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826CHI, The Boring Store Plan Move to New Building in Wicker Park

 The nonprofit tutoring center and The Boring Store want to move a few blocks away on Milwaukee Ave.
826CHI, The Boring Store Moving in Wicker Park
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WICKER PARK — Writing and tutoring nonprofit 826CHI and the Boring Store spy shop are planning to move this summer into new digs on Milwaukee Avenue.

With the move, student programming will get a boost, while the spy shop will likely downsize, 826CHI's director of operations said.

The center, part of a national network of nonprofits started by writer Dave Eggers and former teacher Ninive Calegari, has been at 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. along with the Boring Store since 2005.

"We’ve been in this space for a decade almost, and it has been a wonderful home for what we’ve done, and we’ve really grown up here," said Kendra Curry-Khanna, 826CHI's director of operations.

826CHI offers free creative writing and homework help services to students ages 6 to 18 in a single, brightly colored room filled with books and work tables. Volunteers called "spies" do one-on-one work with kids.

The popular programs have racked up lengthy wait lists, Curry-Khanna said, and a place with a bit more room and a better design will allow them to serve more students.

The plan is to move into a section of the former Diana Shoes store, 1272-1276 N. Milwaukee Ave., sometime in August after getting a permit from the city.

If possible, Curry-Khanna said, they'd like to open on Aug. 26, the national nonprofit's 12th anniversary.

826CHI publishes thousands of books filled with student writing, and the slightly larger storefront also will focus on getting kids more involved in the bookmaking process, she said.

But the Boring Store, a spy-themed shop that supports 826CHI programs, will likely get smaller. They're not even sure if it will still be called the Boring Store anymore, she said.

A "more curated" line of items will be sold in the shop, which "will continue to be the voice and the face of 826, but will just be a newer, more updated version of it," she said.

In the building a few blocks away, 826CHI hopes to have a second classroom just for high school students, updated technology, and space for parents or community members to sit in comfortable chairs and have a cup of coffee.

826CHI's new landlord, Lee Stansbury, is fronting much of the of the costs of building out the former shoe store, further enticing the center to move rather than try to renovate their current building. He characterizes the decision to help as both optimistic and practical.

"They’re doing something that benefits the community," Stansbury said. "But they also, from my standpoint, are a great tenant because they're not going to be disturbing the tenants upstairs."

The nonprofit's also teaming up with Gensler, a San Francisco-based design and architecture firm with offices in Chicago, which is creating a pro-bono team to help figure out a smarter design.

Curry-Khanna said they've also been asking students and volunteers to brainstorm what they want the new place to look like, and so far, some have called for comfier furniture, various color schemes and a quiet reading area.

826CHI is launching a yearlong fundraising effort to help pay for the move, new technology and future programming, Curry-Khanna said.

"We’re essentially preparing ourselves for the next 10 years — the next phase of our life as an organization," she said.