I am writing to bring you up to date on the status of the old North Shore School building at 1217 W. Chase. As you may recall, I hosted a community meeting on this issue last July.
The current owner of the property, Swanette Triem, began to demolish the building yesterday. She intends to replace it with a landscaped parking lot, with permeable pavement, for use of the tenants of an adjacent apartment building she owns.
The previous owners of North Shore School announced in early 2006 that they were closing the school and putting the building up for sale. Several parents and school alumni made efforts to raise the money necessary to keep the school open, but to no avail. Ms. Triem purchased the building after the school closed in June 2006.
According to the City of Chicago Department of Planning and the Department of Zoning, the demolition of the building and the construction of the parking lot are permitted as a matter of right. The current zoning allows for a parking lot, and the Lakefront Protection Ordinance does not prohibit the demolition of buildings or the construction of parking lots within the Lakefront Protection Zone. According to Brian Goeken of the Chicago Landmarks Commission, the building is not architecturally significant and does not qualify for landmark status.
Even though the Lakefront Protection was not implicated and no zoning change was required, I asked Ms Triem to appear at a public meeting last July to share her plans with the community. I posted fliers announcing the meeting in the immediate neighborhood and sent an e-mail alert to over 4,000 49th Ward residents.
Approximately 30 people attended the meeting, and a number of the attendees expressed a desire to have the building saved. While she was under no legal obligation to do so, Ms. Triems agreed to my request to put the demolition on hold while the community and I searched for a new user. I extended an invitation to the community members to assist me in the search.
In the last eight months, my office staff and I have met with and talked to a number of prospective users of the building. Regretfully, we were not able to identify anyone who wished to make use of the building.
The building required a complete gutting to remediate pervasive mold damage, and also required a new roof. A contractor hired by Ms. Triem estimated it would cost at least $1 million to bring the building up to code.
We reached out to Roycemore School, Waldorf School and the Pro-Logue Alternative High School, all of whom have been searching for new locations. None of the schools expressed any sustained interest in the site.
My office and I also spoke with a number of organizations who were looking for new locations in our neighborhood, including the Shambala Buddhist Temple, the Japanese American Service Committee and Links Hall, a dance theater in Lakeview. Many of them toured the site, but none of them felt it met their needs.
A number of community residents suggested selling the building to the Chicago Park District. The Park District expressed no interest in the site, citing scores of unfunded capital projects that are already on their list. Rather, than fight a nearly impossible battle to secure millions of dollars from the Park District to acquire, repair and maintain the old North Shore School building, I have used my energy to secure commitments from the Park District to repair the foot path in Loyola Park (which will be completed this spring), resurface the tennis courts in Loyola Park, Touhy Park, and Rogers Beach (which will be completed this summer), and make additional repairs to Leone Park Fieldhouse.
After waiting for more than eight months, Ms Triem has asked that she be allowed to move ahead with the demolition, as is her legal right.
I regret the building couldn’t be saved despite our best efforts. Fortunately, however, the existing greenspace surrounding the building will be preserved. The parking lot will cover only the footprint of the existing building. Ms. Triem also intends to use permeable pavement for the parking lot, which will prevent water run-off and is a much more environmentally friendly material than traditional asphalt.
If you have any questions about the demolition or our efforts to preserve the building, please do not hesitate to contact me.