Although local governments understandably are tightening their belts in reaction to the sagging economy, the Public Building Commission of Chicago is completing a banner year for civic improvement projects and expects to maintain its pace in 2002.
A separate government agency chaired by Mayor Richard M. Daley, the PBC builds facilities for other public bodies-including police and fire stations, library branches, schools, parks and playgrounds.
“Like the other government bodies, the PBC must be careful to ensure that every penny is spent wisely, but we are able to keep up a steady pace in replacing outdated public buildings thanks to the mayor’s Neighborhoods Alive 21 program,” said Eileen Carey, the agency’s executive director.
Chicago is in the midst of a four-year, $800 million program of infrastructure improvements, part of which is funding many PBC projects. Daley is continuing this program during these uncertain economic times-the funding already is in place-because the new buildings are desperately needed and their construction helps create and maintain jobs for Chicagoans, Carey explained.
For example, the PBC has eight new fire stations on the drawing board-buildings that will replace structures more than 70 years old and are unable to accommodate the larger modern emergency equipment in use today. One firehouse due for replacement was built in 1873, just two years after the Chicago Fire and designed for a time when fire equipment was pulled by horses!
The new fire stations are scheduled to be built at 15th and Racine for Engine Co. 18; 16th and Pulaski for Engine Co. 38; 67th and Dorchester for Engine Co. 63; Clark and Peterson for Engine Co. 70; 59th and State for Engine Co. 84; 59th and Central Park for Engine Co. 88; Western and Kedzie for Engine Co. 109; and the 1700 block of West 95th St. for Engine Co. 121.
The PBC also is in the process of planning or building eight new police district stations, including the new 20th District station now under construction on the 5400 block of Lincoln Avenue and scheduled to open next fall, according to Carey.
Other new police stations under development, with land acquisition underway, are for the 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 15th, 17th and 22nd districts, all but one of which will replace buildings constructed prior to World War II.
Like the several new stations already opened in the past few years, including the new 18th District station completed last February, the new buildings will be larger, with up-to-date crimefighting technology and special accommodations for community policing programs.
And as in the case of the new firehouses, the new police stations will have separate facilities for male and female emergency personnel to reflect a level of participation by women that was undreamed of when the old buildings were constructed.
Daley’s efforts to build more and larger libraries throughout Chicago-the most active program of its kind in the nation-also will continue in 2002 with new branches in various stages of development in the Avalon, Budlong Woods, Logan Square, Austin, West Englewood, Little Village, Southeast Side, West Pullman and Oriole Park communities.
In most cases, these new libraries will replace storefront buildings with much larger, full-service branches similar to the ones in Canaryville and the Austin-Irving communities that opened their doors this year.
In addition, the PBC continues to help the Chicago Board of Education in building public schools, such as the new elementary school opening this past fall at 45th and Kedzie to relieve overcrowding at nearby Davis and Shields schools.
Currently under construction and scheduled to open in 2002 are the new elementary school and teaching academy at Cermak and Federal; an addition to the Bronzeville Military Academy at 3533 S. Giles; an addition to Carnegie School on the 1400 block of East 61st Place; and the<