City sending wrecking ball to South Shore’s ‘white elephant’

Built for a then-hefty $9 million, South Shore High was planned to be “a pace-setter for the city,” according to a 1968 Tribune story. The architecturally Brutalist building (a style that was in vogue for educational and public intuitional buildings then) was designed with hexagonal classrooms, closed-circuit television that would beam-in instruction to the classrooms, motor-operated wall partitions that would allow instructors to change the size of their classroom spaces–even laboratory demonstration tables that would mechanically spin around to let students see science experiments from various angles. A darkroom, a skating rink and an amphitheater were also built…

When the school was planned in 1965, city officials and South Shore residents hoped a modern educational facility would curb the massive white-flight that was then occurring. It didn’t. The neighborhood had a black majority by the time the school opened. The new facility was also plagued by construction delays and cost overruns (it cost almost twice its estimated pricetag) and the board of education lacked the money–or was it the will?–to adequately staff and equip the new South Shore. The edifice had been open less than a year when its PTA told the school board in a statement, “with all of its ultramodern, sophisticated material, [the school] is rapidly becoming a white elephant,” the Tribune reported then.

– Lee Bey, reporting yesterday on the city’s intention to demolish the old South Shore High School at 7529 S Constance Ave. Last February, during a driving tour of South Shore, Jeff Heilbrunn took me past the new, 200,000 square-foot school under construction at 75th Street and Jeffrey Boulevard, then past the older incarnations of the high school.

South Shore’s population dropped by 12% from 2000 to 2009, according to Census data. During that time, more than 8,115 black residents moved out of the neighborhood, while 288 white residents and 63 Hispanic residents moved in.

The median list price for a home in South Shore is $100,000; 77 homes are priced for $50,000 or less. Given the neighborhood’s position on the lakefront, however, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are two properties priced well over $1 million: a 2,587 square-foot home with private beach water rights at 7237 S South Shore Dr, priced at $1.39 million, and a 7,000 square foot “exceptional English manor” at 6909 S Cregier Ave, priced at $1.5 million.

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