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Ravenswood Senior Housing Development Pits People vs. Parking

By Patty Wetli | February 8, 2016 7:40am
 At a recent community meeting, senior citizens spoke of the need for affordable housing in the 47th Ward.
At a recent community meeting, senior citizens spoke of the need for affordable housing in the 47th Ward.
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

RAVENSWOOD — During a community meeting to discuss a proposed affordable senior housing development in the footprint of the old Ravenswood Hospital, neighbors questioned the priorities of Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) after the councilman bluntly stated, "I'm supporting this unilaterally."

"I take offense at that, that this is a done deal," said Jean Metzler.

"I'm not anti-senior but come over for breakfast at 5 a.m. and see for yourself" the traffic, congestion and noise in the area, Metzler challenged the alderman. "It's intolerable."

The addition of 200 apartments for seniors, in a pocket that just absorbed the newly opened Lycee Francais school, "is absurd," she said. "This is the wrong location. There are other areas where we can do senior living."

Pawar disagreed.

What makes the former hospital site ideal for senior housing is its proximity to public transportation, the Levy Senior Center on Lawrence Avenue, access to shopping and the development's adaptive reuse of an existing nine-story building, he said.

Where else in the ward could a developer raise a building of that height to accommodate high demand for affording senior housing? Pawar asked.

The last unconverted building on the former Ravenswood Hospital site is being proposed for affordable senior housing. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

"I have a responsibility to represent everyone," he said. "I can't tell you how many seniors come into my office and say, 'I'm going to sell [my house], what do I do next?' A lot of people have been priced out of the community."

With a four-year waiting list at other affordable senior developments in the ward, such as the Martha Washington at Western Avenue and Irving Park Road, Pawar said the Ravenswood project would offer a much-needed alternative.

"You want to be able to provide a spectrum of options for people as they age," he said. "You can't just have young families moving in and moving out."

The supportive living component, which gives financial assistance to residents when they've depleted other funds, would be a first for the ward, Pawar noted.

Opposition to the development — a 10-story tower that would consist of 74 independent living apartments and 120 supportive living units — centered largely on a lack of parking in the area bounded by Ravenswood, Damen, Montrose and Lawrence avenues.

Side streets are already choked with the cars of people looking to avoid paying for metered parking, whether it's the patrons and employees of nearby businesses or folks commuting on CTA and Metra, neighbors complained.

Adding 200 residential units, plus supportive living staff and potential visitors would only exacerbate the problem, people said.

Project developer Stephen Rappin, president of Evergreen Real Estate Services, said the proposal included 105 parking spaces reserved for residents and staff in an adjacent parking garage.

Residents and staff of the senior complex would park in this garage. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

The garage's ownership is shared among all the owners of properties that were formerly part of the hospital's campus: the Lycee Francais school, an apartment building, an office complex and the planned senior development.

Jerry Finis, CEO of Pathway Senior Living, which will manage the complex once it's occupied, said that very few of the supportive living residents — average age of 82 — would drive.

He added that staff would rarely amount to more than 15 people at any one time, and that occupants of the independent living apartments typically require half a parking space per unit.

"There should be more than adequate parking," Finis said.

The Rev. Bonnie Perry, pastor of All Saints Episcopal Church, was among those at the meeting who registered her support for the development.

"I've lived in this neighborhood for 24 years. I've watched people get priced out of this neighborhood over and over and over again," Perry said.

"This is what I have longed for and hoped for," she said.

Helene Wineberg, a founding member of Forward Chicago, a nonprofit with a mission of helping people "age in place" in the 47th Ward, also spoke out in favor of the project.

"We live in one of the greatest neighborhoods," Wineberg said. "Let's keep it for the people who built it."

"The fact that we have a parking issue means that we're driving too much," she said.

About the site

A view of the entire Ravenswood Hospital campus. Front right is the proposed senior development, front left is an apartment building, rear left is an office building and the gray building on the rear right is Lycee Francais. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

Founded in 1907, Ravenswood Hospital eventually grew to encompass four buildings, including residence housing for nursing school students. After the hospital's controversial closing in 2002, one of the buildings was converted to apartments and another to medical offices.

Lycee Francais, which had long outgrown its rented digs on Irving Park Road near the lakefront, bought the main hospital building and began the lengthy demolition and asbestos abatement process in late 2012.

The final remaining building on the hospital campus, formerly a neurological center, is the one slated for senior housing, at 4501 N. Winchester Ave.

About the project

The building's entrance will be brought to grade level. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

Evergreen Real Estate Services, which specializes in housing for seniors, from independent living to memory care (Alzheimer's, for example), is under contract to purchase the former neurological center.

According to Stephen Rappin, the company's president, Evergreen owns and/or manages 60 buildings across nine states, including a new senior housing development in Englewood.

Converting the Ravenswood property is expected to cost approximately $25 million.

The building will retain its existing height of 138 feet, according to the project's architect Mike Jerabek of the firm Worn Jerabek Wiltse.

The building's staggered number of floors, varying between seven and nine, will be squared off, adding 25,000 square feet to the current 173,000. The existing ninth floor, which is 17 feet high, will be split in half, creating a 10th floor.

Another major alteration: more windows, which will give the building a residential as opposed to institutional look and feel.

The front entrance, now seven feet high, will be brought to grade level. The first floor will include space for medical offices.

All of the units will qualify as "affordable," with income requirements ranging from $35,000 down to nothing, according to Jerry Finis.

Rents will be charged on a sliding scale, likely between $600 and $800 per month, which, on the supportive living side, includes three meals a day, utilities, laundry and other services.

"If this were market rate, it would be $4,000 a month," Finis said.

The process for accepting residents has yet to be determined, leaving opponents skeptical of the assertion that the development will benefit the ward's low-income seniors.

"These people saying, 'Let us stay here,' they're not going to get in," said Jean Metzler.

Renderings of the senior living building from the northwest view: existing and proposed. [All renderings by Worn Jerabek Wiltse Architects]

Renderings of building from the southwest view: existing and proposed.

Renderings of building from the southeast view: existing and proposed.

Renderings of building from the northeast view: existing and proposed.

Site plan shows location of senior housing in relation to Lycee Francais.

A rendering of the building's lobby.


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