“An elite private school near Lincoln Park Zoo has moved closer to owning and eventually demolishing two century-old condominium buildings to make way for a campus expansion, but some neighbors aren’t going quietly.
“The Francis W. Parker School has a letter of intent to buy the entire 19-unit building at 317-325 W. Belden Ave. and is negotiating a formal contract, the school confirmed in a statement.
“Meanwhile, the school has increased its ownership stake to six of the 15 units in the neighboring Belden by the Park condo building at 327-335 W. Belden through a series of deals with individual condo owners, the school confirmed.
“After the school began buying units last summer, the school told the Tribune in August that it had no immediate expansion plans. It has reiterated that position, saying it wants to own the two brick buildings so that it eventually can expand the 6-acre campus.
“Nevertheless, some neighbors have ramped up their opposition to any school expansion.
“An informal group called the East Lincoln Park Neighbors has distributed thousands of flyers. Titled “Stop Francis Parker From Demolishing Our Homes And Wrecking Our Neighborhood,” the flyers describe the school’s property purchases as predatory, and allege the moves are causing residents of the condo buildings to turn against each other.
“The group has collected more than 1,100 signatures on a petition to maintain residential zoning around the school, said Stacy Scapino, a member of the group who lives in another nearby property, the Shakespeare Building.
“It’s clear that they are intent on acquiring these buildings and pushing families out, and that they intend to demolish the buildings,” Scapino said. “So it’s important to raise awareness before it’s too late.” (Ori, Chicago Tribune, 1/28/20)
When asked, Parker has been vague and non-committal regarding its long-term plans, however, it has been reported that Parker made a new offer to purchase the building for $19 million, an amount significantly higher than the market rate value. Lead by the local community, a well-organized campaign to landmark the buildings is underway.
Despite widespread support from neighbors for landmarking these and other nearby historic buildings, 43rd Ward Alderman Michele Smith’s support is necessary for this new potential landmark district to move forward. Preservation Chicago has been working for years to create a landmark district to protect a number of extraordinary buildings in this immediate neighborhood and fully supports this effort.