Chatham Pancake House re-opening?

CAPCC’s President Keith Tate says former owner in discussions to reopen restaurant

by La Risa Lynch
The Chatham Pancake House or any other Chatham location will not be home to a proposed pawnshop.

Members attending the general meeting of the Chatham Avalon Park Community Council voted unanimously to reject EZCORP’s request to open a pawnshop in the shuttered restaurant, located at 700 E. 87th St. Instead the pancake house’s former owner Noel Leslie wants to re-launch his restaurant, according to CAPCC’s President Keith Tate.

Tate told the that Leslie is in discussions with the building’s owner to reopen the restaurant. Leslie worked there for years before becoming the restaurant’s owner.

Tate noted he hasn’t heard from EZCORP officials since they attended a Sept. 28 meeting to discuss their proposal. EZCORP is the parent company of EZPAWN.

Tate said officials from the publicly traded company were invited to CAPCC’s general meeting held Oct. 10th at Chatham Avalon Church of Christ. No EZCORP officials attended that meeting.

Tate noted that the “no” vote at the general meeting pertains to any location within the organization’s boundaries.

Chicago Public Schools Jennifer Vidis

Jennifer Vidis, CPS’s deputy chief of alternative schools and programs, discusses Richard Milburn School with CAPCC members.

Meanwhile Jennifer Vidis, the deputy chief of alternative schools and programs with Chicago Public Schools (CPS), got an earful from residents upset about the thief in the night move CPS used to open an alternative school in the area.

Richard Milburn Alternative School opened in the former St. Clotilde Elementary School, 321 East 84th St., without any notice or input from residents, including Sixth Ward Alderman Rod Sawyer.

Richard Milburn is one of three “safe schools” run by CPS. The safe schools program provides educational opportunities for students expelled from traditional schools.

The safe schools program provides wrap around services to address academic and behavioral issues. Vidis noted most kids are removed from school because of behavioral issues. She added there have not been any major incidents at Richard Milburn, which serves 45 students in grades sixth through 12th. The school has a capacity to hold 110 students.

“The goal is to make sure these kids are not on the street and that they don’t lose so much time out of school that they are unable to graduate,” Vidis told CAPCC members. “Kids who are expelled from school and don’t have an opportunity to continue their education are at incredibly high risk of dropping out.”

However, Tate called the process in how CPS opened the school “disingenuous.” He echoed a general consensus among CAPCC members that CPS should move the school elsewhere.

“We are all pro-education, but that does not necessitate that we accept things thrust upon us without letting us know,” he said. “This moving through the night is absolute insanity.”

Vidis empathized with the residents’ concerns. She too said she only learned the school would open at that location two seeks before the school year started.

“I understand that was a source of great distress,” Vidis said.

She suggested establishing a community advisory council to provide residents an opportunity to share concerns and learn more about the school. Tate noted that process should have been done before the school open.

CAPCC audience member

A Chatham Avalon Park Community Council auidence member asks questions about Richard Milburn School.

Vidis could not provide an answer as to whether the school would or could be moved. She noted the school moved to St. Clotilde because its original facility needed substantial repairs.

The school was located in another Chicago Archdiocese building, Holy Angels School, 750 E. 40th St., in Bronzeville. The building’s structural conditions were too unsafe for students to be there prompting the move to St. Clotilde, Vidis explained.

Although the school is contracted by CPS, the district does not provide facilities to private vendors. Contracted schools, she explained, must find their own facilities. Richard Milburn has a rental agreement with the Archdiocese, not CPS, she added.

Since there is a lot of vacant Catholic schools “that seems to be a good opportunity for folks looking to locate a school somewhere,” Vidis said.

The organization that operates Richard Milburn has had a contract with CPS for 10 years. They have one more year left on their contract with CPS, but Vidis said she does not know how long the school’s lease is with the Archdiocese.

Some residents contend the school was moved to Chatham to accommodate gentrifying Bronzeville. Residents noted the area has become increasingly mixed racially and students served by Richard Milburn do not fit those demographics.

However Tate noted that CAPCC has sent letters to the Chicago Archdiocese, including Cardinal George. He also urged residents to send letters to the CPS Chief Jean-Claude Brizard expressing displeasure in how the alternative school came into Chatham.

“The archdiocese says they’re trying to save a school. We’re trying to save a community,” Tate said.

Basement flooding will be the topic at CAPCC’s next general meeting scheduled November 14th at Northern Trust Bank, 7801 S. State St.