CPS looking to public and aldermen for closed school site reuses

Ald. WIll Burns (4th) will lead the decision-making process regarding the future of the Canter Middle School building, 4959 S. Blackstone Ave. Some suggest it be attached to the adjacent Kenwood campus to ease overcrowding.

Ald. WIll Burns (4th) will lead the decision-making process regarding the future of the Canter Middle School building, 4959 S. Blackstone Ave. Some suggest it be attached to the adjacent Kenwood campus to ease overcrowding.

By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
Staff Writer

Chicago Public Schools officials are seeking help from aldermen to gather community input on what should happen to school buildings once the schools have been closed.

At the March City Council meeting, aldermen were asked to host town hall meetings to get community input on how Chicago Public Schools (CPS) should repurpose school locations, according to Ben Felton, portfolio planner for the CPS Office of Strategy Management.

He said CPS asked the aldermen to take ideas for shuttered schools in their wards because the community and alderman know their neighborhoods and have better ideas about what could be done.

“The aldermen will be working with the [Request For Proposal] process for reuse of buildings and engaging the community for input,” said Felton, during the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Action Council (HP-K CAC) meeting Wednesday night.

One of the original goals of the HP-K CAC was to keep Canter Middle School, 4959 S. Blackstone Ave., open. The group has recently added keeping Dyett High School, 555 E. 51st St., open to its list of concerns.

In regards to Canter, which is scheduled to close in summer 2014, Felton said discussions about repurposing the school building into an academic center or an extension of the overcrowded Kenwood Academy High School, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., have been discussed.

“We promise charter schools are not coming to these buildings,” Felton said.

Ald. Will Burns (4th) is currently reviewing the CPS repurposing plan and will release the date of the Town Hall meeting at a later time. CPS also launched a website that will allow the community to submit and review proposals for property redevelopment at cps.edu.

CPS released an announcement Friday morning with what it is calling its “school repurposing” plan. After the city’s mass school closing in May 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel created the Advisory Committee for School Repurposing and Community Development. This committee, which is made up of civic leaders, was tasked with recommending a framework and implementation plan for repurposing the sites of the properties.

The committee came up with a three-phase repurposing and development process that includes finding immediate use for vacant properties that may help meet the programmatic needs of the City of Chicago or other governmental agencies, working with aldermen to assess the responses received through the solicitation marking the first public offering of the properties not identified for immediate reuse and engaging with a revitalization partner whose core business is real estate planning and community development to assist in the repurposing of the remaining properties where a community or financial benefit is not readily available or apparent.

Of the 43 school buildings on the list two have already been repurposed, three have been proposed for future phase out and the remaining 38 are vacant and no plans have been made for them yet. Neither Dyett, which is scheduled to close in summer 2015, or any other high school is on the list.

d.phillips@hpherald.com