Campus Expansion

Our Proposals

Parker aspires to strengthen itself as an anchor in the Chicago educational landscape. We hope to provide education for more students from throughout the city, especially from neighborhoods less represented than in the past, and increase our socioeconomic diversity as well.

We also hope to enhance the existing campus, including improvements to the athletic field, and enhancements to safety and security.

Our Commitments

When Parker first started to think about expansion plans, we made certain commitments to the neighborhood about aspects of our future project’s design and operation. Those commitments remain unchanged as follows:
  • Keep the façade of our project on Belden essentially the same, retaining the look and feel of the residential street.
  • Maintain similar overall building height.
  • Have no drop-off and pickup activities on Belden and continue drop-off and pickup activities where they occur today—Clark Street and Webster Avenue.
  • Implement environmentally responsible design practices.

List of 9 items.

  • Why does Parker need more space?

    • We are at capacity for our current programming, and a 21st century education requires more and different types of space for teaching and learning.
    • Parker is committed to increasing socioeconomic diversity and offering more access to historically underrepresented students.
    • A culturally diverse student body is crucial to Parker's educational mission. Cultural competence is a critical skill, and we need to build a diverse community as early as possible in a student’s educational trajectory.
  • Why expand to 327–335 W. Belden (Belden by the Park)?

    • The one-campus environment is essential to our educational model.
    • Belden allows us to add space that is physically connected to our current campus.
    • Parker currently owns both 317–325 W. Belden and “Belden by the Park” (327–335 W. Belden).
    • We have chosen to expand into the Belden by the Park property for the following reasons:
      • Larger land area than 317–325 W. Belden
      • Easier to connect Belden by the Park to our current campus
      • Separates construction from high-density buildings more effectively
    • Tenants of Belden by the Park will be given ample notice before work begins.
    • For the foreseeable future, 317–325 W. Belden will continue to be a high-quality rental building.
  • Façade preservation

    • Top image features the existing Belden north façade with the penthouse additions.
    • Bottom image demonstrates façade preservation.
    • Parker anticipates that significant portions of the western façade will be preserved.
    • The Project contemplates new windows installed at the location of the existing windows in the north façade which will essentially match existing color and style and conform to current energy codes.
    • Goals for the project include reuse existing brick and wood in the rebuild.
  • How does Parker plan to connect the buildings?

    • Parker proposes connecting its current building to the Belden building via a pedestrian overpass.
    • The overpass will not impede cars and trucks in the alley.
    • The overpass allows us to keep drop-off and pickup activities where they currently take place on Webster and Clark.
    • Images of existing and future east alley views are available here.
  • What are some of the improvements Parker is considering making to the currently existing building?

    • Enlarged first and second grade classrooms
    • State-of-the-art robotics lab
    • New small gym space for JK/SK
    • Expanded multi-station cafeteria
    • More Upper School spaces for additional programming
  • How will Parker minimize the project’s environmental impact?

    Parker’s Goals for the Project include:
    • Reuse existing brick and wood in the rebuild
    • Reduce energy consumption through efficient building design
    • Install rooftop solar and use solar heating and passive cooling strategies to offset energy consumption
    • Maximize natural ventilation to reduce heating/cooling loads.
    • Harvest rainwater for on-site irrigation
    • Use low-carbon structural wood instead of concrete and steel for interior structure elements
  • How does Parker plan to grow its population and increase the diversity of the student body?

    • Parker hopes to grow enrollment gradually over a 7-year period.
    • We would add one section of 18–20 students at JK and this new section would carry through 5th grade until the size of each grade (JK–5) is the current size of our middle school grades (6–8).
    • The Middle and Upper Schools would stay the same sizes they are now.
    • In total we would add 125–140 students. 
    • Over this same time-frame, we would also add 3–5 new employees each year totaling around 30 overall.
    • Parker plans to redouble efforts to increase representation from underserved populations, including fundraising to significantly grow our financial assistance endowment to increase socioeconomic diversity.
  • When will campus expansion and enrollment growth begin?

