Watch CBS News

Francis Parker School Buys Out Neighboring Condos 'Under Cover Of Night' In Bid To Expand; 'A School Bully With A Big Check'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- For almost 120 years, Francis W. Parker School has been a Lincoln Park staple. Like many urban schools, it's landlocked, but CBS 2 Morning Insider Chris Tye reports one of the city's most elite private schools is making waves and enemies in its effort to expand.

Jerry Savoy literally wakes up to Francis W. Parker every morning, and thinks about it every night.

The elite private school – with tuition starting at $30,000 for kindergarten – stands only 30 to 35 feet from his bedroom. His condo shares an alley to the north of the school's campus.

The school, is sandwiched between Clark Street, Webster Avenue, and the Lincoln Park Zoo; so they've set their sights on the condos to the north.

Past efforts by the school to outright buy pricy condo buildings just blocks from Lake Michigan were rejected by condo boards. So neighbors said the school is trying to gobble up condo board seats.

"I have somebody breathing over my shoulder, telling me that they can't wait to get me out of here, and are willing to buy me out in order to move me out, so they can tear my house down," Savoy said. "What they did was they bought two condos in our building secretly, which in effect gave them the ability to influence the direction of the board."

Now, through a trust, the school has bought two more units in the building, making at least four out of 15 units pro-Parker.

(UPDATE: On Wednesday, condo owners learned the school bought a fifth condo.  City ordinance requires 85 percent of owners to approve the sale of a building.) 

In a recording obtained by CBS 2, the school's representative at condo meetings explained the purchases this way: "We bought those two units under the cover of night."

The condo purchases were done quietly, they said, to protect would-be buyers and keep private what they were willing to spend on property.

"It's more than a school bully. It's a school bully with a big check. They have a lot of money," Savoy said.

The school declined offers for an interview, instead providing a written statement:

"Francis W. Parker has not approached any individual unit owners and asked them to sell. Parker will continue to be a good neighbor and a valuable anchor in our community as we consider the future educational needs of our students in ways that respect our Lincoln Park community."

For some in the community, that future feels murky. Savoy said the school has effectively prevented anyone in his condo building from being able to sell their home on the open market.

"It would be very unlikely that any real estate agent would list our apartments for sale, because you have a captive audience here, and that's Parker. Why would anyone want to buy a unit in a building when they know that you've got somebody across the alley just waiting to tear your building down?" Savoy said.

Neighbors said the school, with six acres of property already, has ample room to build its future by adding floors to existing buildings, or expanding onto existing parking lots or athletic fields.

The school mission calls "on all to participate with self-discipline, independence of mind and a collaborative spirit," but Savoy said he doesn't know how anything they're doing matches that creed.

The school isn't completely landlocked. It moved administrative offices to the west off Clark Street. Whether they'll have similar success expanding in that direction remains an unanswered question.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.