Two weeks ago the Chicago City Council approved Lycee Francais de Chicago requested rezoning of the old Ravenswood Hospital site, 4550 N. Winchester Ave., and today the school officially takes ownership of a patchwork of former hospital property. School officials say that the site will secured, but neighbors should not expect much activity until demolition is scheduled to begin in 2013.
“We’re planning to do fundraising for the next year. Our architects are saying, ‘pencils are down,’” says Bob Nauert, the school’s Director of Finance.
The school plans to raise money for a year, begin demolition in summer 2013 and begin construction in Spring 2014. Their current lease at 613 W. Bittersweet Pl. runs out in Summer 2015, so they have to move in, one way or another.
“We’re going full steam into our fundraising period. You probably won’t hear much about the project until we begin to demolish the hospital.”
The $32.5 million demolition and construction project includes some significant asbestos removal from some of the older hospital buildings, says Nauert. But the site is not likely to have many surprises since the old hospital was required to go through a state-supervised decommission process before closing.
“From the standard of what the general public would be worried about in a vacant building, that’s been taken care of,” as part of the decommissioning, says Nauert.
The hospital site, which includes the active apartment building on Winchester and Sunnyside, the parking deck on Damen and Sunnyside, and the medical office building on Damen and Wilson [a map of property purchased by the school is at the bottom of this article], is currently owned by a group of owners who all pay into a fund to maintain the site and secure it from vandals. Nauert says Lycee Francais, after doing some additional work to secure their buildings, will pay into that fund to maintain their buildings until demolition begins.
For now, however, Lycee Francais is putting all of it’s energy into raising the funds necessary to build the new school in an uncertain economy.
“We’re going to begin our fundraising and a year from now we’ll assess where we’re at,” said Nauert. “Maybe we’ll have to do something less, maybe we’ll expand our horizons a bit. It’s the uncertainty of the times we live in.”