CHICAGO-A redevelopment project that will grow from $14 million to more than $40 million is coming to the site of what used to be the oldest alcohol treatment centers in the US. The former Martha Washington Hospital at the northeast corner of Irving Park Road and Western Avenue is slated to be replaced by 300 units of affordable and market-rate senior housing.

The proposal by Catholic Charities Housing Development and Technical Assistance Corporation for Housing has been recommended to the city council by the plan commission, after objections that the plans were a radical departure from designs normally presented by the department of planning and development.

Plan commission member Doris B. Holleb notes the three buildings of 80 to 104 units would be constructed in the center of the 7.7-acre site, “in a sea of parking.” However, department of planning and development deputy commissioner Jack Swenson counters that design was favored by the neighborhood, which did not five-story buildings along Irving Park Road. “It’s a challenge to meet the two conflicting goals here,” he explains, adding the current buildings’ setbacks are objectionable to neighbors.

“This goes against every urban planning rule and concept we know of,” counters plan commission member Linda Searl. “I think it’s a completely wrong plan. It goes against all the concepts we’ve talked about, at least in the five years I’ve been here.”

The project is able to move forward, says 47th Ward Alderman Eugene Schulter, with Advocate Health Care Corp. upping a land donation from three acres to five acres. “For affordable senior housing, the land costs need to be zero, or close to it,” he explains.

The co-developers are paying fair market value for the remaining two-plus acres, Schulter says. Advocate Health Care Corp., which acquired the former Ravenswood Hospital, is selling the property as it consolidates operations.

Rezoning of the site will allow for senior housing and related uses, such as the continued operation of a medical center on Western Avenue. However, three buildings are vacant—one housed state Department of Children and Family Services offices, another was the Henry J. Klutch School of Nursing while another was a community mental health center.

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