    • Campus expansion will depend in great part on fundraising success and on obtaining city approvals.
    • Construction may be phased.
    • Belden by the Park tenants will be given ample notice before work begins.
    • Enrollment growth and staff additions would not begin until the new building is ready for occupancy, a minimum of four years from now.
  • More information and renderings

    • The planned Belden building adaptation and proposed overpass will be approximately 50,000 square feet, compared to the 71,000 square feet allowed under the current zoning.
    • The proposed overall height to the top of the roof is approximately 52 feet (with a few mechanical/ancillary structures away from the street marginally taller). This is generally equivalent to the height of the existing penthouse additions (which are just under 50’).
    • Proposed future elevation rendering available here.
    • Proposed rooftop rendering available here.
    • Existing and proposed future east alley views here.

Exterior Improvements and Neighborhood Safety Enhancements

Proposed Field Lights: Have Listened Carefully to Earlier Neighborhood’s Concerns

We have done much due diligence to light the field in a way that is beneficial to students AND respectful to neighbors.
  1. Experts provided analysis and state-of-the-art technological recommendations.
  2. Our own usage analysis has guided our proposals.

Proposed Enhanced Safety Measures for the Neighborhood

  • Increased pedestrian lighting on Lincoln Park West and Webster
  • New security cameras along the perimeter of campus

List of 9 items.

  • Technical goals for exterior improvements

    • Illuminate the field for safe athletics usage
    • Minimize light spillage beyond field boundaries
    • Install environmentally responsible lighting
    • Enhance safety for the neighborhood
  • Much as changed since Parker originally proposed field lights

    • Lighting technology has improved to the point that light spillage will be negligible.
    • Computerized automation will eliminate human error.
    • COVID and childhood epidemics like obesity and screen addiction has reminded us of the value of outdoor space.
    • Parker’s athletic programming needs have increased.
  • What makes Parker confident there will be minimal light spillage outside the field?

    • Internationally recognized lighting design firm Schuler Shook provided advice:
      • Reviewed field and pedestrian lighting proposal
      • Confirmed compliance with applicable guidelines
    • State-of-the-art LED light fixtures with precision optics will keep light on the field.
    • Additional light beyond field boundaries will be minimal. See chart of official foot-candle measurements here.
    • Example of actual field installation here.
  • Targeted light plan and placement

    • Sixty-foot pole height (similar to school building and tree canopy) will allow for light to be directed down into the field and minimizes light and illumination beyond the field.
    • Integrated visors on lights reduce visibility of light into the sky and adjacent areas.
    • There will be four poles, one per corner.
    • Lighting design adheres to guidelines established by the Illuminating Engineering Society and the International DarkSky Association, a charity which advocates for protecting the night sky through responsible outdoor lighting.
  • Field light usage plan

    • The lights are most needed only a handful of weeks in the fall and spring.
    • The schedule will be M–F weekdays, 6:15 a.m. start when needed. 
    • Evening use limited to 9:15 p.m. in the fall and spring.
    • Typically, the first 15–30 minutes and final 15 minutes will involve reduced lighting for safe setup/cleanup and maintenance.
    • Weekend usage:
      • Occasional
      • May include school or community events
    • Attendance patterns for lighted field activities (games, practices, etc.) anticipated to remain unchanged.
  • Why field lights?

    • As part of our mission to educate the whole child, sports and athletics are essential.
    • Our athletic field is the largest classroom we use to carry out this mission.
      • The field must be upgraded to meet the needs of our students.
    • A core value of our program includes a commitment to inclusivity and equity of access to all aspects of a Parker education.
      • All students are invited to play and be part of a team at Parker.
    • The result is a very popular and committed sports program.
      • In 2022–23, 70% of 6th–12th grade students who could participate on a team did so.
    • There is more demand for field time than daylight hours allow, and—because of the demands of the Illinois High School Association—the younger and less experienced students bear the brunt of limited field time. This is counter to the school's ethos.
    • Lights would double playing time on the field in the fall and spring.
  • Why enhanced safety measures?

    • Concerns about crime and safety in the city have escalated.
    • Parker will add pedestrian lighting and cameras for the benefit of the neighborhood as part of this project.
  • Pedestrian lighting

    • If the field light project moves forward, Parker will install nine new lights on public sidewalks along the south and east sides of the school campus.
    • Light levels will double or triple the amount of light currently emitted.
    • Pedestrians will be able to see further and more clearly.
    • Precision optics will concentrate illumination on the sidewalk to limit light spillage.
  • Cameras

    • If the field light project moves forward, Parker will add eight security cameras to those that currently exist on campus.
    • Cameras record 24-7-365; Parker will keep recordings for a limited time. 
    • Footage will be made available to those with a legitimate interest.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.