The South Loop’s British (School) Invasion

The Roosevelt Collection from the north. The proposed British School of Chicago would be located in the lower left-hand side.

For a long time, the people of the South Loop have waited for the Roosevelt Collection (150 West Roosevelt Road) to come into its own.  Years went by and its retail space remained largely empty, with only the movie theater to draw people to its windswept cul-de-sac.

Then after an ownership change, and a renovation to make it more festive and pedestrian-friendly, it was announced that a raft of new stores and restaurants inked deals to move in.  What could be a neighborhood anchor is finally gaining some weight.

The next big thing to come to the Roosevelt Collection will arrive from the U.K.  The British School of Chicago wants to build a new school at the back of the mixed-use complex.  The school, mostly for expats, already has a campus in Goose Island, but has simply outgrown the space.  It wants a new custom-built building, and thinks the South Loop is the place to be.

A closer look at the general area where it is believed the proposed British School of Chicago South Loop building would be located.

The new school would go immediately north of the existing Roosevelt Collection structure, on two acres of ground between Metra’s Rock Island District tracks and South Wells Street.  The northern boundary would be where West Ninth Street once was, and would be again.

That’s because the school envisions recreating both West Ninth and West 10th Streets to facilitate loading and unloading of its planned 600 students from grades seven through 12.  They’d be dropped off on Ninth, and picked up on Tenth/Taylor, to keep as much of the traffic flow as possible off of South Wells Street.

The school’s 2.5 stories would be equipped with 33 classrooms, plus a gymnasium, cafeteria, library, and all the other things that usually come with a school.  The building, itself, is designed to be about 80,000 square feet.

2006 letter detailing the exact responsibility the developer of the Roosevelt Collection has to building a public park.

The paperwork is just starting to make its way through the bureaucracy, and is expected to have a more complicated tour of City Hall than most buildings.  This is because of the redistricting of Chicago’s wards in 2012.  It appears that the eastern portion of the building might be in William Burns’ Fourth Ward, while the western portion would be in Danny Solis’ 25th Ward.

The ward boundary doesn’t run down something easy like a street — it has a couple of weird angles in that area, so the school and the developers, McCaffery Roosevelt, have to wait while the city tries to figure out who’s turf is in play. That is important, of course, because of the public meetings.  While CDOT and the Chicago Fire Department and other city agencies have been briefed on the school, the public has not.

The people behind the plan expect to have multiple meetings to give the neighbors a chance to weigh in, but until the ward problem is straightened out, they’re moving cautiously.

For the fiscally curious, the developers plan to build the entire project with private funds.  Which makes sense, since it’s a private school.  Though the school does offer a limited number of scholarships to the public.

City of Chicago diagram showing the location of the Roosevelt Collection park

City of Chicago diagram showing the location of the Roosevelt Collection park

We’ve already heard from some of the neighbors who are angry before they’ve even seen the plan.  They believe the school will take the place of a public park they were promised.

Looking at the original documents for the Roosevelt Collection from 2006, the neighbors are right — they were promised a park.  In fact, the developer is obligated to spend $2 million building the park.  However, in all of the diagrams filed with the city, the park is on the west side of the project, not on the east side.  So there may be room for both.

City of Chicago diagram showing the location of the Roosevelt Collection park

City of Chicago diagram showing the location of the Roosevelt Collection park

For what it’s worth, the building’s design appears to give the public some green space.  The new school will be attached to the Roosevelt Collection structure so that a person can walk directly from the shops onto the roof of the school, which is designed to be a large garden.

Still, it remains to be seen how the school and the promised park will relate to each other.  It also remains to be seen if the reconstruction of Ninth Street will include a tunnel underneath the Metra tracks, linking it to South Clark Street.  Construction of that underpass was approved by the city in 2003, but hasn’t been achieved.  Perhaps the school is the impetus needed to begin work on that project as well.


9th Street Metra Underpass document

9th Street Metra Underpass document

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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