WEST RIDGE — Eager residents got a first glimpse Saturday of the new multi-million dollar Tree House Humane Society cat shelter, slated to open next year.
People began showing up to the open house before its 4 p.m. start to catch a glimpse of the highly-anticipated facility at 7225 N. Western Ave. and participate in Tree House's annual Lights of Love event, which paid homage to beloved people and pets who have passed away.
Work has been underway at the 15,000-square-foot facility for over a year while operations continued out of Tree House's Bucktown clinic at and its original 1212 W. Carmen Ave. location, which opened in 1971.
Now, both properties are set for sale to help complete the last $2 million dollar leg of the shelter's fundraising efforts, which will help cover the costs of high-end clinic equipment as well as furnishings for the new building.
On Dec. 19, clinic in Bucktown at 1629 N. Ashland Ave. will close and begin to make its journey to the new building, where Tree House will provide in-house care to resident cats. Later, another clinic will also open in the facility and will offer discounted services for cats and dogs who are pets of low-income community members, as well as spay and neuter.
The shelter is aiming to open to the public by Summer 2017, with the public clinic expected to open in 2018.
"Like [my co-worker] always says, the cats will let us know when it's time," said Bob Marovich, vice president of Tree House's board of directors. "We of course hoped to be further along by now, but so much of it is up to the fundraising. ... But it really is one of the first animal welfare agencies left in the city built from scratch in a while."
Arya, the cat, was adopted by resident Jessica Black from Tree House in September. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
To help with raising funds, Marovich said many things in the new building will be available for donors to name.
"We're naming everything that doesn't move — and maybe some things that do, we'll see," he said with a laugh.
The space will also offer Chicago's first cat café — a two-room lounge where potential adopters can get a cup of coffee before walking into a separate space containing cats, which has been one of the new shelter's biggest draws since first reported by DNAinfo in March 2015.
The rooms are off the shelter's lobby and separated by a glass partition, with a coffee machine on one side and chairs with adoptable cats on the other. Customers will be allowed to take the coffee into the cat room and relax while waiting for vet services or before moving on to other adoption rooms.
In February, West Ridge Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) sponsored legislation for Tree House and other shelters in the city to open their own in-shelter cafés within certain parameters.
The ordinance bans alcoholic beverages and requires the cafes to be in an enclosed area of a licensed shelter. No food can be served, just drinks such as coffee.
Only service animals are allowed to pass through the café, and drinks are meant for prospective adopters or people otherwise utilizing services at the shelter.
The building also features an adoption room, pet food pantry and small supply shop.
Jennifer Black, a West Ridge resident, showed up to the event with her 6-month-old cat Arya nuzzled in a pet stroller.
Black said she adopted her kitten from Tree House in September and hoped the new building on Western Avenue would entice others to consider adopting, or utilize the shelter's popular feral Cats at Work program.
"I think it looks really neat," Black said. "It's very warm, not cold and sterile ... I hope it encourages more people to come check it out and adopt."
See our photos from inside the new facility below, slated to open next year.
The new building's facade at 7225 N. Western Ave. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
The first room of the cat cafe, where potential adopters can grab a cup of coffee before walking into a cat lounge. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
A glass wall will separate a room where patrons can buy coffee from a lounge full of adoptable cats. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
Stairs from the lobby leading to the second floor. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
Looking down at the lobby. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
The second floor will hold adoption rooms, adoption counseling, an education room and other offices. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
A hallway lined with adoption rooms, which come equipped with cat patios, called "catios." [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
An adoption room, with a catio in the background. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
Cats can walk back and forth through a small door out to enclosed patios. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
The shelter's education and community room. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
Holiday lights decorated the facility during its open house Saturday. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
The shelter will have both in-house and public pet clinics. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
A view from the back, which holds a small parking lot. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here.