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Broadway Youth Center Gains Neighbors' Cautious Approval for Special Permit

By Serena Dai | September 11, 2013 7:12am
 Howard Brown Health Center representatives ask a neighborhood group for approval to run Broadway Youth Center in a local church.
Howard Brown Health Center representatives ask a neighborhood group for approval to run Broadway Youth Center in a local church.
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DNAinfo/Serena Dai

LAKEVIEW — Neighbors have agreed to support the Broadway Youth Center's efforts to operate at the Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ — as long as they have veto power if the youth health services provider decides to change its hours.

The Broadway Youth Center, a Howard Brown Health Center program, is looking to keep its youth services at the church, 615 W. Wellington Ave., for the long term, said Michelle Wetzel, Howard Brown's general counsel.

South East Lake View Neighbors questioned whether the center had the right to offer medical services in the church after it moved there this summer. Wetzel found that their services did require a special use zoning permit, something Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) must approve.

Tunney is allowing the center to continue operations at the church without the permit because they are in the process of obtaining it, said Erin Duffy, the alderman's community relations director.

Wetzel and other Howard Brown representatives went to the South East Lake View neighborhood group meeting this week to ask for support.

But with worries of crime in Lakeview and a fear that social services are attracting it, some neighbors were wary of giving the center too much flexibility. Several people asked that the center put in writing that services would not go past 8 p.m. and that they would never host young people overnight.

"There has been a sudden increase in crime in Wrigleyville, Lakeview," said Mike Demetriou, vice president of the group. "This doesn't seem to be the solution."

Wetzel did not want to put a cap on the center's time into writing yet — "If we need to go to 8:15, we have the flexibility," she said — but she said the center would not be offering overnight services. She also said it's unlikely that the center will stray from its current program, where health services end at 8 p.m. weekdays.

The church's other offerings would also make it difficult for the center to continue services late into the night. In the evenings, the church hosts programs for 12-step substance abuse, and TimeLine Theatre needs access to the building at night.

But the attempt to ease neighbors' fears failed. They believe in the center's work, neighbors said, they just want written assurance that hours won't change without their consent. Without that veto power, the group said it would not support the current permit application, potentially leaving Broadway Youth Center without a space to operate.

Wetzel ultimately agreed that the neighborhood group could treat any change in the center's hours as a new application for special use. 

"We’re trying to operate by consensus," she said. "We’re trying to do this in partnership with the community."