UPTOWN — A development team has scaled back plans to turn the historical American Islamic College campus in Uptown into a residential complex that would include a new senior living tower.
Developers K Giles LLC and CA Ventures unveiled new plans Wednesday for the proposed redevelopment of the college campus at Irving Park Road and Marine Drive into apartments. The revised plans include 437 units, with 192 units in a 22-story senior living building that would rise from a current parking lot.
Those building plans are pared back from the developer’s initial proposal, which would have brought 495 total units and a 27-story building to the college campus. Plans for the project were first announced in early 2020.
But after meeting with neighbors, the development team reduced the project’s scale in an effort to quell concerns about density and overcrowding in the Buena Park area, said Rolando Acosta, attorney for the development team.
Other concessions were included in the revised plan, including more two-bedrooms units, parking spots for nearby neighbors and a new entrance off Marine Drive to help keep traffic off of residential Bittersweet Place.
“We’ve heard your comments and we’ve taken your comments seriously,” Acosta said at a community meeting Wednesday. “We believe there is a need in this community for a modern, state-of-the-art senior living facility.”
The plans now call for the existing school buildings on the American Islamic College campus to be converted into 245 apartments. Units would be a mix of studios, one-bedrooms and five, two-bedroom apartments.
A parking lot behind the school buildings would house the new, 22-unit senior living complex with 192 units of independent living, assisted living and memory care.
Twenty percent of the overall unit count — or 69 units — will be deemed affordable under the city’s affordable requirements ordinance. Of those affordable units, 49 would be in the redeveloped school campus buildings while 20 will be in the senior living building.
The base of the new building would hold 96 parking spaces, while an existing lot off Irving Park Road will have 22 spaces.
The proposed tower has also undergone a design change. Earlier renderings showed a largely glass-and-steel tower. The new design includes more masonry, especially around the building’s base, to help it blend in more with the federally protected school campus it will inhabit, Acosta said.
Design plans have preliminary approval from the city, state and federal historic protection agencies, he said.
While the overall unit count was pared down from 495 to 437 and the height of the proposed tower reduced by over 60 feet, the 118 parking spaces have remained constant through the project planning, Acosta said. At one point, the senior living center was pitched as a 23-story tower.
Those concessions came after a years-long back-and-forth with the Buena Park Neighbors Association.
Concerns from neighbors included too much density in a largely built-up part of Uptown, not enough family-sized units and possible worsening of traffic and parking issues in the neighborhood, said Alex Wolking, the Buena Park representative on Ald. James Cappleman’s (46th) zoning and development committee.
Other neighbors said the building project would pose issues for the residences on Bittersweet Place, which shares a street with the college campus.
“We have concerns this development is an over-development,” one neighbor said. “You have to do a smart development that doesn’t decimate the area and make Buena Park a place people don’t want to live.”
Others said a development such as this is a way to ensure the future of the historic campus that — for now — houses the American Islamic College.
The American Islamic College has resided since 1983 in the Uptown campus originally built as Immaculata High School.
Opened in 1921, Immaculata High School was an all-girls Catholic institution. It was designed by Barry Byrne, who worked under Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1983, the school complex received Chicago Landmark status.
The high school shuttered in 1981, with the American Islamic College inhabiting the campus two years later.
Now, the college is seeking a new location that would put it on more solid financial footing, President Timothy Gianotti said at the community meeting Wednesday. The college was founded without an endowment, and upgrades to the historical campus have gotten too costly for the college, he said.
Gianotti said it is a “historical inevitability” that a redevelopment of the 100-year-old campus take place to ensure its future viability.
“The American Islamic College has struggled financially for 40 years,” he said. “Our only hope now is to relocate.”
The development team is under contract to buy the property from the college. The development, however, still needs zoning approval from the city.
Cappleman’s advisory zoning and development committee will schedule a meeting to consider the proposal after Buena Park neighbors gather feedback on the revised plans, said Kylie Ruscheinski, the alderman’s chief of staff.
If the project garners support of the committee and Cappleman, it will then need to be approved by the City Council.
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