WTB: Demolished neighborhood

re: http://www.wicd15.com/newsroom/top_stories/videos/wicd_vid_5403.shtml?wap=0


This got me thinking, what would happen if Unit 4 were in cahoots with city planners and fingered this area for a new high school. I would be kicking myself if this option were not considered!


More to follow later tonight.

16 Responses to “WTB: Demolished neighborhood”

  1. G. David Frye Says:

    While I don’t completely trust the result I got when I did the math, this looks like ~15 acres, about half the Country Fair space. Not that I think Country Fair is a very good choice.

  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    On the one hand, I am very curious what kind of talks Unit 4 has had with the city in this regard; someone obviously must have been thinking about this idea for a little while.

    And yes, 15 acres would be absolutely way too small. But…. what about 20 acres? How much space does a new high school need?

    My biggest push right now is that we get public, community discussions going on these things. In my opinion, there is no good reason to sit around waiting for a PE firm. Chuck Jackson and I have tried holding two open forums, but we must be doing it wrong. 🙂 One of the fundamental goals of Holly Nelson’s presentation and work was to “enhance discussions”; I think the material she has provided could potentially seed very appropriate discussions, but I wonder if it has fallen on rocky soil – ain’t much taking root.

    Anyone watch the news segment on Channel 15? What did they say?

  3. G. David Frye Says:

    Centennial has about 30 acres, plus some spaces that are shared with Jefferson Middle School. Remember, though, it’s a little smaller (in terms of population) than Central and is also busting at the seams. Another factor is drainage – modern construction (which Centennial is not) requires a certain amount of water retention (ponds) for storm runoff. There are some additional issues with the Market-Chestnut neighborhood, including close proximity to the railroad switching yard and a power substation; as a result there would probably need to be some buffer zones. There are no lunch options in close proximity, although that would probably change over time. I don’t know enough about access (for cars and buses) to say if it’s better or worse than the other locations, although it seems to me that 99% of the traffic in and out of the school would be coming from Bradley, most of it from Neil and Prospect.

    If the final area included that neighborhood PLUS the Shadowood trailer park to the north, and maybe the old nursing home property to the west, there might be enough acreage. But I can’t imagine the amount of upheaval that would engender.

    The news segment video is at the link you provided. I think the key point was a 5-year time span, 3 years just to acquire property and do demolition. And mixed reactions. Probably they’re not going to get public comment from the police department, but I’m sure no one on patrol would miss the nightly calls to Clock St.

  4. charlesdschultz Says:

    Having lived at Neil and Bradley for several years and even now within 500 feet of a railroad crossing, I can say that the rail and the substation are definitely big deterrents. I wonder about drainage – cannot more green space be imported if re-doing the neighborhood? I can just imagine Majora Carter getting involved in a project like this – take an area like Bristol and make it sustainable and more beautiful.

    The upheaval you speak is another big factor. I think of how Chicago stamped out Cabrini Green; sure the area became “safer”, but the people were displaced and just fled to other areas. The problem was not solved, it was merely translated geographically. I don’t want to do that. But I don’t know a way around it if we put a big school in there.

    Again, the big thing I am pushing for is discussion. I don’t have all the answers, and even if I did, I am sure others would disagree. 🙂 So, G. David, I thank you for engaging me in this discussion.

    PS – I finally did get to see the News piece in the link I provided – don’t know what happened the first time. I did not like the arguments used to justify the planning commissions ideas – all the houses are old and not worth fixing up? And yet they want to move the current residents to “similar” housing elsewhere? Yeah, again, just shoving the problems somewhere else. Watch, the next thing they will say is that this will become a new TIF district (and actually used to improve a blighted area, oh my) and we can see another 30-year tax abuse for what starts out as a $7 million tax hit.

  5. G. David Frye Says:

    The whole proposal feels like a “trial balloon” to me. Send it up and see who shoots it down. I strongly agree that something like what they’re proposing needs to happen to that neighborhood. A lot of the homes are unsafe and have absentee landlords who don’t want to put money into an area that is going downhill. Condemnation may be the only way to go. But the relocation problem is serious, especially since it’s happening in the same time frame as the demolition of the old Dorsey housing complex.

    To the city’s credit – and the news piece mentions it – they’ve done this before successfully with the old Oak/Ash neighborhood. But it was 25 years ago.

  6. pattsi Says:

    Yeah, I get to mention one more time all of the area at the intersection of Neil and Bradley as a site. Next if the design is well done, detention ponds would not be needed. Good grief, have we not learned from the John St. project. 🙂 As to Cabrini Green, it was not just displacement of folks; it was trying to intermix economic levels that were given housing via various means or bought the housing without any regard as to how these various cultues would work as neighbors without any socio-psychological preparations. This was a project designed to fail from the drawing board. Yes, those who could not be housed in the reduced number of available dwellings had to figure out how to use Section 8 vouchers and took to I-57 to find other communities, Rantoul being one of them.

