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Closed Dett Elementary School Could Become Women's Center, Artist Incubator

By Stephanie Lulay | February 4, 2016 5:53am
 The former Dett Elementary School building, a CPS school that was closed in 2013, could become a women's center or an artist incubator.
The former Dett Elementary School building, a CPS school that was closed in 2013, could become a women's center or an artist incubator.
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Chicago Public Schools

NEAR WEST SIDE — The former Dett Elementary School building, a CPS school that was closed in 2013, could become a center for women and girls or an artist incubator in its next life. 

After a year of community meetings, Chicago Public Schools officials plan to soon issue a request for proposals for the sale of the vacant 61,000-square-foot building at 2306 W. Maypole Ave. on the Near West Side. 

The original Dett Elementary School was one of 49 schools CPS closed in 2013. Dett students moved into the Herbert Elementary School building at 2131 W. Monroe St. near Touhy-Herbert Park. The Herbert school building was subsequently renamed Dett Elementary School. 

Two groups plan to submit a proposal to buy the former building, representatives confirmed to DNAInfo Chicago Wednesday night.

Christy Webber, owner of Christy Webber Landscapes, the firm that maintains the United Center grounds and installed landscapes and gardens at Millennium Park, The 606 and for Chicago Public Schools, wants to open a center for women and girls at the Dett site. Evelyn Buckley, with BNA Holdings, will pitch plans to develop an artist incubator in the former school.

Webber, whose Humboldt Park business employs 500 people, said the proposed West Side center would provide services, job training and recreational activities exclusively for women and girls. The center would include a daycare center for working women, a gym where girls could play sports, a stage for theater classes and a kitchen for cooking classes. Other nonprofits might also provide programs in the building, according to the plan. 

At the request of the surrounding community, CPS will not allow the building to be used for a residential or industrial use, Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) said at a meeting Wednesday night. 

The request for proposals will also stipulate that the former Dett site must be used for community programming that incorporates local community partnerships, according to a CPS draft document. 

The Noble Network of Charter Schools, who operate Chicago Bulls College Prep a few blocks away, are not interested in the site, said Adrian Segura, Noble's lead community organizer. Developer Brinshore-Michaels and a church showed interest in the site at one time, but no longer plan to submit proposals to CPS, Burnett said. 

Once CPS releases the request for proposals, potential bidders will have 30 days to submit plans for the property. After a highest responsible bidder is identified, the sale is anticipated to take four to five months, CPS project manager Kareem Pender said.

While some residents called for more meetings to allow for additional community input in the repurposing plan, Burnett said more than 10 meetings have been held to date. Meanwhile, the former Dett building is deteriorating, he said. 

"I'm going to tell the [CPS] Board — move," the alderman said. "It's been long enough." 

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