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French school wins approval to move to new Northside facility

Lycee Francais de Chicago new site.
Ravenswood Hospital provides space for a 600ft. private drive for it's new tenant, Lycee Francais de Chicago.

A French international school moved one step closer to taking over the site of the long-abandoned Ravenswood Hospital after a recent vote by the Chicago Plan Commission.

Lycee Francais de Chicago estimates it will educate 750 to 800 students at its new location, which it expects to occupy by July 1, 2015.

The 17-year-old private, non-profit school, which started as a way to welcome students of French and international families, currently leases space at the former Immaculate High School, at Irving Park Road and Marine Drive. That lease expires will in 2015.

The new site at 4550 N. Winchester Ave., used to house the Ravenswood Hospital, which vacated the property more than 10 years ago.

“This thing is an eyesore,” said Ravenswood resident Jennifer Smith, who lives down the street from the site and travels past it daily.

“Every time my husband and I walk by we think someone should knock it down,” Smith said. “I’m glad they’re making it a school. It’ll make the neighborhood more desirable for families.”

Smith has two children, and although she does not anticipate they will attend the private school, her family will benefit because they will no longer be near a building susceptible to loitering and graffiti.

Lycee Francais de Chicago’s student body represents 35 nationalities and has a 100 percent graduation rate. Yearly tuition at the K-12 schools totals $15,275.

“We are part of helping to bring international talent to our city,” school President Alain Weber said at the Sept. 15 plan commission meeting at which Lycee Francais de Chicago won approval for the project. “We have found an ideal site for our campus.”

The $33 million project will be funded by the school’s reserved funds, fundraising  and bank loans.

“The vision for the school is something that is very open… wall to wall glass,” Sara Lundgren, an architect with Kruek Sexton Architects, told the plan commission.

The state-of-the-art facility will include a maximum of 120,000 square feet, with a recreational area and a private drive for parents’ drop-off and pick-up activity. All parking needs for the school will be accommodated on-site by an existing parking garage housing 120 spaces.

“I think it’s going to be a wonderful addition to the 47th Ward,” said Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th). “This move is permanent, and they will be a permanent fixture in this community.”

Weber said the school’s recreational areas will be shared with the neighborhood residents. Summer camps and after-school activities will also be open to nearby residents. Over 60 percent of those who participate in Lycee Francais de Chicago’s summer programs attend school elsewhere.

Several residents had voiced concern about the traffic. That led to the inclusion of an internal roadway in front of the school. The private drive has space for 60 cars and was designed specifically to detract traffic from Wilson Avenue, school officials said.

“We are very excited as a community organization for all the positive impact this will have,” said Chris Shickles, executive director of Ravenswood Community Council. “We are pleased to say they considered all of our recommendations.”


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