Friday, February 03, 2012

Leo High School: The Walgreen's Building at 79th & Halsted - No Story Here, It's Under the Rubble Getting Hauled Away

Since Tuesday afternoon, the heavy traffic on 79th Street between Morgan and Halsted is . . .absent.

Yesterday, Leo President Dan McGrath and I walked over to CVS on the south side of 79th at Halsted. Dan and I frequent buyers at CVS. The Ladies told us that once the building collpased and the demoltion began that the Occupy Walgreens were looking for new habitats. These are famous Chicago Rattus Norvegicus* Occupiers. Business was way off all around the commercial hub.

The Liberty Tax dancers were now taking up positions in front of Leo High School, as well.

This morning, when I pulled into the faculty lot on the south side of 79th Street just west of Leo High School, I was asked by a young guy where he might pick up a bus. He needed to go west. I tyold him that his best bet was to hike over to the Halsted Terminal at about 80th Street.

I could have stretched out in the middle of 79th Street and taken a nap, it is that free of traffic.

Our west parking lot is part of a complex that includs an artifically turfed practice field enclosed by Rickie Daley wrought iron. There was once a monastery whioh housed the Irish Christian Brothers until 1991. In 1995, Leo President Bob Foster demolished the monastery at a huge cost to Leo High School, in order to keep the neighborhood safe. Foster then ordered his staff to find a means of acquiring the entire block of empty, or struggling buisiness buildings between the site of the monastery and Morgan Street.

That was accomplished by 1998.

All the while the building that collapsed on Tuesday was owned by the Nation of Islam,whicj also had buildings and a huge restaurant on the north side of 79th Street including the still unoccupied and operated Salaam restaurant, as I recall. On the south side in the Walgreen's Buildings there were a few offices with Final Call signs above 79th Street that were occupied . In 2004, the City of Chicago aquired the buildings, built the same year that Leo High School opened -1926. Leo is no where near collapsing.

These buildings were built! However, they do come with aresponsibility to maintain what was built. They are quality constructions and bitch and half to demolish.

In fact, Heneghan Demolition which Leo High School contracted to demolish the delapidated monastery and business block to its west, is doing the demolition at Halsted. They do painstakingly great work.

It took Heneghan an entire summer to take down the Irish Christian Brother Monastery - that place had more reinforced concrete than Hitler's Bunker.

That beautiful old building was neglected for as long as I have worked here at Leo -1995 - at the moment. There was a tree growing out of the roof of it.

Bob Foster kept Leo High School vital and its campus healthy. When the monastery built in 1950, by Father Pat Molloy of St. Leo Parish for use of the Christian Brothers, was abandoned, Bob Foster did not want its shell to become a hazzard in waiting. Bob Foster acted and Leo High School added to the health of the Gresham neighborhood.

The opposite is true of the terra cota facade of ownership and responsibilty for the Walgreen's Building that collapsed and injured four people.

As the saying goes, "$hit happens." It happens all of the time and the truth about the blocked streets, re-routed buses, interruption of commerce and the rat-catching due to the habitat relocation will be hauled away in the trucks of the Heneghan Demolition Company.

*Norway Rat -These “super rats” can reach 16″ in length. Each female rat can give birth to 20 pups in her lifetime. Some factors affecting rat populations in cities include continuously mild winters, weather-related disasters, and encroachment of their habitats by new urban development. They have been living rent free in the Walgreen's Building for decades now.

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