Roycemore School officials say they plan to relocate to the Methodist pension board building at 1200 Davis St. in Evanston.

Pension Board HQ

The Methodist pension board building

The school delivered notices to neighbors around the new site this morning announcing a community meeting about the plans to be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 8, at the pension board building.

Roycemore has been in its current building at 640 Lincoln St. since its founding in 1915, but needs a new home because Northwestern University does not plan to renew the school’s 99 year lease on the property.

Roycemore board chairman Tom Ellis says school officials have a purchase and sale agreement with the Methodist group and want to meet with neighbors to solicit their input about the school’s use of the property on the southwest corner of Davis Street and Ridge Avenue.

“We want to be very respectful of the neighbors and the neighborhood,” Ellis said.

The building was constructed for the pension board in 1961 and designed by the Chicago architectural firm Perkins and Will.

School headmaster Joe Becker says that, given the time required to win city approvals and renovate the property, he anticipates the school will remain in its current building “for at least three school years.”

The new site is significantly larger than Roycemore’s current quarters — 74,000 square feet of building space on nearly 2.5 acres, compared to 42,000 square feet on 1.4 acres.

Ellis said the school will need to do substantial renovation work to convert the pension board offices for classroom use.

“There are stricter life-safety issues when it comes to children,” Ellis said, which will complicate the process.

He said the school doesn’t intend to touch the exterior of the building except to spruce it up to bring it to a like-new condition.

He said he wants to talk to neighbors before considering any possible expansion or new construction on the site.

He said the building is well suited for Roycemore’s use, with three separate wings, that mirror the division of the pre-K through 12th grade school into age groupings.

Becker said he would very much like to be able to add a gymnasium to the property, “but we don’t want to make any assumptions about what we can or should do until we’ve heard what the neighbors’ issues, concerns and observations might be.”

He said he believes that traffic generated by the school should be about the same as what’s created by the pension board now.

He said the school has various programs starting and ending at different times through the day so the traffic is spread across the day.

He said the property has enough open space for “a modest playing field” but that it’s not big enough for major sports activities. He said the school is likely to keep playing its soccer games at James Park in southwest Evanston.

Roycemore has about 250 students and its noted for its small class size and individualized instruction.

In a letter to parents Monday school officials said the new location will allow the school to continue “our long and proud tradition as part of Evanston,” will provide easy access to public transportation for students traveling from Chicago and other suburbs and will let the school maintain its close partnerships with Northwestern.

Becker said the initial response from parents “has been very positive.”

The pension board site, on the edge of Evanston’s downtown, is about a block away from District 65’s Dewey Elementary School.

The pension board announced last fall that it plans to move to a new site it has acquired in Glenview, taking with it about 300 jobs. The board also owns the former Rotary International headquarters on the northwest side of the Ridge and Davis intersection. That building is not involved in the Roycemore transaction.

Related stories

Roycemore has moving plans 

Pension board heads for Glenview  

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Roycemore School loses NU lease
    Hmmm. Northwestern is divesting itself of the tenants in a number of their historic and architecturally significant landmark structures. Let’s hope that this doesn’t signal a subsequent divestment of the structures themselves.

  2. Who said that NU is
    Who said that NU is divesting themselves of the Roycemore property? It sounds like the 99 year lease is just coming to an end, and NU wants to use the building for its own purposes.
    The Dawes house – which is not ‘architecturally significant’ – is just a financial sinkhole. It doesn’t make sense for NU to put millions of dollars into fixing a building that only gets 800 visitors each year. If you think it is worth repairing, you can make a donation.

    People in this town attack NU for everything. It’s annoying. Why do you choose to live here if you don’t like NU?

  3. Congrats, Roycemore
    Way to go Roycemore: The school found a new home and stayed in town without taking another piece of property off the tax rolls. Northwestern will now have space to expand without having to take more property off the tax rolls.

    Let’s hope that whatever NU does with the former Roycemore property is kind to the surrounding residential neighborhood.

    1. yes, hooray for Roycemore
      So, to all of those activists who were complaining about NU kicking the poor kids out of their schoolhouse, and demanding that NU explain its behavior …see what happened. The Roycemore board quietly took care of things, and found a new home. ( I think that some of the tenants at 708 Church could learn something from this ) . Yes, it is also nice that they aren’t taking land off the tax rolls , although I was hoping that the Civic Center would be on this land. It’s OK – there are other nice spots for a new Civic Center.
      Congratulations to Roycemore, for finding a new home and most of all for acting like grown ups and recognizing Northwestern’s legal rights and not whining and not starting a lawnsign campaign.

      I guess that the only thing that could go wrong now is the some of the neighbors will find something to complain about. But fortunately, Evanston residents are reasonable people, especially when it comes to zoning matters, so they won’t make a big stink about a little school moving next door. Right?

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