What has become of 50 vacant CPS schools closed in 2014?

Thursday, May 18, 2017
What has become of vacant CPS schools?
It has been nearly four years since the controversial closing of 50 Chicago Public Schools.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It has been nearly four years since the controversial closing of 50 Chicago Public Schools. Seventeen of those buildings have since been sold or re-purposed, but the status of the others - many of them in impoverished neighborhoods - remains unclear.

A full year after Yale Elementary in Englewood was closed, no one had bothered to lower the tattered remains of an American flag atop the school. Now, the flag is gone. The building remains locked up.

Yale and 29 other school buildings were put up for bid again this past January. Three of them were sold and there are bids pending on 15 other buildings - including the former Emmet Elementary on the Far West Side.

"I believe this could be one of the foundational projects that could turn around the west side of Chicago," said Ald. Chris Taliaferro, 29th Ward.

The proposal is to turn Emmet into a Health clinic and wellness center run by PCC Wellness, Cook County Health and Mt. Sinai. It would be a multi-million dollar investment transforming an old building into a new health center.

"Oh, that would be wonderful, really wonderful because we need it," said A.J. Jackson, a resident.

In its four years of emptiness, Emmet has become an eyesore - a target for vandals who've stripped much of its plumbing, but now the potential for a vibrant rebirth with jobs and service.

"But I think most importantly, it brings medical service to our community where a lot of our residents are in need of it," Ald. Taliaferro said.

The Emmet proposal is not yet finalized. CPS won't discuss it, and they've declined our requests for an on camera interview. CPS said in a written statement, "....we do anticipate presenting the Board of Education with additional sale proposals in the coming months."

The long term question is: what are the options for those buildings that generate no outside interest? Three years ago, CPS conceded that there's a risk and cost in letting them stand empty too long.

"We just can't afford to let them sit as hazards in the community for that length of period of time," former CPS Operating Officer Tom Tyrrell said in 2014.

CPS said it intends to keep marketing all the remaining closed buildings, and if there are no viable offers, the board will consider transferring those sites to a governmental or non-profit entity that would benefit the community.

That may be the future for the old Yale elementary - the grade school of actress-singer Jennifer Hudson.

When the most recent bids were opened, no one expressed interest in Yale.