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Whittier Field House Demolition: Parents Demand City Rebuild Pilsen Center

By Kyla Gardner | August 27, 2013 3:22pm
 Pilsen community members say they were not notified of the demolition of a beloved community center.
Whittier Elementary field house demolished
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CHICAGO — Parents who opposed the recent demolition of Whittier Elementary's field house in Pilsen are demanding the structure be rebuilt.

Demolition of the building known as La Casita, which served as a library and educational center, was opposed by some parents for years and was the site of a 43-day sit-in in 2010.

But earlier this month, on the night of Aug. 16, parents say city crews arrived unexpectedly and ordered students in a dance class to leave the building. Parents blocked the crews from getting to the building overnight, but eventually lost the battle about 9 a.m. when bulldozers crashed through a fence to get to the site.

Parents are now calling for the field house to be rebuilt with Tax Increment Financing funds.

Protesters plan to march from Whittier, 1900 W. 23rd St., to the office of Ald. Danny Solis (25th) at 3 p.m. Tuesday, and hold a community forum at the Rudy Lozano Library, 1805 S. Loomis St., at 5:30 p.m.

The dancers who were in class the night of the demolition will also perform before the community forum.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel defended the demolition as "exactly the right thing to do" because the building was unsafe. Solis echoed the same reasoning when he walked the neighborhood to speak with residents days later.

A turf field, playground and two basketball courts would be built over the former field house, CPS said.

The parents who opposed the demolition argue the field house is needed for after-school programs, a library, computer use and class and programs for youth, parents and neighborhood residents.

Parents fear school officials are still planning to turn the location into a soccer field "that community residents neither want nor need," and which was opposed in 2010.