Details of the British School’s South Loop Expansion

Plans for a new campus of the British School of Chicago were shown to the public this weekend, and may have gone a long way towards assuaging neighborhood fears.

The thoroughly greenwashed building was well received by a group of South Loop residents who saw the drawings and a presentation by architect Joseph Antunovich of Antunovich Associates at the District One police station. It will be built in the “Phase Three” section of the Roosevelt Collection (150 West Roosevelt Road), which is immediately north of the existing building.

Phase Two is a currently unbuilt 400-unit residential tower that would go up along Wells Street, where Taylor Street once was, and might soon be again. The city has already approved its construction.

What hasn’t been approved yet, is the British School’s South Loop campus, which would bring hundreds of students in the seventh through 12th grades down from the private school’s current location in Lincoln Park.

The school has been working with new Roosevelt Collection owner, McCaffery Interests, for a year on this project. It envisions a two-story school bordered on the south by the mall, on the east by the Metra tracks, on the north by West Ninth Street, and on the west by an imaginary line extending south from South Financial Place.

As we noted in our story early this month, the school would have a green roof that serves as a public park. People would be able to walk seamlessly from the Roosevelt Collection mall onto the roof of the school. A grand staircase of some sort would connect the rooftop park with the ground level, where another large greenspace would be available.

That greenspace is likely to be a 54,000 square foot playing field, programmed by the school, but available to the public. Combined with the 42,000 square foot roof park, it more than exceeds the 92,000 square feet of public park space the Roosevelt Collection is required by the city to build.

Neighbors are worried that the British School might not share the field, which is supposed to be a public park, with the public. One expressed concerns that the school might try to put up a fence around it.

One of America’s dwindling number of Monday through Friday, nine-to-five workers asked for a commitment that the lower park would be available for open use at nights and on weekends. Still others fretted about their fidos.

McCaffery originally planned the lower space to have an artificial surface. In the olden days we could call this Astroturf, a material largely incompatible with good times and puppy poop. But apparently that is old fashioned thinking, and the architect countered with the fact that there is a new version of artificial grass that works well with dog droppings.

But the skeptics remained skeptical, and it appears public pressure may result in real grass after all. Or at least a corner of the field being made of real grass to suit the neighborhood Snoopys. A final decision is a long way off.

There will also be a third park on the north side of Ninth Street. At 11,500 square feet, it’s much smaller than the other two, but serves as a buffer between the school and the two 350-unit residential towers planned for Phase Four.

The school is designed to be 80,000 square feet, including a basement, 500-seat auditorium, cafeteria, and library. Its footprint is dictated by physical constraints — The Roosevelt Collection to the south, the railroad to the east, a 90-inch sewer tunnel to the west, and Ninth Street to the north.

The developers plan to do their part to build the school to physically work with the future Ninth Street underpass. But when that might get built is anybody’s guess. It’s entirely a city project, and not something the mall owners have any involvement in.

In the morning, students will be dropped off at the main entrance on Ninth, and the cars will then circulate around the back of the building back to South Wells Street via West Taylor Street. In the afternoon, students will be picked up at the back of the building, on Taylor Street. This will leave plenty of room for the cars to wait on private property without causing traffic problems in the neighborhood.

The British School hopes to be open in time for the start of the school year in September, 2014.

(Sorry about the quality of the images in the gallery.  We hope to have a better set for you soon.)

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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