Jones, Roosevelt expanding their South Loop facilities
July 3, 2009

By Marie Balice Ward | July 2009

Roosevelt University’s new addition would connect to the historic Auditorium.
Jones College Prep and Roosevelt University are expanding their facilities in the South Loop.

Jones, at 606 S. State St., will build new space immediately south of its existing building that will allow it to increase selective enrollment from 750 to 900. When combined with its 300 neighborhood students, enrollment will total 1,200.

At the recent fourth public forum about this project, Principal Joseph Powers said the school will continue its “selective enrollment status” but has not determined criteria for admitting neighborhood students. He stressed, however, that, “We do not want two schools. No one wants ‘those kids’ and ‘our kids.’” He also noted that Jones already has “quite a few students” who live in the South Loop.

Among the options he mentioned for neighborhood resident enrollment were first-come first-serve or a lottery system.

Tom Kubiak, chair of Jones’s local school council, said Second Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti and representatives of the board of education will discuss the neighborhood component further. He agreed with Powers that Jones would not become strictly a neighborhood high school but rather continue to offer selective enrollment along with slots for neighborhood students.

At a subsequent meeting of Jones’s board, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) representatives Jose Alvarez of the CPS Office of Operations and architect Penny Varnava attended. Alvarez cited personnel changes at CPS as having delayed a number of projects, including the Jones College Prep construction. Varnava added that a project plan will be ready this September and will include a budget and a design compatible with surrounding structures.

The existing Jones College Prep building will be sold to defray some of the cost for the new structure, which is estimated at $130 million. About $90 million will be provided by tax increment finance money, with the remainder provided by CPS from money gained from the sale of the building.

Kubiak and Powers both said plans are moving forward for the new facility and that rumors the project had come to a halt were unfounded. In fact, Powers said, “subsoil studies had been conducted and some fuel tanks were found buried on the future construction site—a common occurrence. Abatement is now taking place.”

Community activist Enrique Perez asked how officials decided on 300 for the number of neighborhood students. Kubiak noted the figure was not final and that Fioretti and the board were examining it.

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Jones, Roosevelt expanding their South Loop facilities

Perez requested a demographic analysis, contending that the South Loop needs another open enrollment high school. The closest school, he noted, is Wendell Phillips Academy High School, which is located at Pershing Road and Indiana Avenue. Perez also said that, if the existing school building is sold to developers, any new development likely would be at least 30 stories high (as allowed by current zoning). He suggested using the building for extra high school classroom space instead.

In response to a question by audience member Heather Hendrix-McAdams about expanding the Jones student population even further, Powers said, “The optimum size for a high school to maintain a personalized environment is 900 to 1,200, with 1,000 as a terrific student population. Once a student population grows to 1,400 or more, it becomes less personalized and tends to lose its sense of community. Also to be considered are the constraints of the structure.”

Audience member Kathleen Miles asked about gymnasium facilities. Powers said the new facility will have a gym with two regulation courts and a swimming pool.

Plans also call for a 75-car parking lot and project completion by fall 2013. Groundbreaking has not yet been scheduled, however. For more information, log on to www.jonescollegeprep.org.

Meanwhile, Roosevelt University wants to build a 32-story structure at 421–425 S. Wabash Ave. to contain space for student services, recreation, classrooms, science laboratories, the university’s business college, and student housing.

Roosevelt administrators feel the university needs a new facility to accommodate rising student interest, as fall 2008 enrollment was the second highest in university history and included a 70% increase in the number of entering freshmen and a 29% increase in the number of residential students.

The university is arranging financing for the $116 million project. The planned building will have a glass exterior and will be next to the limestone-clad Auditorium Building; the two buildings will connect to each other.

Six floors will be devoted to classrooms, including chemistry and biology laboratories and state-of-the-art lecture halls. One of the floors will house the Walter E. Heller College of Business Administration. Seven floors will provide student services, and 16 floors will hold student housing with approximately 600 dormitory room beds; 364 of those will replace housing lost by the planned demolition of the Herman Crown Center at 425 S. Wabash Ave., with the other 236 handling projected increases in residential students.

The plan has been approved by citizens’ groups such as the Near South Planning Board and Chicago Loop Alliance, as well as by City zoning and planning officials, and now needs approval by the City Council, said Second Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti.

“Roosevelt has been a good corporate citizen and has given back generously to the South Loop and Chicago in general,” Fioretti said. Fioretti noted the South Loop’s student population has grown from 52,330 in 2005 to 65,024 in 2009. “Students spend money locally,” he explained. “They keep the entire downtown area, from Roosevelt Road and Michigan Avenue to the river, vibrant and invigorated.”

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