We've Moved

Ecology of Absence now resides at www.preservationresearch.com. Please change your links and feeds.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Chicago's Riis School threatened with demolition

We just added a page on Chicago's Jacob Riis Elementary School, which the city plans to demolish soon. The Chicago Public Schools closed Riis in 2001. Riis School is a sturdy and remarkable example of early Chicago Public Schools architecture, which diverges dramatically from St. Louis' older schools by William Ittner and Rockwell Milligan. Riis is rather boxy and strictly symmetrical, but is nonetheless a striking visual anchor in the Taylor Street area.

Why is Riis being demolished? To make way for a wholesale condo-and-apartment development that will replace the ABLA Homes, one of Chicago's oldest public housing projects. This development's impact is projected to include a huge population boost necessitating the opening of another public school in the area.

That is, if the new development allows families to come back to the area. Perhaps an influx of childless Loop office workers will permanently displace the working class families of Taylor Street. After all, the nearby University of Illinois at Chicago has already decimated the historic African-American Maxwell Street area for a similar bland world of one-brick-thick boxes.

Maxwell and Taylor Streets once were the scene of economic diversity and use diversity. People can still see some of that world remaining on Taylor, where add-on storefronts abut row houses next door to apartment buildings and the public library. This mixed-use area is vital and active, but for how much longer will depend on the whims of the city development agencies as they import the suburban single-use zones under the guise of New Urbanist styles.

No comments: