Some say vacant industrial land would be better site for new Near South CPS high school

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Tuesday, February 21, 2023
Some want vacant industrial land used for new South Loop high school
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Sandwiched between railroad tracks and an industrial district is a parcel of land that some say would be their choice as the site for a new South Loop high school.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Sandwiched between railroad tracks and an industrial district is a parcel of land that some community groups and politicians say would be their choice as an alternative site for a new South Loop high school.

The vacant piece of property, located at Canal and 17th Street, is owned by the City of Chicago.

READ MORE: Parents worry new CPS high school on Near South Side will drain resources from others

"Use the land you already have, don't spend the 10 million of CPS to buy a piece of land, it could go to underfunded schools," said Roderick Wilson of Lugenia Burns Hope Center.

The Chicago Public Schools has approved a $10 million land swap with the Chicago Housing Authority to build a new $120 million high school at 24th & South State, property that once housed the former Harold Ickes homes.

"We lived there for generations with no investment now all the investment comes and we can't live there," Wilson said.

Housing advocates said the land should used to build hundreds of affordable units, a promise they say CHA has failed to fulfill. With a population that has at least doubled in size over the past 20 years, Chinatown residents have been pushing for a new high school for decades. Surrounding neighborhoods including Bridgeport and South Loop have also grown.

"I think this is our best chance, our burgeoning community, near south community to seek this school a reality," said 11th Ward Ald. Nicole Lee

Lee, who is Mayor Lori Lightfoot's handpicked alderman for the 11th Ward, said CPS has considered several alternatives sites including 17th and Canal.

"No one is interested in having a school there, traffic is terrible over there, there is no CTA transit accessibility and it's in a plant manufacturing district, so I think there are environmental issues as well," she said.

But, State Representative Theresa Mah supports the 17th and Canal site. She has threatened to withdraw $50 million in state funding if the school is built at 24th and South State.

As far as CPS is concerned, it is full steam ahead with the site at 24th and South State. CPS has put together a design team which includes 70% community groups and local school councils from feeder elementary schools.