ENGLEWOOD — When Chicago Public Schools closed 50 schools in 2013, six Englewood schools were shuttered, and now residents want to see those empty buildings used to benefit the community.
One idea was to create a Bernie Mac production center. The late entertainer, whose real name was Bernard McCullough, was an Englewood native.
A Bernie Mac center at one of the schools would "allow students to see that careers in entertainment are also behind the scenes and not always on stage," said Asiaha Butler, president of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood, which organized a Friday retreat on the shuttered schools issue at Lindblom Math & Science Academy High School, 6130 S. Wolcott Ave.
Another idea Lindblom Principal Alan Mather had was to reopen the former Charles Earle Elementary School, 6151 S. Hermitage Ave., as a new elementary school. Mather said he would present his proposal to CPS in the next few weeks.
"Let's see how the proposal goes first before we get into specifics," Mather said. "But I envision having students in kindergarten through sixth grade at the school."
The other five school buildings are Elihu Yale, 7025 S. Princeton Ave; Daniel Wentworth, 6950 S. Sangamon St; Benjamin Mays, 838 W. Marquette Road; Arna Bontemps, 1241 W. 58th St; and Granville Woods Math & Science Academy, 6206 S. Racine Ave.
Other building uses suggested by residents were a shopping mall that would include Englewood businesses, a grocery store, a business park, a wellness center, a family entertainment center, a bed and breakfast, an urban farm and a museum dedicated to Englewood's history.
Lannon Broughton said he lived in the 5800 block of South Normal Boulevard for 30 years before a railroad company bought the land to expand its rail yard in Englewood.
"I care about what happens to Englewood. It is still my community. That's why I came to this meeting," Broughton said.
Michael Johnson, another longtime Englewood resident, attended the meeting even though he now lives in Pilsen.
"I want to be involved in redeveloping the community. I grew up in Englewood," he said.
But Tara Williams said she is looking to move from Englewood after seven years.
"I have three sons [ages 8, 9 and 15] and I am afraid that if I remain here something might happen to them," Williams said. "I will continue to support Englewood but I have to do what's best for my children."
The longer school buildings remain empty the greater chance they might attract crime, contended Linda Moore, an Englewood resident for 37 years.
"Kids walk past these empty buildings not aware who might be inside waiting to snatch them," said Moore, whose 19-year-old daughter attends Kennedy-King College and whose 14-year-old son attends Oliver Holmes Elementary School. "It is not safe for children to walk past abandoned buildings, and that's what these schools have become."
Several local organizations also attended the retreat, including Teamwork Englewood.
"We need more discussions like this about Englewood and what can be done to better things here," said Rosalind Moore, program director for the nonprofit. "In the end, that's all that matters."
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