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Charles Earle Elementary School

Long-closed Chicago school to become affordable housing project

By Anthony SanFilippo
June 2021

Charles Earle Elementary School has been shuttered since 2013. Soon, it could be thriving again – albeit, not as an educational institution.

Instead, plans are in motion to convert the school, in the West Englewood neighborhood, into a multifamily affordable housing development.

What will be known as the Earl School Residences, will keep the school building structure the same, but convert it to 63 different loft and two-bedroom units, and the development will also include an outdoor community space, a playground for children, a wellness trail and a fitness station.

Using both historic tax credits and low-income housing tax credits will help fund the project, which is expected to cost $22.5 million.

Gorman and Co., a Wisconsin-based company, originally bought the school building in 2017 for $200,000 with the idea of converting it into senior housing, but that plan never came to fruition. Instead, Gorman partnered with Phoenix Recovery Report Services to run the development.  They worked with local officials, specifically Ald. Raymond Lopez, and Beehyyve, an architecture and engineering design company, to find what area residents would want in this new development and used that input to put the current plan together.

Most importantly, the residents wanted a project that would create jobs for the community, and according to Ron Clewer, the Illinois market president for Gorman, this development will provide those jobs, he told Block Club Chicago.

Gorman submitted its financial applications back in January. The National Park Service’s State Historic Preservation office approved part one of the application process. Approval or denial of part two is expected in June.

“That’s a competitive application, and we believe that this project scores really well,” Clewer told Book Club Chicago.

Each unit would be priced somewhere between 30 and 60 percent of the area’s median income, and some will be set aside to help the homeless, which would include a dozen “recovery vouchers” to help people pay rent until they are gainfully employed. Gorman also promised “30 years of affordability” on the development.

A bonus for residents of Phoenix partnering with Gorman is that the residents will have full access to Phoenix’s services which includes life coaching, recovery support and participation in recreational activities.

In addition, Beehyyve has enlisted the aid of a local nonprofit, Business Services Collective, to identify minority contractors to work on the project.

“This is a very important project for West Englewood and Englewood as a whole,” Lopez said. “The last time we saw a major project of this magnitude was 2010, and we’re setting high standards.”

Clewer added that streets around the site need work and the exterior of the building also needs improvements. The hope is tax-increment financing funds can be used for those improvements, but none have been committed yet.


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