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Uptown in the News  

June 20, 2007
Nursing home could become SRO
By (Lorraine Swanson)

Two organizations are seeking a zoning change to turn the former Carmen Manor Nursing Home at 1470 W. Carmen Ave. into a Single-Room Occupancy (SRO) facility.

Mary Laura Jones, of International Consultants Residential Community, presented plans to about 70 Uptown residents at the Methodist Home for a meeting called by Alderman Helen Shiller, 46th. Jones and several other residents who have lived in an international cooperative community at 4750 N. Sheridan Rd., plan to occupy three floors of the five-story building.

Heartland Housing, a division of Heartland Alliance, will use the remaining floors to provide supportive housing for persons living with HIV/AIDS who are clients of Heartland Housing’s Rafael program. Heartland Housing is also putting the financing together to purchase the nursing home which has been vacant for several years. The property will be leased to Jones’ organization, which will manage the property.

The two organizations are seeking to upzone the property from RT-4 to RM-6, which allows for greater density.

Shiller told residents that she was approached by six or seven developers who wanted to redevelop the site for condominium units, but the property did not have enough parking spaces. The city’s zoning code specifies a minimum of one parking space per dwelling unit for new residential developments. The existing lot only has seven spaces. The parking space requirements for SROs is one parking space per ten units.

“To create anything other than senior housing or an SRO, nobody has been able to come with a proposal that would allow them to have the number of units they would be restricted to, to the amount of parking spaces they can access. (The developers) couldn’t make the parking work,” Shiller said.

Many residents expressed concerns about Rafael residents, citing past experiences with other Uptown SROs whose residents panhandled and caused disturbances in the neighborhood. Andy Geer, executive director of Heartland Housing, said that potential residents who will occupy 32 of the building’s 65 units would undergo drug testing psychiatric evaluations and be closely supervised by round-the-clock staff during their residency.

“Why does (the 46th) ward always have to be so inundated with these programs for special people? Why can’t some of the other wards take a little bit of the burden off of us,” said Anne Owens, who lives about 100 feet from the former nursing home.

Other residents supported the plan, citing Heartland Housing’s established track record of operating clean, well-managed SROs and other affordable housing throughout the city.

“I’ve been in the social work field for 30-plus years and am well acquainted with Heartland Alliance and the great work that they do. We couldn’t be luckier to have Heartland Alliance in our community,” Uptown resident John Volkening said.

Jones’ group hopes to finalize the building’s sale by early September, which will remodel the building’s interior.

A public hearing before the Committee on Zoning is scheduled for June 26 at City Hall 121 S. LaSalle St.**

** The public hearing was postponed until July

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