Outdoor rec space sought on New Horizon Center Grounds


The New Horizons Center for Children and Adults with Developmental Disabilities and Autism, 6737 W. Forest Preserve Drive, is planning to build a recreational green space on an adjoining 1.25-acre parcel that it is acquiring from the City of Chicago for $1.

Alderman Timothy Cullerton (38th) said that the vacant parcel is part of an industrial complex, which includes Eli’s Cheesecake World, that the city set up in the late 1990s on the Read-Dunning site. Cullerton is seeking to amend two plan development ordinances which govern the zoning of the site to allow the sale of the land.

The Chicago Plan Commission is scheduled to hold a hearing on the project at its meeting at 1 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 18, in the Council Chamber at City Hall.

The 47-year-old New Horizons Center, which moved to its current facility in 2006, plans to spend about $100,000 next year to clear the land, install a storm water retention system and plant grass. "In its current state, it is unusable," center managing director Patti Palmer said of the parcel.

The center hopes to raise $500,000 over the next 3 to 5 years to pay for the addition of pathways and athletic fields with surfaces that would be able to accommodate the adaptive needs of the center’s clients including those who use wheelchairs or bicycles, Palmer said. A shelter also is planned to allow clients who are sensitive to the sun to spend time outside, she said.

The center’s staff currently blocks off a portion of the facility’s parking lot for many of its outdoor activities. "We don’t have an outdoor space that is safe other than a small playground," Palmer said.

The nonprofit New Horizons Center offers educational and training programs which address the "physical and intellectual challenges" that its clients face, Palmer said. The 31,000-square-foot center includes a school with 55 students age 3 to 22 and a separate program for 30 adults.

The center’s original facility when it opened in 1967 was in the former residences of doctors who worked at the Chicago-Read Mental Health Center.