Northside's Chase Elementary to be reborn as community hub

From Take the Cake to Shake It Records, some of Cincinnati's most buzz-worthy local businesses have hung out their shingles in Northside, and this spring, on-site work will begin to construct a new elementary school building intended to bolster the residential side of the neighborhood's identity. 

The new home of Chase Elementary will rise on Turrill Street, between Blue Rock and Chase Roads, two blocks from Hamilton Avenue and the Northside business district. Cincinnati Public Schools Public Affairs officer Christine Wolff says, "This month or early April is when we'll get all the construction bids and then you can usually figure two years for a new building."

By using the present location of Chase's 31-year old, 96,000 square foot building, city officials intend to pool the resources of the school and the adjacent McKie Recreation Center, creating a hub of educational and recreational activity for the whole community.  Asked about the measures taken to do so, CPS Project Coordinator Robin Brandon explains, "We pushed the school as close to the rec center as possible, and we pushed the public-use spaces as close to the rec center as possible." 

Additionally, in keeping with the pedestrian-friendly streets that are a Northside hallmark, Brandon says the design limits vehicular access, opting to turn the school's connection to the eponymous Chase Avenue into a pedestrian-only approach.  According to her, "[CPS] always try to achieve a building that has a balance between welcoming community and functioning as a school. I think we achieved that on multiple levels with Chase."

Community leaders seem weary of rebuilding in the same location that the school occupied through years of disconnect with much of the surrounding neighborhood.  However, just as CPS hopes that a new building will provide multifarious use for the whole of Northside, local leadership shares the goal of having an elementary school that is closely tied to the neighborhood, a fact reflected in increased local involvement within Chase.  Arts-education non-profit Happen Inc opened a studio space two blocks from the school and has held its "ASAP: After School Arts Program" at Chase, and Bruce Demske, president of the Northside Business Association, points out that "more neighborhood people are now tutoring in the school."

Previously, the disconnect with the neighborhood could be seen when Northside residents sent their children to private or more highly-rated CPS schools.  With a new building on the way, residents and CPS want to see a stronger school emerge, one more asset to a Northside community that already prides itself on diverse culinary, social and cultural offerings, all within a few blocks walk.  As Demske says, "I'd love to put my kids into the neighborhood schools."

Writer: Jeremy Mosher
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