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Uptown residents envision uses for Stewart School site

Tue, Jun 17, 2014

The Metropolitan Planning Council hosted a three-part community workshop that allowed residents of Uptown to play a decisive role in the future of the Graeme Stewart School building, 4525 N. Kenmore Ave., and the parcels of land adjacent to the CTA Red Line’s Wilson station.

Since the school’s closing in 2013, much debate has ensued over what should be done with the building that remains. At the first meeting on May 8, community members also voiced concerns over what will happen to the land that will become available once the scheduled $200 million renovation of the Wilson station is complete.

Stewart School

Stewart School

Residents stressed the importance of putting business back into the vacant buildings on Broadway and creating opportunities for entertainment, including a movie theater and fitness center. In consideration of the former Stewart School, participants agreed that using the building as a center for job training and entrepreneurship programs would facilitate community outreach.
At the second meeting May 12, residents were asked to work together to create models of how they envisioned the Stewart School site and the Wilson lots. Using blocks on aerial maps, they constructed models and discussed the feasibility of their designs with architects and developers. One proposal for Stewart School was to continue using half the building as a school and the remainder as a community center for the performing arts, retail and affordable housing. Other ideas included job training and office space. A third meeting was on May 29.

As for the future of the open land adjacent to the Wilson station, the idea of a multipurpose space remained most popular among participants.
MPC spent the following weeks reviewing the proposals and compiling data to be presented at the final workshop, where developers would provide insight into the models’ potential.

In attendance were Mikki Anderson of The Michaels Company, Nick Anderson of Related Midwest, and Todd Cabanban of CR&M. They underscored the value of taller and denser buildings, which would breathe new life into the community and make it safer. Another point was that adding new office space is not the best route, as there are too many vacant buildings in the neighborhood. Filling those vacancies should remain a priority.
MPC is currently drafting a report that represents the results of these three workshops.

“Alderman [James] Cappleman [46th ward] has committed to using the conclusions drawn from this process to help guide his plans with the CTA, CPS, and other stakeholders,” said Marisa Novara, MPC’s program director.
A final decision will be made in July.

“This is a process of inquiry,” said Novara, “and we don’t know the outcome.”

Lauren Jensik
StreetWise Contributor


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