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British School Announces September 2015 Opening for South Loop Campus

 The most recent rendering, released in May, proposed for the British School and its rooftop public park after months of negotiating with neighbors.
The most recent rendering, released in May, proposed for the British School and its rooftop public park after months of negotiating with neighbors.
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Antunovich Associates

SOUTH LOOP — The British School will open its second Chicago campus in the Roosevelt Collection in September 2015, serving students from preschool through high school in a building behind the Showplace ICON Theater that was hotly contested by area residents.

The Nord Anglia Education-network private school will break ground in February on a two-story school at 161 W. 9th St. in the Roosevelt Collection in time for the 2015-2016 school year, but a more concrete construction timeline isn't yet available, a spokesman for the school said Monday.

Plans have been in motion to build a partner school for the Lincoln Park-based British School of Chicago in the South Loop more than a year, but development was slowed by pushback from area residents who were promised a public park by the site's former owners, who sold the parcel of land to McCaffery Interests in early 2011.

After months of back-and-forth at public community meetings, final plans for a two-story building with a publicly-accessible park on the rooftop got zoning approval from the city in June.

Manuel Galvan, a spokesman for the British School, said "signatures and reviews" needed to be secured and completed in the intervening months, but as of Monday, "all that was done, so the signatures are completed and it's definitely going to happen."

Applications for enrollment will be available closer to the opening date, Galvan said.

A release issued by Nord Anglia Education Monday praised the South Loop location's proximity to museum campus and Downtown.

"The new campus in South Loop will bring together an environment tailor-made for teaching and learning with our excellent academic programme," British School of Chicago Principal Michael Horton said in a statement Monday, which also included a congratulations message from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

At the South Loop Neighbors community group's annual meeting Thursday, vice president of development and planning Dennis McClendon recounted the months of negotiations to keep public greenspace in the 2.2-acre lot available to South Loop residents.

"We spent a lot of our effort and energy and attention this year fighting to save the park that the Roosevelt Collection had committed to build," McClendon said at the meeting, held at Jones College Prep.

"But instead they have received approval from the city to put the British School on that site, put some landscaping up on the roof and a small playlot and dog area on another parcel north of 9th Street."

McClendon noted that South Loop Neighbors representatives would continue "trying to negotiate some sort of agreement that could be enforceable with the various parties involved to make that a public space that we can use and enjoy, even though it won't be a 'public public space,'" referring to the rooftop greenspace, as well as the indoor gymnasium and outdoor soccer field.

Maintenance and security for the park would be provided by the Roosevelt Collection's property management, McCaffrey Interests principal Ed Woodbury said at a January community meeting.

The British School of Chicago's Lincoln Park school opened in 2001 and currently serves more than 850 students.

South Loop residents have argued that the private school, where tuition ranges from $12,100 for a half-day nursery program to $27,560 for a 12th-grade IB program, won't necessarily serve the surrounding community.

"What we need is another public school," South Loop parent Enrique Perez said at a June zoning committee meeting.

But British School families praised the location as "the perfect place for this engaged group of students and parents" at the same meeting.

Bonnie Sanchez-Carlson, president of the Near South Planning Board, said the proposed school and park "will be a great asset to the community.

"The developer has been gracious to work with us, accept our comments and address our organization," Sanchez-Carlson said in praise of the adjustments McCaffery Interests has made in the months since the rooftop park was first proposed.