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Hampton: I want to thank you for following up expeditiously on my request for further information regarding school walk throughs and the school repurposing process (March 14, 2014). Ms. Harte and I spoke at length on Monday, but I am only now able to confirm our conversation and share the results with everyone who received copies of the e-mail inquiry last Friday. Since that time, the North Lawndale CAC has met, and I have had a brief conversation with Trina Mangrum, Alderman Chandler's Chief of Staff. This e-mail provides the text of the March 14th email with answers to the questions provided in the conversation of March 17th. It also raises new concerns I have as a result of attending the CAC meeting and talking with Ms. Mangrum. Your assistance in addressing the remaining concerns is most appreciated. Conversation with Meghan Harte, March 17, 2014 Mr. Hampton and Ms. Harte, (I apologize for any duplication. I'm working from multiple lists) We just learned that CPS (or PBC) is conducting walk-throughs of 43 vacated schools for developers interested in bidding on the buildings. We are very concerned because CPS has promised to develop a process in which the community would have significant input into the proposed new uses for the buildings, as well as have an opportunity to submit proposals. CPS and the PBC are actively walking developers through the buildings before there is significant infrastructure in place to staff the repurposing committee; to notify the community of opportunities to participate in a screening process or the process for community planning and submitting proposals. Can you share with us an update of the re-purposing process? We are specifically interested in knowing more about the following: 1. Whether or not community feedback has been taken into account for the repurposing process. Ms. Harte indicated that my comments regarding the School Repurposing Report were Given to CPS, who are taking them under advisement. CPS is gathering other feedback from Aldermen and other community stakeholders. 2. The selection process for the repurpose committee going forward CPS and the Repurposing Committee are taking a 3-prong approach at this time.
1. Get a website up at CPS that has all of the schools that are part of the Repurposing Committee's purview, with location and information about each of the buildings. There will be a mechanism to give feedback directly onto the website. There will be drop down categories of re-use (ie, housing, education, commercial, etc.) and a category for "other", so that citizens may suggest other uses. Suggestions may be general, anonymous, or directed toward a specific building. 2. Work with the Aldermen. CPS and the Repurposing Committee will debrief aldermen on overall recommendations of the committee and set up the community process for each community. 3. Convene CAC's to get input and ask CAC for involvement in community meetings getting an idea of the different uses. Alternative education, housing, etc. Prospective proposers will have an opportunity to submit their ideas, and information about the meetings and process will be made available to the community. Likewise, information about the different proposing organizations and technical assistance providers will be made public. The Repurposing Committee will provide aldermen with a baseline approach to community outreach. There will be aldermanic meetings that will provide an opportunity for the Repurposing Committee to assess the extent to which certain themes "bubble up", and determine what is financially viable (meaning, the proposers must provide ideas that are financially feasible). I personally committed to helping get the word out regarding the process and website. 3. The mechanisms that are in place to ensure authentic community voice, including feedback from parents, residents, PAC's, LSC's, NAC's and CAC's Ms. Harte agrees that it is important to get feedback from various community stakeholders and to ensure authentic voice. She is working with the Repurposing Committee and CPS to see how they can feasibly get input from people on the ground. 4. The mechanisms and processes that are in place for community stakeholders to develop community plans and secure technical assistance Ms. Harte reiterated that organizations like the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois; BauerLatoza Studio, an architecture firm with an emphasis on preservation and sustainable design (as an added resource, the firm has launched a Chicago Historic Schools website: http://chicagohistoricschools.wordpress.com/); Urban Land Institute Chicago and the Metropolitan Planning Council. I suggested that the list should also include CMAP, who has a Local Technical Assistance Program for communities wishing to engage in a community planning process. CMAP has initiated 126 local projects with local governments, nonprofits, and intergovernmental organizations to address local issues at the intersection of transportation, land use, and housing, including the natural environment, economic growth, and community development. The
application process begins in May. You may find out more about the program here. http://www.cmap.illinois.gov/programs-and-resources/lta/ Ms. Harte was amenable to this suggestion. Since this time, I have also learned that one of the professors in the University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Urban Planning, is interested in providing technical assistance through class projects. 5. The timeline and budget for the repurposing activities, including planning and implementation Ms. Harte indicated that the Repurposing Committee proposes to re-issue the solicitation for the buildings by the end of the second or third quarter of this year (between June and September). By this time, they will have had a chance to incorporate the top ideas that the community has articulated. There will be individual solicitations for the 43 buildings, and bids will be evaluated based on capacity, community benefit to community and financial viability, pursuant to the recommendations outlined in the School Repurposing Report. Properties will be sold to the highest bidders, pursuant to state law. In the event that proposers don't meet minimal thresholds, then CPS can reject them and move them to the third phase. The Repurposing Committee is still working to see how phase 3 moves forward. There's no budget for the process proceeds from sale will go back into the process. 