A reader writes:
Dear Alderman Dowell,
As multi-year residents and now new homeowners in the area known as the South Loop (roughly Congress to Cermak and the lakefront to the river), we’ve noted with interest the huge new wave of residential construction now underway all around us. At least 2,000 new residential units have recently been completed or are about to be, with close to another 5,000 on the drawing boards, all within a half-mile of our home. While there are certainly challenges inherent in such a burst of new development we view it as on balance another positive step for the neighborhood and indeed the entire city.
There is however one particular issue which is both a great opportunity for the city and, if not addressed soon, a serious threat to the growth and development of the South Loop. We are now among many parents of young children in the neighborhood who would very much like to have our pre-schooler join the Chicago Public School system.
I’m sure you’ll agree that it would be great for the health of CPS, and in turn of the city as a whole, to have a fresh influx of public-school enrollment from a diverse and rapidly-growing middle-class neighborhood. And it’s important to note that while much of the newest South Loop development is being designed for singles and childless couples, some of those folks (and we are again an example) will fall in love with the area and become highly interested in staying here to raise children.
The huge overcrowding at the South Loop School is obvious evidence of both the need and the potential benefit to CPS of responding to that need. And the nearest CPS neighborhood high school is several miles away, so we are surrounded by CPS parents who once their child reaches 9th grade are reluctantly deciding on either a private school or the suburbs for high school. What an opportunity the city is losing! There are two key things the city needs to do in order to retain and nurture the South Loop’s growing and diverse base of middle-class taxpayers:
• Build a second K-8 public school in the area.
• Convert the old Jones school at Harrison/State into a neighborhood public high school.
Each of these steps is critical. Your making this issue an urgent priority would be hugely beneficial for the South Loop, for the Chicago Public School system, and indeed for the entire city that we love.
cc: Alderman Pat Dowell; Alderman Danny Solis; Mayor Rahm Emanuel; Forrest Claypool, Chairman, Chicago Public Schools; www.sloopin.com; Letters to the Editor, Chicago Tribune
(Hat tip: PB!)