It seems pretty clear by now that when the Riverside District 96 Board of Education made its unsolicited offer to purchase the Hollywood House that school officials weren’t really expecting the Hollywood Citizens Association to say, “Wow, what a great idea; where do we sign?”
After all, the association had said privately that it was not interested in selling the property – the entire property at any rate – and although the school district asked the group to respond to their offer by a certain date, they pretty much let their statements in the press do the talking.
What appears to be the case is that the purchase offer was a way to get a larger conversation started about how to move forward in the future, how to get all parties at the table to hash things out publicly before rolling out plans that no one else likes.
That line of reasoning, no doubt, was informed by the scenario that played out after Riverside-Brookfield High School unveiled its plans for a large parking lot in 2014. Hollywood residents went ballistic, forcing the high school to revise its plans.
But those plans still weren’t enough to assuage the Brookfield Village Board which denied the plan, igniting a two-year legal battle with the high school, which didn’t build its parking lot until 2017.
No one wants to go through that again, and the memory of that experience now has village officials wary of a plan floated last year suggesting the use of Hollywood Avenue north of Rockefeller Avenue as a spot for Hollywood School faculty parking.
Thus the need for this broader conversation, which, frankly, probably needs to include not just the school district, Hollywood neighbors and the Hollywood Community Association, but also the Chicago Zoological Society and RBHS.
That particular area of town is a tricky one, with Hollywood School, RBHS, Brookfield Zoo and the HCA all on each other’s doorstep. And if the goal is to provide enough room for Hollywood School to expand and create a parking area separate from an outdoor recreation area, then it’s going to take a creative solution, because no one wants to lose valuable real estate.
Even if using Hollywood Avenue is feasible as parking, it will probably have to be accomplished by providing it in the public parkways on either side of the street, because that road serves as an important delivery entrance for the zoo, and trucks will still need to get through.
One other possible nearby offsite teacher parking lot might work on a residential lot at the northwest corner of Rockefeller and Hollywood avenues. It’s a house owned by the Chicago Zoological Society and once was home to the society’s former longtime president George Rabb.
The house is not used any longer, but the zoo has no plans to sell the property at this time. From our perspective, it would make a lot of sense to consider that location as a parking solution.
Pulling parking away from the Hollywood School campus itself should be a goal here. Doing so might open up greater possibilities for cooperation between the HCA and District 96 in either increasing outdoor learning/recreation space or ability for the school to expand its footprint.