LITTLE VILLAGE — Plans are underway to "rehabilitate" the Paderewski Elementary building, community organizers confirmed Monday.
The school at 2221 S. Lawndale Ave. has been vacant since 2013 when it was one of 50 CPS schools to get the axe in the largest public school closure in American history.
Now, two aldermen and local community groups are working to transform the vacant building into a viable neighborhood space, Enlace Executive Director Katya Nuques said Monday.
"We're still figuring out what it will look like," Nuques said. "Which organizations will occupy the building? What are the goals? How can we better serve the needs of the community?"
Nuques said Enlace is working with Ald. Ricky Munoz (22nd), Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th) and the Pilsen-based Resurrection Project to "rehabilitate" the school for Little Village and North Lawndale residents.
"We just want to make sure it serves the community," Nuques said. "We do not want a for-profit store or anything like that. We want it to be a community asset."
Munoz confirmed plans to "repurpose" the building to become "an anchor and an asset" for the surrounding community "It's a public property and should be for the public benefit. I mean, that's my bottom line," he said Tuesday.
The project is "still in the planning phases" but there should be public input meetings by spring or summer, Munoz says. While neither would give details on what might end up at the center, Munoz said the cost will depend on the final plan.
"There's a big difference in cost if you put in a clinic versus a daycare center versus a senior center," he said. Nuques estimates the rehab will take two to three years and cost millions. Munoz said the building would need to be purchased from the Board of Education.
Since Paderewski shuttered in 2013, she said, vandals have pilfered copper and electrical materials.
"In terms of functionality, unfortunately, you had a building that was completely operational [in 2013] that now you have to spend millions of dollars to get back in shape to be used," Nuques said. "And that's absurd."
She slammed city officials, saying they didn't do a good job involving and engaging school communities prior to the closings.
"We could've had a plan," Nuques said," so that now we don't have to think about basically rehabilitating a building simply because it hasn't been used."
Munoz confirmed vandals had struck the building and said that's all the more reason to act quickly. "There's urgency to repurpose this building as soon as possible before it gets decimated," he said.
CPS did not respond to requests for comment.
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