Old school could help form new Cabrini

Near North High School site could add to CHA's portfolio as it rebuilds area

05/16/2012 10:00 PM

Contributing Reporter

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File 2012/J. GEIL
Michael Stephenson plays basketball outside his home at the only remaining buildings at Cabrini Green, a stretch of rowhouses off Cambridge Ave.

A shuttered high school near Cabrini-Green is changing hands, and the building is joining the growing portfolio of vacant property ready to be developed near the former public housing projects.

The Chicago Housing Authority could reap the benefits of a land swap in Cabrini-Green that comes as part of a multi-tiered deal between the city and Chicago Public Schools.

The city’s Department of Housing and Economic Development recently announced that it will acquire the former Near North High School site, an 11-acre property at 1450 N. Larrabee St. that sits at the top of Cabrini’s once-notorious public housing block.

“No longer needed by CPS, [the property] will be used to assist the ongoing redevelopment of the Cabrini Green public housing complex,” the department wrote in a statement on May 9.

The deal is part of an agreement between the city and CPS that will see the school district receive $115 million in tax increment financing funds to cover capital costs for the revamped Jones College Preparatory High School in the South Loop, as well as 19 acres of vacant land on the Northwest Side. In exchange, CPS will turn over the Cabrini property and an 11-acre site at 31st and Kedzie in the South Lawndale neighborhood.

Formally known as the Near North Career Metropolitan High School, the school was closed by CPS in 2001 because of low enrollment. The building currently serves as a training site for the city’s police and fire departments, while Jones Prep students use the school’s athletic facilities.

Though noted in the department’s release, the property transaction, as well as its implications for the neighborhood, are still far from finalized, Housing and Economic Development spokesman Peter Strazzabosco said.

“The scope of any future development there has not been determined yet,” he said. “But it would be for mixed-income residential use, along with complimentary open space and possibly commercial uses.”

Strazzabosco said that the city first began looking at the school property as a possible site for “the support of mixed-use development” in the area since as far back as 15 years ago — roughly around the time the city and CHA unveiled designs to redevelop Cabrini through a framework plan known as the Near North Redevelopment Initiative.

There is currently no timetable in place for the city to take ownership of the property. Also yet to be determined, Strazzabosco said, was whether the site would be handed over to CHA or if the city would ultimately oversee the proposals for the parcel.

CHA did not respond to emailed questions for this story.

If the high school property does fall into CHA’s care, the site would be a timely addition to the agency’s growing portfolio around the intersection of Clybourn and Larrabee.

In December, CHA acquired the former White Way Sign & Maintenance Co. site, 1317 N. Clybourn Ave., located across the street from the high school site. The $8.8 million property was transferred to the agency by Target in exchange for a former public housing parcel at Larrabee and Division, where the company is currently planning to develop a 150,000-square-foot store.

At the time, CHA spokesperson Matt Aguilar said the agency was meeting with a working group and urban planners “to guide the future of the [1317 N. Clybourn] site, which will be determined following a developer selection and master planning process.”

CHA also owns a property just south of the school at 1340 N. Larrabee, next door to Stanton Park and the long-standing Northside Strangers Home Baptist Church. That property was once the site of a public housing high-rise — one of eight that made up the now-demolished William Green Homes.

Though the agency has yet to elaborate on its plans for either site, CHA’s long-term designs for the area indicate that more housing is on the way.

Per a federal court-issued mandate, CHA must replace the 1,324 agency-operated homes that had once been available in the area with at least 700 public housing units and 296 Section 8 dwellings as part of the redevelopment of Cabrini.

Some of that quota has been filled at the Park Side of Old Town redevelopment, located south of the Green Homes area. The first phase of the project, currently under construction, is slated to bring 107 public housing units and 62 affordable rentals back to Cabrini.

The agency has had a hand in several other new developments in the area, including the North Town Village and Old Town Village sites.

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