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Electricians' Union Wants To Buy Shuttered Drake School for Union Hall

By Sam Cholke | November 17, 2015 6:43am
 The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is considering buying Drake Elementary School for its union hall.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is considering buying Drake Elementary School for its union hall.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

DOUGLAS — The former Drake Elementary School building will be put on the market and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is already saying it's interested in buying it.

The union is considering leaving its home at 600 W. Washington Blvd. and is considering several locations, including the former Drake building at 2722 S. Martin Luther King Blvd.

“We’re looking to move for a lot of reasons, but we’re getting squeezed out,” said Donald Finn, business manager for the union. “There’s property on [Interstate] 290 we’re looking at too, but the school looks like the perfect fit for us.”

Finn said at a community meeting on Monday at Dunbar Vocational High School that the union would convert the existing Drake school building to use as its union hall and would also house the union’s credit union and trust fund in the building.

He said the union has toured the building and has considered keeping the auditorium as a community amenity for plays and other performances.

“We’ll give carte blanche to the community,” Finn said.

He said the union would also like to partner with neighboring Dunbar, 3000 S. King Drive, and would guarantee a job after high school for every student who graduates from the electrical program, a partnership similar to what the union offers at Simeon Career Academy.

Drake was combined with Williams Elementary School in June 2013 during Chicago Public Schools’ wave of school closings and is now at 2710 S. Dearborn St.

Liza Balistreri, director of real estate for CPS, said CPS could start accepting bids for the former Drake building in less than two weeks, as soon as Ald. Will Burns (4th) gives the OK, she said after Monday’s community meeting.

The meeting gave the community a chance to put restrictions on the sale that could disallow a union hall or another use that was deemed inappropriate for the neighborhood.

The comments largely centered on the disagreement many in the neighborhood still have with the decision to consolidate Drake and Williams, but no one offered any specific uses that should be restricted.

Balistreri said CPS will not allow bids from any group hoping to run a school out of the building.

She said the sale of the building could close as early as the first quarter of 2016 depending on what bids are received.

She said the union is the first group to actively seek a meeting with the alderman about buying the space after touring the building.

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