WEST ENGLEWOOD — Plans are underway to convert a closed West Englewood elementary school into a multi-unit affordable housing development.
Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) and two groups partnering to convert the closed school shared their plans for the building at a virtual meeting Monday. They said the development, Earl School Residences, would have affordable housing and other amenities, like a fitness room.
Charles Earle Elementary, 6121 S. Hermitage, was one of 50 CPS schools permanently closed in 2013, and it has been dormant since. When Wisconsin-based Gorman and Co. bought the building for $200,000 in 2017, there was talk of turning the old school into senior housing, but those plans were later scrapped.
Lopez held several community engagement sessions with the help of Beehyyve, an architecture and engineering design collaborative led by E.G. Woode’s Deon Lucas, to get an idea of what residents wanted in the building. Residents said they wanted housing, an event space and a project that would create jobs for the community.
The Earle School Residences will provide that, said Ron Clewer, Gorman’s Illinois market president.
The school’s structure will remain intact with 63 units of affordable housing built. Gorman and Phoenix Recovery Support Services will share ownership of the site.
The development will also have an outdoor community space, a fitness station, a wellness trail and a playground. A combination of low-income housing tax credits and historic tax credits may be used to finance the $22.5 million project.
Gorman submitted its financial applications for Earle at the beginning of January, with one part having been already approved by the National Park Service’s State Historic Preservation office. Part two of its application needs approval from the same office. Clewer said that they hope to hear “good news” regarding their low-income housing tax credit application by June.
“That’s a competitive application, and we believe that this project scores really well,” Clewer said.
Tax-increment financing funds may be used for street work around the site and exterior improvements, but none have been committed yet, Clewer said.
The one- and two-bedroom units will be priced at 30-60 percent of the area median income, with several set aside to help people experiencing homelessness. To that end, Phoenix has pledged to provided a dozen “recovery vouchers” to help people pay rent until they secure employment. Gorman has also committed to “30 years of affordability.”
Residents will also have access to the full menu of Phoenix’s services, including recovery support, life coaching and recreational activities.
Lucas said Beehyyve has enlisted the aid of a local nonprofit, Business Services Collective, to identify minority contractors to work on the project.
“This is a very important project for West Englewood and Englewood as a whole,” Lopez said. “The last time we saw a major project of this magnitude was 2010, and we’re setting high standards.”
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