City Colleges moves to demolish former Kennedy-King campus

January 26, 2010

(photo by Lee Bey)
Kennedy King College, 2008 (photo by Lee Bey)

The City Colleges of Chicago has awarded a $6 million contract to a Chicago firm to demolish the former Kennedy King College campus and turn the site into green space, Lee Bey's Chicago has learned.

Brandenburg Industrial Service Company will be paid $6.276 million to raze the architecturally Brutalist 38-year-old campus at 69th and Wentworth. The vacant campus, which straddles Wentworth, has been on borrowed time since 2007 when a new Kennedy-King opened at 63rd and Halsted. A range of reuse plans for the old facility--including converting the school into a police and fire academy--were rejected, in part, because of the expense of modernizing the building, according to one city official.

A report submitted during last month's City Colleges of Chicago board meeting by interim chancellor Deidra J. Lewis announced the bid award and said the campus would be demolished because it has been "out of service for two years and ... restoration is cost prohibitive."

It is unclear if the parcel would become permanent green space. City Colleges last year proposed priming the site for retail or residential redevelopment by including it in an expanded tax increment finance district.

(photo by Lee Bey)
Kennedy King College, 2008 (photo by Lee Bey)

Kennedy King interior, 2008 (photo by Lee Bey)
Kennedy King College, 2008 (photo by Lee Bey)

Kennedy King classroom 2008 (photo by Lee Bey)
Kennedy King College, 2008 (photo by Lee Bey)

The school was completed in 1972 for $31.1 million and was designed by the now-defunct Fitch, Larocca, Carrington & Jones.‚ The edifice's right-angled concrete plazas and hunkered-down appearance seem bleak and unfriendly to contemporary eyes, but in 1970, the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects praised the design and gave its architects a certificate of merit award for it. Named for Robert F. Kennedy and the Re. Martin Luther King Jr., the college was built with a swimming pool, daycare center, a 50,000 volume library and other amenities (along with the outdoor plazas) that were were designed to be shared with the community.

Revolving door entry (photo by Lee Bey)
Revolving door entry 2008 (photo by Lee Bey)

Entry lobby (photo by Lee Bey)
Entry lobby 2008 (photo by Lee Bey)

Brandenburg was the lowest bidder among eight companies vying to demolish the campus, according to Lewis' report. The firm edged out McDonough Demolition of Chicago's $6.399 million bid. Ledcor Construction of Oak Brook Terrace was the highest bidder at $9.982 million. Demolition is expected begin this year and possibly conclude by October.