WEST RIDGE — A key city commission has signed off on plans for the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago to subdivide their sprawling West Ridge campus to make room for a senior living center.
The city’s Plan Commission voted Thursday to approve the development plan, which calls for as many as 100 apartments for older people to be built on the north end of the campus at 7430 N. Ridge Blvd.
Building the senior center would allow the Benedictine Sisters’ to “right size” their campus and care for its aging population of nuns, Sister Judith Murphy, the prioress of the local Benedictine order, said previously.
The request for a zoning change now needs to be reviewed by the Committee on Zoning and the full City Council. If that is approved, the order will look for a developer and operator to build such a facility.
The independent senior living center would be built on the 3 northernmost acres of the nearly 15-acre site. The sisters and consulting firm Plante Moran have conceived of a four-story building and a 134-space parking lot, though a developer would determine the final scope of the project.
Members of the Benedictine Sisters would be able to move into the senior center when it is completed.
The building would sit north of the existing private road into the campus, and it would require the demolition of a two-story structure that houses some of the nuns living on the campus. The project would also require demolishing a garden and a hedge “labyrinth,” though Murphy said she hopes the labyrinth could be re-installed elsewhere on the property.
Ten percent of the units would be affordable, the Benedictine development team said at Thursday’s meeting.
The development would not impact the main monastery building along Ridge Boulevard. Some of the building is used for Cruz School, a K-12 charter school run by Acero. The school operator has a lease on the building through 2024, according to the Benedictine Sisters.
Some of that building is still set up for monastery living, but the facility is too big and inadequate for an aging population of nuns. It’s possible the space can be repurposed, but its age and size wouldn’t work well for senior apartments, Murphy said.
“It’s been adjusted about as much as it could be,” she said.
The Benedictine campus once housed about 200 nuns, but that number has fallen to the mid-20s, Murphy said at a previous community meeting. The average resident is in their early 80s.
Plans for the project were first unveiled at a community meeting in June, with 82 percent of attendees supporting it. Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) endorsed the plan, saying it would allow the sisters “who have committed their lives to charitably giving back to our community, to age in place.”
The Benedictine Sisters came to Chicago in 1861. The order built St. Scholastica Monastery on Ridge Boulevard in 1906 and St. Scholastica Academy the following year.
The high school closed in 2013, citing dwindling enrollment and the cost of running the school.
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