Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Chadek’s Field

View of City High, looking east. Chadek’s Field is on the right.
(Click to enlarge.)

One of the main reasons offered for closing Hoover School is that City High needs the land to expand. Specifically, the planned addition to City may displace an outdoor athletic facility such as the tennis courts or softball field, and some would prefer that City not have athletic facilities off-site (such as at Mercer Park, a mile and half away). Others have argued that City will need even more land eventually, though no one has specified why. The district has asserted that “We can’t expand City without this,” and that “Adding Hoover alone is not even really enough.” Closing Hoover and rebuilding its capacity elsewhere may seem like a big expense, the argument goes, but it’s worth it to enlarge the City property for these unspecified future uses.

How can we take those arguments seriously, when the school board is doing nothing to explore the purchase of Chadek’s Field—which is by far the cheapest way to expand City’s footprint?

Chadek’s Field is the informal name for a five-acre undeveloped parcel that sits just two blocks south of the City High property. It is roughly the same size as the Hoover lot. The Chadek family has been looking into selling the property. The neighborhood would prefer that it not be developed with housing, but that it remain a green space, and the Chadek family (at least one of whom lives in the neighborhood) has tried to accommodate that preference, despite getting other offers. They have explored selling the parcel to the city for use as a park. At one point, the Chadeks were seeking $560,000 for the property, and there was a proposal that the city would chip in half the amount, with the remainder being raised privately. But the city was unable to agree on the price, and it’s unclear where that proposal now stands.

Compared to closing Hoover, which will cost over ten million dollars, buying Chadek’s field would be very cheap, and even more so if it were part of a joint venture with the city. It would be one of the least expensive items in the district’s long-term plan. It would be far less controversial than the district’s plan to expand Mann Elementary by 76%, which also depends on negotiations with the city. And it would be cheaper than buying up other surrounding properties, since the Field has no houses on it.

City High’s tennis courts would take up less than a quarter of the Chadek property; the same is true of its softball field. If the district were to buy Chadek’s Field, the neighborhood would get its green space, City High would get room for its athletic fields, Hoover could stay open, the Chadeks would get their sale, and the district could save millions of dollars by not having to rebuild Hoover’s capacity somewhere else.

Even if the district does close Hoover, shouldn’t it be working to acquire this property? Under the district’s own logic, City will always need more land. It could buy eight whole blocks around Chadek’s and still not be as large as West or the new high school.

The opportunity to buy this property won’t last forever. How can the district ask the voters for millions to close Hoover when it is not pursuing this inexpensive, neighborhood-friendly way to expand City?


pooter said...

Sounds like a great solution to me.

Anonymous said...

This makes incredibly good sense, which appears to be precisely the reason this school board doesn't appear to have explored it, much less show interest. ICCSD School Board≠common sense.

I find it interesting that Superintendent Murley, when asked about the possibility of Chadek Field at the most recent info meeting for Hoover parents, apparently said that the administration had done some exploration, but the school board had not requested information on the option. If true, this seems to contradict what one board member wrote to me, in response to my email asking about Chadek: "I have asked about this possibility."

I find the board's lack of responsiveness-on Hoover, MLK Day, and other issues-unconscionable, and I think the 2015 school board election is going to be a massive wake-up call, followed by the failed bond vote. I hope it doesn't come to that, but I have zero faith in this board to do the right thing.

Thanks for your part in ensuring that common sense reigns in Iowa City.

Michael said...

My sense was that Murley was referring to the whole board giving him the directive to explore the option,, rather than a single member or two. The reason, I presume, that he got ready to answer board questions about the site was most likely because one or more of them asked about it. But Murley can't do much more than talk to the city about its past negotiations and do a preliminary evaluation of the site without the whole board authorizing action.