WEST RIDGE — Misericordia’s plans to expand its West Ridge housing campus were approved Thursday by the city’s Plan Commission, moving forward a project that would replace a historic tennis club.
The Catholic nonprofit is seeking to convert the former tennis club grounds at 1925 W. Thome Ave. into a housing campus for about 120 residents.
The new housing would be adjacent to Misericordia’s West Ridge campus, where around 600 developmentally disabled children and adults live and receive support services.
Misericordia wants to expand its housing to help cut down on the 300-person wait list for its residential services, nonprofit officials have said.
But the plans sparked a preservation battle for the former tennis club building, a 1925 structure that was labeled “potentially” significant under the city’s historical survey. Misericordia bought the building for $7.5 million in 2018.
Preservationists and neighbors sought to have Misericordia keep the structure on its campus, but the nearly 100-year-old building could not be retrofitted for those with disabilities, it said.
Some neighbors even asked Misericordia to build more densely on the site so the tennis club building could be saved — but nonprofit leaders said they prefer to house their clients in more traditional home settings.
Efforts to seek a buyer or someone to move and take on the building went until the 11th hour, and the tennis club was demolished in June.
Misericordia plans to build 16 group homes on the site. Two would be built as single-story ranches for people using wheelchairs, while the others would be two-story homes for up to eight residents each.
A private road will be constructed through the housing campus, and green space will be left in the center of the area, while trees will line the new road, renderings show.
Misericordia backed off its plans to make Thome Avenue a private road after hearing from neighbors on the issue.
The campus will look like a normal planned residential development, and that is exactly the idea, said Doug Mosser of HKM Architects, who is working with Misericordia.
“We try to give residents the feel of a home, not an institution,” Mosser said at the Plan Commission on Thursday.
Though the development proposal caused some controversy in the neighborhood, members of the Plan Commission were unwavering in their support.
Chicago Department of Planning and Development Commissioner Maurice Cox acknowledged the preservation fight, but said the new community housing is of greater community need.
“We unfortunately lost that building,” Cox said. “What we will gain is a stronger community and more appropriate accommodations for the population that live there.”
Plan Commission member Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) lauded the plan and said Misericordia’s efforts are “nothing short of miraculous.”
Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th), whose ward includes Misericordia’s campus, is not on the Plan Commission but offered a letter in support of the project.
Misericordia’s plans still need the full approval of the City Council. The organization is hoping to break ground late winter or early spring and have its new housing move-in ready by fall 2022, spokesperson Julie O’Sullivan said.