SOUTH LOOP — McCaffrey Interests will break ground Wednesday on a private British School campus at the Roosevelt Collection, a controversial move that faced pushback from neighbors, resulting in some creative compromising.
Set to open in September 2015, the private school will serve more than 1,000 students from the South Loop and across the city, making it larger than the British School's existing Lincoln Park campus. Both sites teach an International Baccalaureate curriculum to students in preschool through high school.
Lizzie Schiffman describes the British School and the compromise park on its roof:
Ald. Danny Solis (25th) said in a release last week the residents of the South Loop "are extremely enthusiastic about the growing businesses and educational opportunities that are coming to the neighborhood."
“The Roosevelt Collection and the British School of Chicago are vital additions to the area and we need to continue to work with area residents to ensure that there are even more new opportunities on the South Side of our great city,” Solis said.
But last year, when the plan was initially proposed, South Loop residents had reservations.
Previous developers of the Roosevelt Collection had promised the community a 2.2-acre park on the back lot behind the mall's movie theater, and neighbors expected McCaffrey Interests to keep that promise after acquiring the development.
McCaffrey's compromise was to build a publicly-accessible park on the rooftop of the two-story school.
Maintenance and security for the park will be provided by the Roosevelt Collection's property management, McCaffrey Interests principal Ed Woodbury said at a community meeting last year. An athletic field next to the school will be made available to the public when not in use by the British School.
South Loop residents also 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 2013 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, adding more stairwells, handicap accessibility and security to make the park more useful to the neighborhood.
Michael Horton, Principal, British School of Chicago, said his team is "delighted to be opening our newest campus, expanding the opportunities for academic excellence to even more Chicago families."