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Suburban Chicago Kmart begins transformation into innovative new school

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This vacant big box store in suburban Waukegan is on its way to becoming a state-of-the-art educational facility

JGMA

After many months of planning and fundraising, a project to convert an empty Waukegan, Illinois Kmart store into a new campus for Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep is underway. With preliminary interior demolition inside the 115,000-square-foot vacant big box store moving now forward, the site at 3110 Belvidere Road prepares to eventually serve over 400 students from families with limited financial resources. The school had severely outgrown its current 30,000-square-foot facility and began looking for a new home two years ago.

The $17 million adaptive reuse project will see CRSM’s new campus feature 18 classrooms, three science laboratories, administrative offices, a cafeteria, library, and a 2,000-square-foot outdoor patio. According to McShane Construction, the group selected to lead the renovation, the exterior of the existing structure will be enhanced with CMU block masonry, fiber cement, and a new aluminum curtainwall. Inside, the former retail space will be flooded with natural light thanks to a partial roof replacement featuring strips of glass and no less than 29 individual skylights.

JGMA
Image courtesy of McShane Construction

The school’s rather unorthodox appearance comes courtesy of JGMA, a Chicago-based architecture firm founded by Columbian-born designer Juan Gabriel Moreno in 2010. With an emerging expertise in crafting socially-conscious projects utilizing creative materials designed to work within the smaller budgets of non-prophet organizations, the CRSM conversion is just the kind of project that Moreno and company seem to relish.

JGMA is also behind Chicago’s blue and yellow-finned El Centro campus of Northeastern Illinois University which hugs the curve of the Kennedy Expressway. Upcoming local projects include the Esperanza Health Center planned for Brighton Park and the KLEO Center live/work development catering to artists in Washington Park.

The first phase of the Waukegan CRSM project will occupy 55,000 square feet (roughly half) of the vacant retail complex and is expected to be completed at the end of January 2018. Future phases are likely to include more laboratories, fine arts facilities, a fitness center, chapel, and additional athletic amenities.

JGMA