6. The status of any recent developments concerning the process The Repurposing Committee has completed its work, and will be transitioning to a successor committee that will coordinate the implementation. I expressed concern that, before community pushback, there were no West Siders on the School Repurposing Committee. Alderman Jason Ervin was appointed after most of the work was done. Ms. Harte was open to suggestions of people from the West Side who could serve on the successor committee. I also suggested that the process of staffing the successor committee include an objective application process to maximize opportunity for a diverse group of stakeholders, other than "the usual suspects" to participate in decision-making. Developers would also be required to sign community benefit agreements outlining benefits to the community (ie, community centers, local hiring and contracting, etc.) Ms. Harte also committed to ensuring accountability for those agreements, including periodic updates to websites outlining progress towards the goals outlined in the agreements. These agreements would be made in addition to standard redevelopment agreements. 7. Also, will there be an opportunity for community members to go on a walk through of the buildings? Ms. Harte indicated that each of the 43 or so buildings will be open to the public during set times. There will be significant notice given so that proposers, community residents and other interested parties could participate. The suggestion of getting CAC's, LSC's and PAC's involved was taken under advisement. North Lawndale CAC Meeting, March 18, 2014
The North Lawndale CAC meeting was held on Tuesday, March 18, 2014. Members of Legacy Charter School, including the principal, board chair, another board member and several staff members were in attendance. Discussion ensued regarding the fact that Legacy would like to move into the Pope building. Members of the Legacy team indicated the work the school has done in the community, and touched on their financial constraints. One member of the Legacy team indicated that, in spite of the fact that the CPS utilization numbers indicate that Legacy only occupies about 64% of the current space, that they need room to expand so they can have their own gym. The Pope building will provide a separate gym and assuming that all the Legacy students follow the school to the new building, they will occupy 91% of the new space. Legacy does have the funds to purchase land and build a new, state of the art building from the ground up. They have an option on property near Spaulding and Ogden. A concern was raised regarding the fact that Mason High School has phased out. When Legacy moves, Mason's utilization could fall to about 30%, which could make the school a target for closure. I requested that the CAC be proactive and develop strategies to improve Mason's utilization. If Mason is allowed to close, there will be a "school desert" on the southwest section of the North Lawndale community. I also raised concern that the CAC's long held plans to address the closed school buildings during our retreat seemed to be abandoned, given the new repurposing process. The North Lawndale CAC will have a planning retreat, and the closed school buildings may or may not be a part of the discussion. We were informed that the CAC will not be making any decisions regarding the closed school buildings and that Alderman Chandler would be taking over the process. He will be holding public meetings and will make a concerted outreach effort to keep the community informed. The meetings would provide an opportunity for the community to hear developers' proposals. I expressed concern that the proposals from developers would come before the community had an opportunity to know more about this process, let alone develop any plans of their own. There were a number of questions in my mind regarding the repurposing process. Unfortunately, there was no one in the room who had the institutional knowledge about the process to respond. I was particularly concerned that this process remain true to the Repurposing Committee's recommendation that there be authentic community voice and that there be opportunities for community groups to develop community plans around the empty school buildings, with technical assistance. Discussion with Trina Mangrum March 19, 2012
I spoke with Trina Mangrum, the Chief of Staff to Alderman Chandler. She indicated that she was speaking for herself, and not for the Alderman. I expressed concern regarding what I'd heard about the repurposing process in the CAC meeting. I was particularly concerned that the meetings would include developers' proposals before any community plans could be made. Ms. Mangrum indicated that there was no need to start from scratch, and a number of groups have already been having discussions about what to do with the buildings. I responded that there has not been any mechanism
in place to vet those ideas before the community. Ms. Mangrum indicated that the Alderman met with the CAC (leadership team, I presume), and they agreed that they would have public meetings to inform people of the process. They will widely publicize the meetings, and anyone is welcome to attend. I suggested that we look at all of the closed buildings in the North Lawndale community, including Mason, Paderewski, Henson and Pope. She responded that the only 2 empty school buildings in the 24th Ward are Henson and Pope, and they are only focusing on Pope at this time. I suggested that they take a holistic approach, and work with Alderman Munoz to discuss the disposition of Paderewski School, since the building is on the southern border of the North Lawndale community. I also suggested that we start looking at Mason now--before it lands on a school closings list. I reiterated a need for a comprehensive approach to community planning that would involve all 4 impacted school buildings. Ms. Mangrum took the suggestion under advisement. Remaining Concerns I want to thank you again, for your expeditious response to my e-mail. You have addressed, or are continuing to address most of the concerns I raised, and I appreciate that. I remain concerned that if we are not careful, the repurposing process will be more informational meetings that support predetermined outcomes as opposed to planning meetings that carefully weigh a broad range of opportunities. I respectfully request that the Repurposing Committee build legitimate opportunities for community groups to become informed about the process and provide educational opportunities and technical regarding community planning within the context of repurposing the buildings. I would be more than happy to assist.
Valerie F. Leonard
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