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updated: 6/21/2012 2:22 PM

DuPage agency abandons veterans home plan

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  • Local preservationists are trying to save the McKee house at Churchill Woods Forest Preserve now that a plan to convert the 1930s-era building into a home for veterans has been scrapped.

      Local preservationists are trying to save the McKee house at Churchill Woods Forest Preserve now that a plan to convert the 1930s-era building into a home for veterans has been scrapped.
    Daily Herald file photo


The DuPage Housing Authority officially has scrapped its plan to convert a landmark house at Churchill Woods Forest Preserve into a home for retired veterans.

Instead, it will be up to a group of local preservationists to save the Depression-era house and a related structure at the site along St. Charles Road near Glen Ellyn.

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The two-story limestone house -- built for Robert McKee, the DuPage County Forest Preserve's first superintendent -- and a second building that housed the district's first headquarters, were spared from the wrecking ball in 2006 when the authority signed a lease for the property.

At the time, agency officials announced that the McKee house would be renovated to accommodate up to 11 units for retired veterans. That plan called for the second building to be converted into a home for two caregivers.

But the idea never became a reality. And the authority let the lease expire more than a year ago.

On Thursday, the housing authority board agreed to send a letter to the forest preserve notifying it that there is no longer interest in converting the building into veterans housing -- or any other housing project.

"It doesn't make any sense to continue with this," housing authority board Chairman Thomas Good said.

Authority officials said the idea faced too many obstacles. For example, forest preserve officials have estimated that repairing the buildings to operating standards would cost between $500,000 to $750,000.

Forest preserve Commissioner Mike Formento said the housing authority's decision was expected. So he has been working with the group Citizens for Glen Ellyn Preservation in an attempt to find funding to restore the McKee house.

Formento said the first priority is to replace the roof to stop the house from deteriorating. The ultimate goal is to repair the structure enough where it can be used for various activities, such as weddings.

"The district itself has said that it doesn't want to put any money into the building," Formento said. "It has shuttered it at this particular time."

Formento said it's up to the forest preserve to decide whether it wants to help Citizens for Glen Ellyn Preservation develop the site "into something that would be a benefit to the community."

"It is my sincere hope that we can find a good use for the property," said Formento, adding that the group is planning to make a presentation to the forest preserve board sometime next month.

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