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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park

Old Town School Of Folk Music Will Not Sell Armitage Avenue Building After All

Instead, the school will focus on improving enrollment, the school's leader said.

The Old Town School of Folk has been at the historic building at 909 W. Armitage Ave. for the past 50 years.
ALEX V. HERNANDEZ/ BLOCK CLUB CHICAGO
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LINCOLN SQUARE — After months of protests and negotiations, the Old Town School of Folk Music’s board decided not to sell its 909 W. Armitage Ave. building.

Instead, the school will focus on improving enrollment, Old Town School CEO Jim Newcomb said.

“After eight weeks of pretty hard work and extraordinary due diligence the board decided to not sell that location at the present time,” Newcomb said.

Last October, Old Town’s leadership surprised the school’s community by announcing that the old Aldine Hall in Lincoln Park, which has been used by the school for 50 years, was going to be sold. The school’s main location is now in Lincoln Square.

When the announcement was first made, then-executive director Bau Graves told Block Club the sale would help create an endowment fund that would “secure the future of the school in perpetuity,” and the board cited dwindling enrollment for the decision.

The announcement led to swift backlash from the greater Old Town community. Their letter writing campaigns, petitions and rallies first led the board to postpone the sale. Then on March 9, groups of teachers, students and non-faculty staff met with the board to present alternatives to addressing the school’s enrollment issue in a way that would not necessitate the sale of the Armitage building.

Credit: Alex Hernandez / Block Club Chicago
Old Town School of Folk Music teachers at a Dec. 11, 2018 rally for their unionization effort.

Ultimately, they decided not to sell at all.

“We’re lucky, Old Town first and foremost is a community of learners and our students, faculty and board are all really passionate about this place,” Newcomb said. “There’s a lot of work ahead of us to make this all play out the way everyone wants it to. So we’re going to have to raise funds to renovate and upgrade some elements of that facility and we’ll need to improve enrollment there.”

While it’s a “complicated step forward,” Newcomb said the school is lucky to have a community that wants to help the school and help turn enrollment around.

“We argued from the beginning: Rather than sell the building they should fix the problems,” said Rich Gordon, an Old Town student. “Ultimately the board of directors came to agree with us.”

Gordon is a member of Save Old Town School, a group formed to fight the sale in the fall.


Previous coverage

Old Town School Of Folk Music Says Buyout Offers Have Nothing To Do With Sale Of Armitage Avenue Building

Old Town School Of Folk Music Teachers Want To Unionize To Give Them Voice In How School Is Run

Don’t Sell Old Town School Of Folk Music’s Armitage Avenue Building, Fans Plead In Letters

Old Town School Of Folk Music Teachers Vote To Join Illinois Federation Of Teachers

Old Town School of Folk Music’s Executive Director Steps Down, Citing Health Issues

Old Town School Of Folk Music Postpones Planned Sale Of Armitage Building After Community Outcry

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