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CHICAGO-Easter Seals of Metropolitan Chicago Inc. will build a 45,000-sf therapeutic day school for children with autism on a city block that includes the 1900 blocks of West 13th and West Hastings streets. The organization is getting the land, most recently appraised at $2.5 million, for $1 from the city, according to a proposal endorsed Tuesday by the community development commission.

The day school is expected to cost $14 million and serve up to 144 children, says department of planning and development project manager Erik Glass. It is expected to open in September 2007. A gymnasium and pool could be built as early as 2008, and the last phase could include housing for older autistic children on a campus located in the Illinois Medical District.

“We are set to embark on a one-of-a-kind project,” says Easter Seals of Metropolitan Chicago president and chief executive officer F. Timothy Muri. The campus, which may take more than three years to complete, will provide room for educational programs, vocational training, job placement and “cutting-edge” research on the causes of autism, he says. “It’s much bigger than Chicago, when you look at the societal impact.”

In addition to the land write-down, Easter Seals of Metropolitan Chicago has landed a $4-million state grant, as well as a $7-million loan from Harris Bank, Glass says.Newcastle Ltd. has been hired as development manager for the project, which is being designed by Solomon Cordwell Benz. Easter Seals of Metropolitan Chicago is negotiating with Executive Construction Inc. to serve as general contractor.

“I think it’s one of the best programs we can have in that area,” says 2nd Ward Alderman Madeleine Haithcock. “It falls in line.”

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