woods academy

Chicago group wants to convert shuttered elementary into community center

Oct. 27, 2020
The building that housed Woods Math & Science Academy would be part of an effort to revitalize the city's Englewood neighborhood.

Community groups in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood are working to transform a shuttered elementary school into a community center with free transitional housing, life coaching, trades training and a health clinic.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the project is part of a larger effort to revitalize a neglected corridor in the South Side neighborhood that has seen decades of disinvestment.

The center, dubbed the “Regenerator,” would have dormitory-style housing with space for 100 men who are formerly incarcerated or are vulnerable to poverty and violence; classrooms for trades training; a fresh market; a cafeteria; a pharmacy and a satellite health clinic.

The group leading the effort to transform the three-story, 65,000 square foot former Woods Math & Science Academy is the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), a nonprofit that works to address structural racism on the South Side.

Almost every student at Woods Elementary was Black and came from a low-income family before it was closed as part of former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s school closures in 2013.

Now, the Chicago school board is expected to approve  the transfer of the building ownership to the city, which is finalizing talks for a redevelopment agreement with IMAN. The group hopes to start renovating the rundown facility by the spring and have it at least partially open by mid-2022.

Rami Nashashibi, IMAN’s executive director, says  the former school building is “absolutely, utterly, horrendously vandalized and vacant” and requires a complete rehab. He estimated the cost of the project at around $12 million.

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