Chicago developer converts space into “Pandemic pod” classrooms

Optima is converting 4 commercial spaces in its 56-story apartment tower

Optima CEO David Hovey Sr. and 220 E. Illinois Street (Hovey via Optima; Google Maps)
Optima CEO David Hovey Sr. and 220 E. Illinois Street (Hovey via Optima; Google Maps)

School is in session at the Optima Signature, a 56-story apartment tower in Streeterville.

Glencoe-based developer and architectural firm Optima is converting four of its 25 office suites in the 490-unit tower into classrooms, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The plan calls for “pandemic pods” that allow small groups of students to study together in person with a tutor, teacher or parent, the Tribune reported.

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Long-term closures of daycare facilities and schools have pushed some real estate firms to think outside the box.

“For people who are living in the downtown environment, where they might be sharing a smaller space with two working parents and kids, those spaces can get small and loud and distracting,” Optima’s Ali Burnham told the Tribune. “Here, you’re not fighting for space.”

Interest will likely come from families whose children attend the Montessori school in the tower, which is located at 220 E. Illinois St., according to Burnham. The suites cost between $1,800 and $2,400 per month and do not include teachers or tutors.

Apartment building owners are hardly the only operators to consider repurposing space for students. Co-working companies WeWork and Industrious are both considering opening spaces to students. [Tribune] — James Kleimann

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