By Wendell Hutson
A long-term plan to rehabilitate several, University of Chicago-owned buildings in the 5700 block of South Woodlawn and University avenues is on track to be completed by 2021, according to the University of Chicago Office of Civic Engagement.
Since “The University of Chicago Woodlawn Avenue Plan Sub-Area O” began in 2012 the university has spent $156.7 million on the project, said university officials during a meeting Thursday, May 18.
To date, building enhancements include $122.6 million to create the Saieh Hall for Economics, 1160 E. 58th St., which hosted the Thursday meeting. The new building previously encompassed a nursery school at 5740-50 S. Woodlawn Ave. and the former Chicago Theological Seminary at 5757 S. Woodlawn Ave. The buildings were connected with a 50,000 square-foot addition to the west
Also, a vacant building at 5701 S. Woodlawn Ave., was renovated with $18.1 million and now provides academic, office and meeting spaces for the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society.
Another $6.2 million renovated the first floor of McGiffert House, 5751 S. Woodlawn Ave., to accommodate a bookstore and café located in the building. And on the fourth floor there is academic, office and meeting spaces used by the university’s Booth School of Business.
Two vacant buildings were renovated for $5.7 million and one building at 5711 S. Woodlawn Ave. is now home of the Paulson Institute, while the Institute of Politics has office and meeting spaces at 5707 S. Woodlawn Ave. Lastly, $4.1 million renovated a building at 5730 S. Woodlawn Ave. specifically for office and meeting spaces.
News about the building renovations was reassuring to Hyde Park resident Paul Zell, 57, who doubted the university would do what it outlined five years ago.
“In the past the university made promises about community projects and did not carry through on them but this time I see they are really doing what they said they would do,” Zell said. “In the wake of a trauma center being built at the university I hope they continue with this project and see it through until the end.”
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), whose ward includes the buildings, attended the meeting and said she was pleased with what she heard.
“They kept their word. The university has done what it said it would do,” Hairston said. “They have been working with the community, the city of Chicago and my office to keep people updated and informed.”