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Local Editorials

Our view: Plan to convert old school into senior apartments has potential

As Oswego High School students look on, school staff members accept delivery of a driver's education car at the school in the 1950s. The building on Franklin Street that once housed the high school is now proposed for a new use as an apartment building for senior citizens.
As Oswego High School students look on, school staff members accept delivery of a driver's education car at the school in the 1950s. The building on Franklin Street that once housed the high school is now proposed for a new use as an apartment building for senior citizens.

When the SD308 Board of Education voted to place the former Traughber Junior High School in Oswego up for sale this past spring, we were skeptical of the district's prospects for finding a buyer. Due to their floor plans and setbacks, old school buildings like the former Traughber can be challenging and costly to re-adapt for new uses. That's why we were pleasantly surprised this past week to report that the district had received a $2.1 million bid for the building from 3 Diamond Development of Lincolnwood. We were even more pleased with the 3 Diamond's plan to spend an estimated $17.5 million to renovate and repurpose the building as an apartment complex for active senior citizens.

The firm plans to convert the former classroom wings in the two story building into modern 40 one-bedroom apartment units and 10 two-bedroom apartment units. According to the firm's proposal, the former school grounds will be extensively landscaped, new exterior lighting will be installed and repairs made to the asphalt in the parking area. Importantly, the Oswego Senior Center would continue to lease a portion of the renovated building. A kitchen and cafeteria area now utilized by the center would remain, while other facilities would receive "minor upgrades," according got the proposal.

We certainly like what we see in the 3 Diamond bid proposal. As the Baby Boom generation continues to age, the demand for affordable senior housing is going to increase locally and across the nation. The former Traughber site--located within walking distance of the village's downtown and a short drive from retail areas and medical facilities--make it ideally suited for senior housing.

The former junior high school is one of Oswego's many historic buildings. First opened in the spring of 1951 to accommodate a growing student population due to the aforementioned post World War II Baby Boom, it served as Oswego High School until 1964 and as Oswego Junior High School (later re-named Traughber Junior High School) from 1964 to 2008. More recently it has housed not only the senior center, but also the Oswego YMCA and, until this past year, the Kendall County Opportunity School.

In the absence of a buyer and workable re-development plan, we were concerned the building might languish and one day fall into disrepair. But the 3 Diamond proposal--if it can be achieved--would serve to maintain it for years to come while enhancing the adjoining residential neighborhood. The apartments would also provide housing for some of the same Baby Boomers for whom the building was originally constructed to serve as a school.

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