Public Park Proposed for Rooftop of New School at Roosevelt Collection

By Lizzie Schiffman on January 27, 2013 7:13pm 

SOUTH LOOP — A plot of land behind the Roosevelt Collection where neighbors had been promised public greenspace will still be covered with grass and park amenities — but it'll be on top of a private school, architects said.

That was the proposal presented before about 75 South Loop community members Saturday morning at the 1st District police community room.

The land in question is a problematic plot behind the Kerasotes ShowPlace ICON Theatre bounded by South Wells Street, West Polk Street and West 9th Street, which dead ends alongside Metra tracks on the west side of the property.

The walkway surrounding the Roosevelt Collection's retail level nearest the theater ends steeply, 40 feet above the adjacent plot where the land's previous owners had promised residents a park.

Architect Joseph Antunovich outlined a plan to construct a two-story school at that height, at the request of the Lincoln Park-based British School, with a park on the roof that would be level with Roosevelt Road. It would accommodate about 600 students in grades 7 through 12.

The west side of the property would include a plot of grass smaller than a regulation soccer field, with a single staircase providing a second point of access to the rooftop park. An elevator already installed near the theater would also provide access between the two levels.

South Loop residents showed up to preview the plan in much higher numbers than usual for the community update, according to Jeanette Johnson, vice president of the Greater South Loop Association, which organized the meeting.

Ed Woodbury, president of McCaffery Interests, which owns the Roosevelt Collection and the surrounding land, asked residents for their patience, and promised he'd investigate the many hypothetical conflicts proposed by residents — like the need for overflow parking on nights where school events coincide with peak hours at the theater and mall.

"It's not an easy problem to solve, but we're trying to do our best," Woodbury said, suggesting valet service in that situation and promising to investigate further.

Security for the park would be provided by the Roosevelt Collection's property management, Woodbury said.

Jaqi Green, vice president of South Loop Neighbors, said she's skeptical of the plan. She voiced concerns during the meeting about the use of artificial grass for the field, and asked Woodbury whether dogs would be permitted in the park, something he promised to look into.

"I just want to make sure that the South Loop gets the actual greenspace that was promised," Green said. "Not an AstroTurf that's available some of the time."

Several neighbors who live north of the property noted that the rooftop park would be inaccessible from all but the south and west sides.

"I think it's pretty, but not functional for most of the neighborhood," Green said. "There's nothing park-like about that."

Woodbury said that future renderings would include new features that addressed concerns raised at Saturday's meeting.

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