Monday, August 26, 2013

What Now For Stewart School?

It's a sad day for those who have fond memories of Graeme Stewart School.  For the first time since 1908, children won't be flocking into the building on the first day of school.  Due to declining enrollment (just over 250 students in 2012-13), the school has closed.

A question that has been asked for months has been partially answered:  What will happen to the closed school buildings and who will decide? 

We still don't know what will happen, but we now know who'll be making that decision.  Last week the Mayor appointed a commission to look at each building and community to determine the best use for the nearly 50 newly empty school buildings.  According to the press release, "the Committee will conduct an extensive and rigorous review of the specific closed school buildings and the communities in which they are located.  Included in the broad array of materials they will consult are physical and financial assessments of the conditions of the buildings; demographic and economic trends for the surrounding community; maps of the assets, nearby abandoned buildings, code violations, and crime incidents; and existing planning efforts for the surrounding area being implemented by the City of Chicago. This vast collection of resources will enable the Committee to make informed decisions about the process that will best reflect the communities’ needs."

The Chair of the Committee, Wilbur Milhouse, is quoted in the Sun-Times as saying, "In other cities, I’ve seen them take schools and make them into urban gardens, theaters, community centers or mixed-use loft space. I’ve seen them repurpose schools to where other agencies could utilize and rent out the space.”

There are two aldermen on the committee, neither from the North Side:  Latasha Thomas and Rey Colon.  The other members are unfamiliar to us:  Wilbur Milhouse (Milhouse Engineering & Construction, Inc.), Andy Mooney (Department of Housing and Economic Development), Shirley Calahan (Calahan Family Foundation), Ricardo Estrada (Metropolitan Family Services), Jim Capraro (former Director of Greater Southwest Development Corp.), Linda Goodman (Goodman Williams Group), Tom Tyrrell (Chicago Public Schools), Raul Raymundo (Resurrection Project), Susana Vasquez (Local Initiatives Support Corporation), Julia Stasch (MacArthur Foundation), and Bernita Johnson (Quad Community Development Corp.)

Stewart is the only empty school in Uptown.  Those in the surrounding areas are Trumbull (Edgewater, in Ald. O'Connor's ward) and original recipe Courtenay (Ravenswood, in Ald. Pawar's ward).


  1. Along these lines, does anyone know what is going on with the McCutchen Annex on Kenmore?

  2. It looks like a crew has been readying it to use now that McCutchen is taking in 100 kids from Trumbull. They were working inside for weeks and even removed and reinstalled the mechanicals on the roof.

  3. I hope that Stewart gets re-purposed as a visual arts/performing arts/musical arts center and incubator...along with being a community center. It would be nice to have space to do meetings and functions for the surrounding block clubs, since most "public" spaces charge for use. With it being right across the street from the 46th Ward Service Office and convenient to CTA, it would make a perfect location to do public meetings, too.

  4. They really should have ditched the annex. I was hoping the work they were doing was to prepare it to be torn down. If the main McCutchen building doesn't have room for the additional children, then they should have kept Trumbull open.

    That annex is so ugly and uninviting. No grass out front, no nice windows with views out to the street. If I had kids I would never send them to school at a building like that no matter how good the teachers were. What a shame that Chicago kids are being educated in a place like that while Stewart and Trumbull(beautiful old school buildings) are gone!

  5. The McCutcheon annex building is now their new middle school. The windows and panels are being replaced this week.