Group OK’s expansion of Danish Home
by BRIAN NADIG
The 41st Ward Zoning Advisory Committee at its Nov. 6 meeting approved the planned expansion of the Danish Home retirement facility and recommended changes to a proposed row house complex.
The committee voted 5-3, with one abstention, to support an amendment to the existing planned development ordinance governing the retirement home at 5656 N. Newcastle Ave. The committee’s votes, which serve as a recommendation to Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st), are typically not that close.
Many homeowners who live near the home had called for the project to be scaled back, but the committee rejected those pleas.
"This is just too big. It doubles the size of the building," area resident and zoning attorney Lawrence Lusk said.
Some residents also have expressed concern that the proposed three-story addition would be located too close to an alley behind their homes since a portion of the addition would have no setback.
Project officials said that the setback would be similar to the existing setback along the alley for part of the current building.
The proposal would increase the size of the building from about 35,000 to 67,000 square feet in large part to allow for larger living units inside the facility.
The number of independent and assisted living units in the complex would increase from 29 to 39 and the number of skilled nursing beds from 17 to 20.
The committee’s approval was contingent on project officials agreeing to conditions that would become part of the development ordinance, including a limit on the number of beds to 59. The home’s license allows up to 87.
In addition, the committee is requiring that nine on-site parking spaces be added to the complex and that a planned loading zone for trucks to be made larger in an effort to keep them out of the alley.
The Danish Home also has agreed to seek a formal agreement, called a "grant of privilege," with the city that would allow it to maintain the 30 parking spaces along West Hurlbut Avenue in front of the property. The parking spaces would continue to be available to the general public.
In the early 1990s, the Danish Home reportedly entered into an agreement with the city to install diagonal parking on Hurlbut to satisfy parking requirements, but the agreement was never formalized.
Danish Home chief executive officer Scott Swanson said that 75 percent of the property would remain green space under the proposal and that the facility would continue to cater to seniors in their 80s and older.
"We are not an active senior community," Swanson said. He added that the facility hosts an array of on-site activities and offers a shuttle service.
Meanwhile, a proposal to build eight, four-story row house units on the site of a parking lot at 5005 N. Harlem Ave. was met with mixed reaction from committee members.
Concerns were raised that the planned driveway along Harlem Avenue did not have a turnaround to accommodate garbage trucks and other larger vehicles, forcing them to have to back onto the main thoroughfare when exiting the complex. There is no alley access to the site.
In addition, several committee members asked for aesthetic improvements to the complex, expressing concern that the sidewalls of the front units would be facing Harlem.
The proposed 2,500-square-fot units would include rooftop decks, two-car garages and three or four bedrooms. The starting price would be about $450,000, according to project officials.
The plan calls for the parcel to be rezoned from B3-1 to B2-3, which allows for ground-floor residential use in a business district. The development team is expected to present revisions to the proposal at a future meeting of the committee.