UPTOWN — A new sign advertising luxury lofts built inside a shuttered school building as "the best in the class" has been taken down after a harsh reception by neighbors.
Chicago Public Schools teacher and Uptown resident Erika Wozniak first noticed the sign outside the shuttered Graeme Stewart School, 4525 N. Kenmore Ave., about two weeks ago and tweeted out the photo, leading to a debate with Ald. James Cappleman (46th).
"I feel like it's ... tacky," she said. "They're putting luxury lofts into a closed school building."
Stewart was one of 50 schools closed by CPS in 2013. Aside from the steep cost of bringing the building up to code, there were only 17 kids in the school's 8th grade class when it shuttered, making it unsustainable, Cappleman said.
In October 2015, Cappleman announced that developer Morningside would be transforming for the former school into 64 luxury residential units with possible retail space.
Wozniak also said the alderman should be trying to bolster neighborhood schools instead of defending luxury developments by touting small graduating classes.
"Let's look at why and what did you do to defend the school. You can defend [the closure] but you're not advocating unless you're actually doing the work," she said.
Following the back-and-forth, the alderman agreed the slogan was insensitive and would advocate to have it changed.
"It was insensitive to the many students and teachers from this school," Cappleman tweeted.
Wednesday, Cappleman's chief of staff Tressa Feher said the sign was taken down, which photos confirm.
"Alderman Cappleman thought this slogan was incredibly insensitive to the community and immediately asked them to take it down," Feher said via email.
Morningside confirmed the complaints were forwarded by the alderman and is working on changing the sign, though they still intend to still use the name Stewart School Lofts.
"It was meant to be a pun and play off the school property, not to offend anyone... We do plan to make some amendments, but the intent was not meant to incite the feelings it clearly did," said Marketing Manager Alison Solway.
The school was over 1/2 empty, had 17 grads in their 8th grade class, needed over $13M to bring it up to code, and CPS facing huge deficit.— Ald. James Cappleman (@JamesCappleman) June 23, 2017
I agree. I will ask to have it changed. It was insensitive to the many students and teachers from this school.— Ald. James Cappleman (@JamesCappleman) June 24, 2017
From the perspective of a parent whose child's school was closed in 2013, that sign is offensive.— Wendy Auffant (@wauffant) June 25, 2017
Yes The name is really insensitive Even if only 1/2 capacity they lost their school Now people who had no stake in the school will occupy it— Jim Cavallero (@jcavallero) June 23, 2017