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Developer Hopes Turning CPS Building Into Community College Dorms Will Transform Englewood Neighborhood

A community developer wants to do something unique with an empty Chicago Public Schools building: turn it into the city’s first residence hall for community college students.

The Greater Southwest Development Corporation hopes to transform the Hayes building in the Englewood neighborhood into an 88-bed, co-ed dorm for students at nearby Kennedy-King College. 

“You can kinda see what happened along the State Street corridor downtown with all the universities and the students who were living there and the liveliness it brought to that end of the Loop,” said Ghian Foreman, GSDC’s executive director. “What better use of this former CPS building then to add to the fabric of the community by bringing in students?”

The Chicago City Council approved the sale of the Hayes building in May. Foreman said that sale is expected to be finalized in the next few weeks. 

“Maybe this gives a student an opportunity to get out of their home or off their block into a better situation where they can be in this learning environment,” Foreman said.

Nationwide, 28 percent of community colleges provide on-campus housing, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. While Foreman’s housing wouldn’t be directly on campus — the Hayes building is a couple blocks away from Kennedy-King at 63rd and Halsted streets — it would be the first dorm in Chicago specifically for community college students. 

According to Foreman, the four-story building would have lounges, study rooms, and a kitchen on the first floor. There would be two floors of single-sex dorms and one co-ed floor. GSDC is purchasing the building from the school district for $75,000. Foreman puts renovation costs at $6.5 million. 

This is the first CPS building that GSDC has purchased, but Foreman personally acquired the Overton Elementary School building in 2012 with the Washington Park Development Group. He plans to turn that building into working and office space. He said he’ll submit plans to renovate that building after he gets approval from the National Park Service to place the Overton building on the National Registry for Historic Places. 

Foreman said he plans to also apply to have the Hayes Building on the National Registry for Historic Places. Meanwhile, there are other details to finalize, including the cost of room and board and how students would apply to live there. He expects federal financial aid to cover the cost of room and board for students. Another decision still to be made: who will manage the building once it’s a residence hall. 

In a statement, a spokesman for City Colleges of Chicago expressed support for the idea.

“City Colleges continually seeks avenues to support our students and enhance the student experience,” said Danny Sternfield in the statement. “Students who have stable and secure housing are better able to focus on their studies and advance their careers.”

GSDC hopes to open the dorm in fall 2019. 

Kate McGee covers education for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter at @WBEZeducation and @McGeeReports.

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