LOGAN SQUARE — Darwin Elementary School in Logan Square is poised to get nearly $15 million in much-needed building repairs after city officials signed off on a large chunk of funding for the renovations.
The City Council last week approved allocating a little more than $10.1 million in Tax Increment Finance dollars toward the Darwin Elementary improvement project, which will bring large-scale building upgrades to the public school at 3116 W. Belden Ave.
Chicago Public Schools plans to cover the rest of the project — $4.8 million — through its 2023 capital budget, district spokeswoman Mary Ann Fergus said.
With TIF funding secured, CPS officials are in the design phase and expect construction to begin next year, Fergus said. The project should be complete by summer 2024, she said.
The rehab project will span Darwin’s campus, which includes the school’s main building dating back to 1899, and its modular addition, built about 45 years ago as a temporary solution to overcrowding at the school, Darwin Principal Daniel De Los Reyes said.
Both buildings are deteriorating and in dire need of rehabilitation, De Los Reyes said. The school consistently suffers from water leaks, a problem that stems from issues with the old structures, he said.
“The original design of the roof of the modular building did not allow the water to run off … so if it were to rain Saturday, on Thursday you’d see pools of water,” De Los Reyes said.
Also of concern is the school’s old windows and exterior, De Los Reyes said. Some repairs were made to the main building’s original copper cornice several years ago, but the job is still “pending,” which poses safety concerns, he said.
Both Darwin buildings will get new roofs, windows and a new plumbing system, according to the ordinance requesting Milwaukee/Fullerton TIF district funding. The main building will also receive masonry repairs.
Darwin was last renovated in 2019, Fergus said.
“CPS strives to ensure students have access to safe and high-quality facilities,” Fergus said in an emailed statement. “The CPS Office of Capital Planning and Construction aims to achieve an optimal standard of physical condition for each school through renovations and support learning through educational enhancements, innovative design, and construction techniques.”
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), who represents the area that includes Darwin Elementary, applauded the TIF allocation in a recent newsletter to constituents.
“These repairs are sorely needed, and I am so happy that the Darwin community is finally getting the infrastructure necessary to maintain and improve the school,” Ramirez-Rosa said.
De Los Reyes said the enhancements will make Darwin safer for teachers, staff and students.
“A lot of the renovations aren’t going to beautify the school, they’re the structural, foundational updates that will allow these buildings to operate for decades ahead,” he said.
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