Chicago, IL
New Construction


Each year CPS schools (staff & parents) are burdened with fundraising efforts to keep critical programs in the arts moving forward. PFA took an unsolicited approach on exploring this issue. Our purpose was to review what long term / passive income solutions are possible within the available real-estate & contextual opportunities unique to individual schools. We evaluated Franklin Fine Arts Center (FFAC) in the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago.

Since FFAC is a magnet school pulling from all neighborhoods of Chicago and not a neighborhood centric school, the way the school relates to the community is less about its residential neighbors (unless you’re a dog walker) and more about its place within a broader business / retail environment. However, what’s interesting to this school is its 300’ of undeveloped streetscape along the Wells retail corridor. We find this to be a missed opportunity to link established businesses and increase foot traffic. Since Old Town is a very affluent area of Chicago, retail spaces are leased at premium rates. What if the retail shops were small to keep the rental costs down and provide opportunity for uncommon / innovative / small scale / online retailers a space within this affluent market? What if this was a collector of minority retailers that are reflective of the city’s diverse make and the school’s enrollment? And lastly, what if this became a sustainable / passive income stream for the school? Sounds like a win win to us! 

Since green space is king for schools in an urban context, the development would have to have minimal impact / footprint. Also, since the ownership of the land is a public entity the nature of the building would have to be relatively impermanent. PFA settled on the idea of using shipping containers in a linear arrangement to create (6) retail shops with shared plumbing facilities. Each retail tenant receives (2) 8x40 containers of space with a double height area (could be used for storage), signage and a community marketing approach. 

Annual rental income for the school would surpass $100k. There are (4) moments at the corners of the containers to showcase the artwork created by the students within the school. When you consider what the money is going for (art supplies etc.) and the opportunity to present the art back to the community there is a mutually beneficial relationship. What a great story! How about it CPS – please?