Mayor Richard M. Daley joined residents and elected officials of the Southwest Side for a visit to the site of the new Brighton Park Elementary School, one of the 19 schools constructed and renovated under the “Modern Schools Across Chicago” program.
“No other city in the nation has taken such a major step to assure that our children learn in modern, up-to-date environments,” Daley said at another stop on the “Neighborhood Appreciation Tour” he is making before he leaves office in May. “Opening a new school gives students and staff a fresh start, greater hope and an improved learning environment.”
The Modern Schools Across Chicago program is funded with City redevelopment funds from Tax Increment Financing districts – no state or federal funds are received. Since Mayor Daley assumed responsibility for CPS in 1995, CPS has opened 47 new schools.
“In the competition for the jobs of the tomorrow, which are the key to Chicago’s future, nothing is more important than continuing to improve our schools,” Daley said. “We must pay special attention to improving our neighborhood elementary and high schools, as we are here with this new facility.”
The new $47 million Brighton Park Elementary School, at 2611 W. 48th St., will open in the fall of 2012. The three-story, 105,000-square-foot school is designed to serve more than 900 students from Pre-Kindergarten through 8th Grade. It will include traditional classrooms, as well as a science lab, computer lab, music classroom and art classrooms in addition to library, gymnasium and dining facilities.
During the visit to Brighton Park Elementary, Mayor Daley highlighted some of the major accomplishments that the City and the residents of the 13th, 14th and 23rd Wards on the Southwest Side, have accomplished together:
- There are three other schools in the area built through the Modern Schools Across Chicago program:
- The Eric Solorio Academy High School, at 5400 S. St. Louis Ave. opened in 2010. The first freshman class is enrolled in the Gage Park neighborhood school this year, as new grades are added for the next three years. The school is named for Chicago Police Officer Eric Solorio, who was killed in an accident while on duty in 2006.
- Mariano Azuela Elementary School at 4707 W. Marquette Rd. was also completed last fall.
- Irene C. Hernandez Middle School for the Advancement of the Sciences at 3510 W. 55th St. and was completed in 2009. That school serves 1,100 students from 6th through 8th Grade.
- Over the years, the Chicago Public Schools have also built new additions, campus parks and playlots at 20 of the other schools in the area. There are also six new charter schools that serve students in the area.
- Daley College recently received $8 million worth of renovations and upgrades, including resurfaced parking lots, new landscaping and signage enhancement, new electrical and HVAC systems throughout the school.
- A key development for the continued success of the Southwest Side was the construction of the Chicago Transit Authority’s Orange Line. The City invested $410 million to build the Orange Line, which opened in November 1993.
There are 10 miles of double track from Midway to the Loop, with eight fully accessible stations. The Orange Line provides a direct connection to Midway Airport for travelers from across the city and fast and efficient rapid transit service for residents of the Southwest Side.
- The continuous development and enhancement of Midway International Airport reflects the City’s commitment to provide the very best service to air travelers.
In 2004, the City completed an $800 million expansion of Midway Airport that doubled the amount of terminal space. The improvements included expanded baggage claim and ticketing areas, larger airline gates, and more shops and restaurants to give travelers a taste of Chicago.
Today, Midway serves 182 million passengers, almost twice as many as when construction began in 1996. It is estimated that the expansion of Midway Airport created 94,000 jobs and $4 billion in economic activity.
- The City opened the new Garfield Ridge Branch Library at 6348 S. Archer Ave in 2005, the Archer Heights Branch Library at 5055 S. Archer Ave. in 2000 and the Clearing Branch Library at 6423 W. 63rd Pl. in 1994.
- The City has also made a number of improvements to parks and open space throughout the community, including:
- The new Valley Forge Park Fieldhouse at 7001 W. 59th St., which opened in 2010. The $4 million fieldhouse features a large gymnasium, fitness, locker and meeting rooms.
- Nine new playgrounds at Lawler, Pasteur, Rainey, West Lawn, Catalpa, Gage, Senka, Strohacker and Walnut parks.
- Park 484, located adjacent to the new Mariano Azuela Elementary School, was completed last year. The 9-acre park features five ball fields with backstops, dugouts and bleachers, an arboretum, a concession stand, a walking path, a picnic area and ornamental fencing and landscaping.
- The City has invested in public safety infrastructure throughout the community. A new firehouse for Engine Company 88 at 3637 W. 59th St. was completed in 2005, reflecting the City’s ongoing commitment to equip our firefighters with the most current facilities and technology to do their jobs.
- The Chicago Department of Transportation recently invested nearly $7 million in three roadway projects: the modernization of traffic signals on Cicero Avenue from I-55 to Midway Airport; industrial street improvements at 76th Street and Pulaski Road; and the resurfacing of 47th Street from Pulaski to Kedzie Avenues.
- The City has invested nearly $30 million in TIF-assisted infrastructure and business improvements throughout the area, including:
- $8 million worth of improvements to the Scottsdale Plaza shopping center at 79th and Cicero. The project involved more than 200,000 square feet of new and renovated retail space and more than 250 new jobs.
- More than $1 million for facility improvements to the Tootsie Roll candy factory at 7401 S. Cicero Ave. The project helped to retain more than 1,500 jobs.
- Streetscape and reconstruction projects along the area’s main thoroughfares of Kedzie, Pulaski, Archer and Cicero.
- Through the Small Business Improvement Fund (SBIF), area businesses like Automotive Painters Supply and Brad’s Sales Company have used TIF revenues to help repair or remodel their facilities.
- The City has also designated several landmarks in the area including the historic Engine Co. 65 Firehouse and the Illinois Central Swing Bridge on the Sanitary and Ship Canal.
- Seniors on the Southwest Side have several affordable places to call home, including: Senior Suites of Garfield Ridge; Autumn Green at Midway Village; and Senior Suites of Gage Park. All three projects were supported through the City’s various affordable housing development programs.
- The City has also marked more than three miles of on-street bike lanes throughout the three wards.
“These projects represent only the highlights of what we have accomplished in the 13th, 14th and 23rd Wards,” Mayor Daley said. “I’m here today to thank every resident, every business and every not-for-profit for their service, support and cooperation on all these projects.”
“Thank you for participating in the process. Thank you for your ideas, your input and your time,” he said. “Working together we’ve brought Chicago into the 21st century, and given it a bright future. It’s been a joy and an honor to be your Mayor.”