  7. pattsi Says:

    P.S. Just a reminder–the Boneyard Reach project eventually be meandering through the area mentioned.

  8. G. David Frye Says:

    Pattsi, I’m not sure what “all of the area at the intersection of Neil and Bradley” refers to. There’s a lot of established neighborhood there, in all directions. Also not sure how you think we can do construction of large hard-surface areas (roofs, parking lots) without retention ponds in this day and age – the thing we learned most from the John Street project is that, if you’re trying to address a drainage problem 70 years in the making in a heavily-populated area, you’re probably just going to have to put in gigantic storm sewers and send the water somewhere else. In general, you can’t do that any more. We have done it, to some extent, with the overall boneyard project – by diverting the storm water a few blocks to one huge retention pond at Locust and Healey, and capturing the rest in another pond north of Springfield.

  9. pattsi Says:

    The intersection area to which I refer are the corners and some additional land. A creative unique design would span the streets, adding a tremendous amount of usable space. Bridging across streets is not a new concept. This also put the HS near one of the elementary schools–think of the educational integration potential. Turn athletics over to the park district. This alone would reduce the perceive need for a huge campus. Turn the 3 departments housed in Buell Hall loose on designing this and see what they come up with. Stop thinking of big box shapes for schools.
    As to how to hand stormwater–use permeable pavements, green roofs, cisterns and return the water to be used in the toilets, drinking fountains, create an edible school yard, on and on–be amazed as the students become involved, a living laboratory, something to write about as they apply for college, involve the students in cooking the daily meals prepared from the garden products.
    We are only limited by our imaginations. My goodness we have so much knowledge, creativity, energy in this community–remove the governor laying over the whole place and become a school district that rocks the state.

  10. G. David Frye Says:

    I don’t know what to say. I’m speechless. Can we just build a $%&* high school already, one with modern plumbing and wiring, sports facilities, space for fine arts, parking for faculty, students, and visitors, and room for some expansion? Can the other agendas please get out of way while we educate our children? I’d settle for a carbon copy of Normal Community HS.

  11. pattsi Says:

    Why not see what are the possibilities? Why settle for less? Why not engage the architecture, La, and urban planning students to stretch their minds and in turn the community’s. Why do you want a huge campus on the edge of town? The most recent example of such being the “Y.” Maybe if we show inventiveness, a donor might be around the corner. Why do we have to follow the pattern of other communities and not become leaders? I am not for wishing for the likes of Robert Moses, but I could do with an Ed Bacon or what Columbus, IN was able to do or what downtown Madison was able to do–and most of all, it would be great to hear people say “we can do something out of the ordinary.” Think of how any and all of the thought process and implementation of a HS could be integrated into Unit 4 curriculum–let those children engage in what they would like as a HS. Actually we know from educational psychology and C and I, that a child learns physics, chemistry, nutrition, cost of food, etc. much better by baking a cake than just being taught the principles with no connectors. Not unlike USAID or the UN going into 3rd world countries and telling the citizen what they should have for housing, we never think to ask them what they want.

  12. G. David Frye Says:

    Good grief. I expect my kids to learn physics and chemistry in well-equipped physics and chemistry classrooms. I expect them to train and compete in IHSA-sanctioned sports, not with an independent park district program, in facilities that are at the school, not via a daily commute from 1/2 mile to 2 miles away. The marching band has to be BUSED, every day during marching band season, to Centennial for practice, then back again. In PE, when the kids do their running, they run around the block. The campus is mostly open lunch because only 1/4 the school’s population can fit in the cafeteria at any given time, and the daily class schedule has been badly contorted to try to make it work. Parking for older students means finding a spot somewhere in the surrounding neighborhood. Parking for parents and visitors is non-existent. I could go on.

    You think we can do something out of the ordinary. I’d happily settle for ordinary. I have a bad feeling that the community will only support something less, and I am justifiably concerned that a lot more “let’s think creatively” talk is only going to further fragment the discussion. I am not wild about building the new high school on the edge of the city, but that’s what most of the smaller towns around us have done when it was time to expand. I prefer the southern sites to the northern ones because more families with school-age kids are south of University (diversity issues delicately set aside for the moment) and the transportation options are better if most of the school’s population doesn’t have to cross I-57. I think, and I’m sure most high school families will agree, that it’s an absolute requirement that the new school have co-located football, baseball, softball, track, and soccer facilities. In terms of simple equity, Central has long suffered by comparison to Centennial in all of the areas I have mentioned here. It’s past time to deal with it. I’m all for using green options where feasible and being as efficient as possible with the space we choose, but the bottom line is still a certain amount of acreage that we can only get by either tearing down a few neighborhoods, or moving to the edge of town.

