Lutheran Home will be getting a major renovation and expansion after the Arlington Heights village board approved the project Tuesday night after several hours of public comment and questions.
The senior living community received several variances to allow for renovation and additions to the Olson Pavilion, 800 W. Oakton St., as a part of a plan to modernize its facilities.
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Trustees approved the project by a vote of 7-0, although several trustees had questions about parking and the amount of green space. Trustees Joseph Farwell and Bert Rosenburg excused themselves because of conflicts of interest.
"A community is judged by how they care for their elderly, and Arlington Heights has been above board with everything. We want to continue that excellence and quality of care that we've had for the past 120 years," said Roger Paulsberg, president and CEO of Lutheran Life Communities.
The health care pavilion has 252 rooms for both rehabilitation and long-term nursing home patients, but since the infrastructure was built in the 1970s, officials say it is time for updates, including more parking and private bathrooms in each room.
The main building will have 162 rooms after the remodeling, and a 78-room addition is planned for a new wing, reducing the total number of rooms available to 240, said Charles Perkins, planning and community development director for the village.
After a packed plan commission meeting last month, where the proposal was approved by a 5-4 vote, petitioners made several changes to address problems of parking, drainage and landscaping that several residents said were concerns.
The project includes a plan total of 437 parking spaces, up from the 322 on-site now. The Lutheran Home will also discontinue third-party special events and funerals that added parking concerns for neighbors.
Lutheran Home will ask all employees to register their cars and will hire a full-time parking enforcement officer, said Roger Paulsberg, president and CEO of Lutheran Life Communities.
Paulsberg added that concerns about stormwater management will be addressed with two underground storage chambers that he said will increase detention on the site by 55 percent.
More than 50 people spoke before the board voted, with the majority of those comments including positive stories from people who had family members or friends stay at Lutheran Home over the years.
But for some residents, the changes weren't enough as a few spoke out against the expansion further encroaching on a residential area.
"The issue is not whether the Lutheran Home is a good institution. They do wonderful work for the people," said Karen Dorn, who said she lives directly across from the institution. "We aren't happy to look out from our bedroom window and see a four-story building. If we wanted that we would have lived in downtown Arlington Heights.
The project is expected to take several years to complete and supporters said they hope it allows Lutheran Home to continue to serve seniors in the future.
"We are very fortunate to have such a fantastic facility in Arlington Heights," said Village President Arlene Mulder.
Mulder voted for the project, while asking the petitioners to take the concerns neighboring residents into consideration during and after construction.
"There is obviously a growing need as people's life expectancy continues to grow, as long as we have a place to grow old, and Lutheran Home has provided that," she said.