Schurz plan would close steet section


A proposal to eliminate a stretch of Waveland Avenue to allow construction of a sports complex at Schurz High School will be discussed at a meeting that Alderman John Arena (45th) will hold at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 8, in the library of the school, 3601 N. Milwaukee Ave.

"The goal is to provide our future students access to the same amenities and competitive programs offered at so many other neighborhood high schools," Arena wrote in his Sept. 26 newsletter. "However, the proposal would require the closing of Waveland Avenue to auto traffic between Milwaukee and Lowell. This is a significant change to consider.

"If this project were to be approved, it may require traffic flow changes to the surrounding streets. We all want Schurz to improve and thrive as a strong neighborhood school — one that draws families to the neighborhood and one where our families are proud to send their children. I will seek solutions to address and mitigate concerns that have arisen from the initial proposal."

The proposal calls for an artificial playing surface to be installed on the school’s current athletic field, which is bordered by Milwaukee Avenue on the southwest, Waveland on the southeast, Lowell Avenue on the east, Kostner Avenue on the northwest and single-family homes to the north. The removal of Waveland, a two-way street with parking on both sides when school is not in session, would allow room for a soccer field that meets Illinois High School Association standards.

Currently Lowell, which is one-way north, can be accessed from Milwaukee via Waveland. Kostner is one-way southbound.

The sidewalk on the south side of Waveland would remain, and new landscaping would be installed in the non-playing areas of the field. A softball diamond and tennis courts also are being considered for a portions of the field, but the opinions of area residents will be solicited before a design is completed, Schurz principal Daniel Kramer said.

The landscaping would complement the architecture of the school, a city landmark building, and create a larger and more inviting campus atmosphere, Kramer said. The current field, which consists of grass, backstops and portable soccer nets, is "a very small, scrubby little lot" compared to the facilities at similar-sized high schools in the city, he said.

Residents have expressed concern about noise and parking congestion that could come from renting the field to soccer clubs, but there are no plans to rent to clubs, Kramer said. In addition, lights at the field would be used only to allow teams to practice at times when it gets dark early and would be turned off around 6 p.m., he said.

"From the day this proposal came through my door, I made it clear this field must be prohibited from hosting or being rented to adult leagues," Arena said. "Its primary use would be Schurz athletics. The community would enjoy second priority, with a schedule that is driven by local stakeholders."

The field would reduce the school’s transportation expenses because more teams would be able to practice at Schurz, Kramer said. The school has no tennis courts, and it uses courts at a park.

Residents would have access to the field when it is not in use by the school, suggestions from residents on amenities, such as a possible playlot for small children, would be considered, Kramer said.

Project officials have had initial talks with the Chicago Park District about taking over ownership and management of the field.

The project is estimated to cost about $1.5 million to $2 million. The Urban School Foundation, a nonprofit agency that was founded a few years ago by a local company, is leading the project.

School system officials have described the project as "a field of dreams, with emphasis on the word ‘dreams,’" but the foundation has done a great job identifying funding sources and lining up corporate sponsors, Kramer said. "Suddenly this thing has legs, much more quickly than I thought," he said.

Kramer said that he is looking forward at the Oct. 8 meeting to addressing residents’ concerns and clearing up misconceptions which he has read on social media. The foundation announced plans for the project a year ago.