New Independence Library/senior housing project planned for Elston Ave


A new Independence Library is planned for the first floor of an affordable senior housing project which could be built in about 2 years at 4024 N. Elston Ave., according to Alderman John Arena (45th).

Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said that the city has a contract to buy the 24,000-square-foot parcel, where the Hollerbach Funeral Home was once located. The project is part of a partnership between the Chicago Public Library and the Chicago Housing Authority, and similar projects are planned for West Ridge and the Near West Side.

The Independence Library, 3548 W. Irving Park Road, has been closed since a fire damaged it last year. Plans call for the library to reopen in the spring, but a new rental agreement allows the city to terminate the lease once the new library is built, Brugh said.

The library has been located on its existing site since the mid-1990s, and after the fire the city tried unsuccessfully to buy the property, which includes storefronts next to the library. Last year elected officials and community groups called on the city to acqiure land in the Irving Park neighborhood to accommodate a larger facility, and a petition drive was conducted in support of the effort.

“You have one of the busiest libraries in the city, and for 100 years it did not have a permanent home,” Brugh said. The library has always been in a leased space, he said.

Under the proposal the new library would measure between 10,000 and 15,000 square feet, and about 50 to 60 apartments are expected on the upper floors, but details have not been finalized, Brugh said. The city plans to conduct a design contest for each of three projects which would be constructed under the interagency partnership, he said.

“(Mayor Rahm Emanuel) will call on architectural firms to bid on the work and use their creativity to leave a lasting legacy of public art in neighborhoods across Chicago,” a mayoral news release said.