CITY HALL — A renowned Lincoln Park homeless agency breezed through a City Council hearing Thursday with no opposition whatsoever to its expansion into Old Town.
The Zoning Committee approved the plans of Lincoln Park Community Services to buy a property at 1521 N. Sedgwick St. and build a five-story addition there for 20 permanent residences and 48 others for homeless people making the transition to their own homes.
After prevailing over local residents concerned about their property values in a Plan Commission meeting last month, the agency faced no opposition from aldermen or the public at City Hall on Thursday.
Lakeview Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) recalled how the agency had prevailed over substantial public opposition a dozen years ago when it first moved its homeless shelter into the basement of Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church, 600 W. Fullerton Parkway.
"It was very controversial," Tunney said. "It doesn't seem to be very controversial today."
Agency attorney Thomas Moore called it "the gold standard of shelters" and pointed out it had since developed a "comprehensive" approach to addressing homelessness through medical, mental and employment counseling, with a 76 percent success rate in getting the homeless into their own places.
Public opposition evaporated ahead of Thursday's Zoning Committee.
"We believe we have very strong support" from politicians and the public in Old Town, Moore said, adding that was reflected in a public meeting on the proposal.
Ald. Michele Smith (43rd), whose ward includes Lincoln Park Presbyterian, called the agency "an excellent neighbor" and applauded the expansion, saying, "It's not a relocation because they need it. It's because they've been so successful."
Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) welcomed the expansion into his ward. "We support this," he said. "It's the right thing to do."
Ald. Danny Solis (25th), committee chairman, called it "a great project."
According to Moore, the agency will take a $4.5 million state grant that needs to be spent this year to buy the former Culinablu property, then add a $2.5 million city grant and $6 million from its own fundraising to alter it to specifications.
Executive Director Dan Hula said afterward it would house the agency's main offices as well as the new residences for the homeless.
Agency plans, if all else goes smoothly, were to break ground on the addition early next year, with completion of the project a year after that.