Danish Home expansion OK’d by zoning panel
by BRIAN NADIG
The City Council Zoning Committee approved the proposed construction of two lateral three-story additions to the Danish Home retirement facility, 5656 N. Newcastle Ave., in Norwood Park earlier this month.
Committee chairman Tom Tunney (44th) said at the Dec. 1 meeting that it was a "gorgeous, gorgeous project." Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st) issued a letter of support for the project, and last year the 41st Ward Zoning Advisory Committee endorsed the proposal.
The proposal calls for the two additions to be constructed at the rear of the main complex, a portion of which was built in 1907. The brick exterior of the additions would include limestone accents, and a new entryway and a reconfigured front driveway also are planned.
The proposal also 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 maximum number of beds at the facility would remain unchanged at 87, but project have officials have agreed to limit the actual number of beds to 59, which would include assisted living and skilled nursing units.
"These are enhancements to the quality of life for the existing residents," project attorney Sara Barnes told the committee. "They are not seeking to increase occupancy."
The proposal has received pushback from some residents who live near the site, as 45 people signed a petition opposing the project. The petition was submitted to the Chicago Plan Commission, which at its Nov. 19 meeting approved the proposal.
Some residents have expressed concern that one of the additions be constructed with no setback along the alley behind their garages and that the project could worsen existing flooding problems on Newcastle.
Another concern has been that the larger units might attract younger retirees who may be more likely to drive, creating a parking problem.
Napolitano’s chief of staff Chris Vittorio said that the project would include on-site storm water retention improvements. He added that even with the larger units, the Danish Home still plans to continue to cater to older residents without cars who will be taking advantage of the meal service and the shuttle bus. The average age of those living there is expected to remain in the mid-to-late 80s, he said.
The proposal calls for the creation of nine new parking spaces off a private rear alley, and the city is establishing a grant of privilege for about 30 existing parking spaces on West Hurlbut Street. The Danish Home has been removing snow and providing other maintenance for the Hurlbut spaces for decades, according to project officials.
"This parking (on Hurlbut) will be made available to the public, as needed, so to further minimize traffic congestion and parking deficiencies in the neighborhood," according to a document from the city Department of Planning an Development.
The project requires an amendment to the planned development ordinance that governs the site’s zoning. Danish Home officials have said that the project may be built in phases depending on the fund-raising for it.
The council could vote on the proposal at its Dec. 16 meeting.