By ALLISON MATYUS
At Wednesday night’s Local School Council (LSC) meeting for Bret Harte Elementary, 1556 E. 56th St., the main topic of discussion was the construction plans for the upcoming Studio Gang-designed Solstice on the Park development.
The 26-story building will sit next door to the school at 1634 E. 56th St. According to Peter Cassel, the director of community development for MAC Properties, the developer for the project, fences for the beginning of the construction process will go up on Oct. 3.
The construction process will take just under two years, with the first tenants of the 250-unit building expected to move in by late spring of 2018. That means Bret Harte will have to endure the effects of construction from now until then.
LSC members’ main concerns for the construction project were safety and traffic flow. As far as the safety issue, Linn-Mathes, the contractor for the project, said that they have covered all safety concerns with their proposed safety and logistics plan, which was approved by the Chicago Department of Transportation.
“Safety is our number one concern, which is why we will be using best practices during the construction process,” said Brad Beck, the project manager at Linn-Mathes.
Some of those best practices will include an overhead canopy on the east side of the school over the drop-off and pick-up lane, as well as over the sidewalk on 56th Street, which Linn-Mathes representatives said is a particular accommodation for the school. There will also be debris netting installed to further protect students from any overhead debris.
Aside from the issue of safety, LSC members and Bret Harte parents at the meeting were also concerned about traffic, especially during drop-off and pick-up times for the school.
“Knowing how the flow is now, I’m concerned that adding trucks and barriers would make things even more chaotic,” said Principal Shenethe Parks.
The main traffic concern is that construction would begin at 8 a.m. and student drop-off begins at 7:45 a.m.
Different truck routes were presented to eliminate cross-traffic between Bret Harte parents and the construction workers. The trucks would come in using Hyde Park Boulevard to turn onto Cornell Avenue as opposed to using 56th Street.
Overall, Linn-Mathes and MAC Properties said they were interested in continuing community engagement throughout the entire construction process to address any concerns that may arise.
“The construction site will be an evolving site in different stages of the process, so as different issues evolve, we will address those as they come,” Cassel said.
To engage the school with the construction happening next door, Cassel suggested that students could make art to put on the construction fence or have guest speakers come in to speak to the kids, such as Studio Gang founder, Jeanne Gang.