Mayor creates committee for closed-schools building use

August 23, 2013 (CHICAGO)

The city says a committee will handle what happens to the shuttered buildings.

Homeowners near recently-closed school buildings are afraid. Some worry that CPS won't take care of properties it no longer uses.

Only nine weeks after it closed forever in June, what used to be the West Side's Marconi School is showing signs of neglect: Trash and other debris on the grounds, waist high weeds and evidence that taggers have been at work.

"It don't take long," said neighbor Julia Jeter. "It don't take long for stuff to deteriorate if you don't keep it up."

And neighbors say local drug dealers already are meeting customers on the old Marconi playground.

"And when they leave, they throw all their garbage out there," said homeowner Nancy Wilson. "And I have to put my gloves on and go across the street and get it up."

Marconi is one of 49 closed buildings, most in economically distressed neighborhoods, that the cash-strapped CPS must re-purpose, sell or demolish. In the interim the district must maintain the properties.

"That means lock them down, board them up, close them, put them in a preservation state," said Wilbur Milhouse.

Milhouse, a construction company owner, leads the mayor's 13-member committee to re-purpose cps real estate.

He does not want a repeat of what happened to the Crispus Attucks School that remains an eyesore after its closing in 2008.

"To have another school like that would be a failure for this committee," Milhouse said.

Back on the West Side, Nancy Wilson has little confidence that CPS and/or the mayor's committee will do enough to re-purpose Marconi.

"What about your property values? What are you thinking might happen? It's going to go down. It's going to go down," she said.

Late Friday afternoon, a CPS spokeswoman e-mailed that when the system is made aware of problems on its vacant properties, it "will quickly dispatch crews to clean those grounds".

Cleanup crews were on their way Friday afternoon to Marconi School.

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