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From Community Engagement to Reality: Plans Proceed for Stewart School

The developer for the site of the closed Stewart School in Uptown took resident input received at a series of MPC meetings into account.

Last week, Chicago Public Schools chose Morningside Group’s proposal for the re-use of the Stewart School, a former elementary school in Uptown that was one of the 50 closed in 2013. This is great news given the beautiful building’s prime location across from the Chicago Transit Authority’s Red Line Wilson station, which is undergoing a $203 million makeover that includes revamping the 92-year-old station and adding a Purple Line transfer point. The school also acts as an anchor for the revitalization of the Broadway/Wilson corridor. Uptown is continuing to change and attract investment at a rapid rate, which many residents have viewed as positive given the new amenities and safer streets and a challenge given the loss of affordable housing in the area.

In 2014, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) worked with Ald. James Cappleman of the 46th Ward, Chicago Public Schools and more than 170 Uptown residents and business owners to craft a vision for the redevelopment of Stewart School. This process, called the Corridor Development Initiative, involved a three-part meeting process where residents proposed their ideas for what they wanted to see on the site through a block exercise and online survey and then worked with MPC and volunteer developers to test whether their proposals were financially feasible. MPC compiled and analyzed the wide-ranging ideas for re-use of the school into this report. Our collective goal was not to reach consensus on any one vision, but to identify areas of broad agreement about the future of the Stewart School, Wilson Station area and Broadway corridor.

“What is distinctive is MPC’s ability to bring the community together—and this is an extremely diverse ward with extremely diverse opinions. MPC believes that you need to focus on uniting people toward a common goal.”- Ald. James Cappleman (46th Ward)

MPC, Ald. Cappleman and Chicago Public Schools committed to using the community’s input to shape Stewart School’s future use. In the end, the Uptown Corridor Development Initiative recommendations served as the basis for the Request for Proposals. They selected Morningside’s development proposal, which took into account the community’s input while generating the highest bid (you can find the Board of Education’s October 28th meeting information here). MPC was thrilled to hear that Morningside included community input from the report:

The Corridor Development Initiative is a great tool for supporting communities as they grapple with the impacts of housing and commercial development and MPC looks forward to working with other communities to shape development and investment in their neighborhoods.