The site of former Ravenswood Hospital will be the new home of Lycee Francais de Chicago private school.
The Chicago Plan Commission unanimously approved a proposal to build a new French multicultural and bilingual private school in Ravenswood Thursday.
With the commissioners’ approval, Lycee Francais de Chicago (LFC), a preschool-through-12th-grade school that has operated in Chicago for 17 years, is set to relocate from its leased property at Irving Park Road and Lakeshore Drive, to a permanent location at 4550 N. Winchester Ave.—currently the home of the former Ravenswood Hospital that has been vacant for over a decade, said the project’s attorney Jesse Dodson of the law firm DLA Piper at the commission meeting.
More than 600 students are currently enrolled at LFC—40 percent of those students are French or French American, 50 percent American and 10 percent international–representing 35 different nationalities, said the school’s President Alain Weber.
“We are helping to bring international talent to our city,” Weber said at the meeting.
The new five-story school building, slated to be completed in early September 2015 and costing around $33 million, will be a “very open” design featuring lots of glass, which will allow people to see straight through the building to classrooms and the protective courtyard in the center of the school—the main feature of the design, said the project’s architect and Associate Principal at Krueck & Sexton Architects Sarah Lungren.
Students can play in the glass-protected courtyard in all weather, and some classrooms will have immediate access into the area, Lungren said.
In addition to the courtyard, there will be a soccer field in front of the school that the neighborhood will have permission to use when unoccupied. Other school amenities such as the gym, play yard and summer camps or after-school activities will also be available to the neighborhood, said Weber.
“We are planning to share, and thinking about it as being open to the neighborhood,” Weber said.
An existing 120-space parking garage to the south of the hospital–which will be completely demolished– will remain and be used for school parking. The one-way Winchester Avenue, which turns into a dead-end in front of the hospital, will be used as the school’s private lane for student drop off and pick up and can accommodate up to 60 vehicles.
The school site is bounded by Wilson Avenue to the north, Sunnyside Avenue to the south, Damen Avenue to the west and a public alley to the east.
LFC will pay for the multi-million dollar school through private funds, loans and fundraising without tapping into city subsidies such as tax increment financing (TIF), Weber said.
Commissioner David Weinstein called the project “beautiful” and applauded LFC for using finances other than TIF, which is a popular, yet controversial, tax-payer subsidy for private developers in Chicago, to pay for the project.
“I was expecting you to tell us that there is going to be TIF financing, so it’s nice to see a project that’s able to get something done without city incentives,” Weinstein said.
Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) fully supports the proposed school located in his ward.
“It’s amazing that they have decided that they are looking for good will and looking to build relations with the community, and they have done that from the very beginning,” Pawar said at the meeting.
Chris Shickles, executive director of the Ravenswood Community Council, said he is happy to see the school take over the dormant hospital.
“We’re very excited for all the positive impacts this will have on the surrounding community,” he said at the meeting.