  13. pattsi Says:

    It would be interesting to create a community discussion to REALLY find out what the students would like in a school, not what the parents think ought to be there based on what is happening in other communities that are following the pattern of other communities. The example that you mention of building on the edge of town–my counter is that the school boards were not planning ahead in purchasing land surround the present school–aka the history of Unit 4. You mention that there is no room to park, as a visitor, around Central because the older students drive to school. My question is why has the communiy and school district not stomped on sprawl so this is not the situation along with the lack of development of safe bikeways so people can ride to school. Why are we locked into our thinking that competitive sports can only be associated with a school district structure–what are the arguments? And why is learning physics, etc. in a well equiped lab the only appropriate approach–maybe this contribute to lack of students’ academic engagement? Previously I noted studies that counter this notion.
    Now to sound like the community “oldie”–all of my children attended Edison, Central, and Uni for a short time. Rode their bikes to school and all sporting events. Rode the bus to Uni to take advanced mathematics from Bob Davis since Unit 4 did not offer this. No AP courses existed then, virtually no private schools, only math tutoring existed in the community. And yes, even then I was frustrated that Unit 4 did not offer a more academically challenging environment. This stated two of the children are professors, one was a scholar athlete–sued Unit 4 over sports discrimination and now is a sports psychologist, and the third is in sport management. My point being that as parents we may think that we “know,” but maybe we are projecting and not checking in with the students.

  14. G. David Frye Says:

    I guess there’s not much use in continuing this discussion, then. I strongly believe that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, we have a lot of reasonable, practical, successful examples around us. We just need to get it done. I have a feeling you’re not going to be in favor of that. I get it.

  15. charlesdschultz Says:

    I want to thank the both of you for representing different opinions and perspectives – for me personally, I very much value differences like these. It is obvious there are issues that need to be dealt with, and obviously many roads that might lead to a resolution of those issues.

    The question I ask myself is “what do we want the schools to look like in 20 years?” I think a part of what Pattsi is saying (please correct if I am wrong) is that we have the current mess because of a lack of vision 20 years ago. It is my observation that most everyone would agree with that. G. David, I also understand your apparent desire to “get it done” – I have often felt similar desires from time to time, when I am feeling washed over with “talk and talk and talk”. It is a hard balance to achieve, that between acting rashly (without planning) and not acting at all (with too much planning). Not that either of you fall squarely into those categories – I say it that way merely to represent extremes.

    Here is the way I see it. Again, I invite rebuttal and/or corrections. The Board is comprised of 7 people, 6 of whom won “your” votes (“you” being the general public) and are thus empowered to act and make decisions on our behalf. In turn, they hired a Superintendent and it is the Board’s responsibility to direct what and how the Superintended is to lead the school district via official, documented policies (and a paycheck). It is the community’s responsibility to inform the Board of their desires, and in return the Board has an obligation to listen to the community. The Power of the People is through their vote. I say that very explicitly because it is my belief and understanding that the People have no other power. Yes, the People have a Voice, and yes the Board should listen. But the People cannot (and should not) dictate policy directly. I am unaware of any power the People have to force a Board Member out of the Board before their term is up. Not that I want to – I am merely trying to communicate with very clear and hopefully precise language.

    I firmly believe it is important for the People to be educated, aware and engaged in the matters that their elected officials craft and shape via policy (ie, laws). In my mind’s eye, this is the base and root definition of politics (before it gets ugly).

    The U4 Board is going to decide where to put a new high school. From today’s retreat, the Board is also going to grapple with a new elementary and a new middle school within the next decade as well. The Board very much wants the input of the People (just go with me on this one *grin*). It is my observation that right now the People (in general) have a hard time seeing the Board in a listening and receptive mode. It is my hypothesis that, regardless of what the Board ultimately decides, the People will either vote in favor (of a referendum) or against based largely on the perception of how the Board has listened, done their homework and truly considered the options.

    I think (and I could be wrong) that if a process were to be put in place and followed sincerely by which the community can give input and the Board were to consider a sound 20-year plan based on that input, the Board could be confident that any referendum they put forward would pass. Is that not what we want?

  16. pattsi Says:

    G. David, our exchange has been great and stimulating. It is much too rare these days to have good, deep intellectual conversations whether in agreement or disagreement–people just don’t have time to do so.
    Yes, Charles, is accurate–I am an urban planner–this means I plan–this means I have great concerns when elected bodies do not do so thus costing us taxpayers more monies filled with errors. I take this same attitude to the county board. For example, the original time table for building a new jail/expanding a jail was on a tight fast track. Why? Where is the money to do so? How to plan to spend the taxpayers money? Listen to the public–their concerns, suggestions, questions, and read their handouts–this happened again last night during the CB meeting. Or I could throw in the towel and say let’s get this done yesterday–cost you a tremendous increase in your property taxes and maybe end up with another downtown jail syndrome. I now have 7 examples given to me by long-term CB members of bad decision-making process on major projects using taxpayer monies that cost more than ought and now are problems costing even more money.
    It drives people crazy to slow down and think collectively on an issue, opportunity, crises–but as the behavioral economists show over and over there are major opportunity costs when we crash head long into decision making.

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