60,000-square-foot facilities to be vacant, vandalized and contribute to the decay and death in a neighborhood?’ Rami Nashashibi, executive director of Inner-City Muslim Action Network, asked Sun-Times reporter Nader Issa.
“According to school officials, 37 of the vacated buildings have either been sold or are pending sale, transferred to the city for reuse, or internally repurposed since 2013. But it’s been a long haul. School buildings located in wealthier neighborhoods have been snapped up relatively quickly — no surprise given that repurposing a structure the size of a school is a multimillion-dollar expense — while many South and West side schools await new uses.
“For instance, the old Lyman Trumbull Elementary School, at 5200 N. Ashland in the North Side’s Andersonville community, now houses the upscale and private Chicago Waldorf School. But the former Crispus Attucks school, at 3813 S. Dearborn on the South Side, sits vacant after seven years.
“And the old Overton School, at 221 E. 49th, has received national attention for the pop-up artistic functions that have been held there.
“There is a particularly bright spot on the Far South Side where the 125-year-old former West Pullman Elementary School, at 119th Street and Parnell Avenue, has been turned into 60 units of affordable housing for seniors and military veterans.
“We like this effort. And we urge the city and CPS to support more creative efforts like this. The unplanned and unexpected shutdown of schools like Woods caused unnecessary harm to neighborhoods such as Englewood. Allowing them to remain abandoned and unused only aggravates the offense.” (Chicago Sun-Times Editorial, 11/1/20)
New life for an old school in Englewood sets a standard for all Chicago; If successful, the repurposed school building will offer the neighborhood much-need transitional housing, vocational training and health care, Chicago Sun-Times Editorial, 11/1/20
‘Horrendously vandalized’ CPS school — shuttered in 2013 — transforming into housing, health center ‘This isn’t only a matter of restoring a building, but it’s also a process of reclaiming the dignity of these communities,’ one community leader involved in redeveloping the former Woods academy said, Nader Issa, Chicago Sun-Times, 10/26/20