POTENTIAL WIN: Funding Awarded for Adaptive Reuse of Von Humboldt School Into Affordable Teacher Housing(Chicago 7 2014)

“Protracted plans to redevelop long-vacant Von Humboldt Elementary School into an 107-unit apartment complex for teachers got a boost in city funding to help move plans forward.
Newark, N.J.-based RBH Group was awarded $18 million in tax-exempt bonds last month to bring ‘Teachers Village’ to the shuttered Humboldt Park elementary school, 2620 W. Hirsch St., setting the stage for redevelopment.
“Now, the developer is working with the city’s Department of Housing to secure more public financing to bring its ambitious project to life. The development is expected to cost $50.6 million.
“‘We are on track to close public financing by the end of the year and anticipate commencing construction immediately thereafter,’ RBH Group’s CEO Ron Beit said in an emailed statement.
“The Humboldt Park development proposal includes 102 apartments marketed toward educators and five market-rate townhomes. There will also be commercial and retail space, a ‘community as campus’ learning center, a public plaza and 53 parking spaces.
“Von Humboldt was one of nearly 50 ‘underutilized’ public schools closed by then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2013, a move that sent shockwaves through Chicago and across the country.
“Redevelopment of Von Humboldt is a sensitive topic among former students and parents and neighbors, who were devastated when the school was shut down.
“The elementary school has a long history in Humboldt Park. The original school building was constructed in the 1880s and designed by John J. Flanders, the district’s official architect at the time, according to local historians. W. August Fiedler designed the school’s second building, which was built in 1895 and meant to address overcrowding. A third addition, designed by Arthur Hussander, went up in 1921.
“RBH Group plans to preserve the school’s original exterior as part of its redevelopment. (Bloom, Block Club Chicago, 10/5/22)
Preservation Chicago applauds developers RBH Group for this creative adaptive reuse project that will provide necessary housing for Chicago school teachers in a great historic school building. This is an excellent example of how adaptive reuse can reinvigorate historic structures. It also demonstrates how the inherent authenticity of historic structures can result in more interesting, unique, desirable and ultimately successful finished projects than comparable new construction.
Over the past few years. Preservation Chicago has been involved in many hearings and discussions on the transformation of the building. In addition to retaining the entire building’s exterior envelope, we strongly advocated for retaining certain features of the interiors including staircases and the auditorium. We also encouraged a Chicago Landmark Designation of the building, but the development team chose not to pursue this option.

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