Little City to build new children’s village on Inverness property

The Little City Foundation has striven to provide its young residents with rich, healthy and rewarding lives for the past half-century.

But the cottages more than 50 residents consider home were built in 1959 and designed primarily for children and teens with Down syndrome — not a population so dramatically changed that 80 percent of its residents now have autism.

“The research and knowledge out there recognizes that your standard home isn’t supporting their therapeutic needs,” Director of Research and Project Development Kelly Goldstein said. “We need to build a holistic environment.”

Aiming to provide that therapeutic piece within state-of the-art facilities, the Palatine-based nonprofit agency plans to build a new children’s village, with work on the multiyear project expected to begin this fall.

Combined with the year-old Center for Health and Wellness and the new therapeutic day school set to open this summer, it’s clear Little City is entering a new era.

“We’re establishing a new standard for disability care,” spokeswoman Lisa Hoffmann said.

She declined to disclose the estimated cost of the children’s village, but said everyone is working feverishly to raise the funds.

The organization supports children and adults with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The first phase calls for two homes to be built on the northwest part of the 56-acre campus, Director of Support Services Bob Sears said. When all six homes are completed, they will house 48 residents ages 5 to 21.

With homes currently located along busy Algonquin Road, the new tucked-away site will better protect residents with high risk of “elopement,” or tendency to run.

Last year, Goldstein and staff spent five months researching the ideal environment for children on the autism spectrum. World-renowned autism architect Christopher Beaver also came to campus for a week in February to provide input.

From selecting soothing colors to utilizing full-spectrum lighting instead of fluorescent bulbs, Goldstein said every material will be chosen with a therapeutic and teaching component in mind.

And a common backyard for every two group homes will let kids have fun and activate their senses with features such as rocks, plants and flowers with various textures and smells.

To facilitate the building project, Little City wants to disannex 6.4 acres it owns from Inverness so its entire campus will fall in unincorporated Cook County. That will simplify issue such as building codes and police service.

Village Administrator Curt Carver said one complication was stormwater management. Since discharge will run through Inverness and into Palatine, officials want to make sure Little City develops its infrastructure to meet the village’s code as opposed to different Cook County criteria.

Carver said he expects the village board to approve a disconnection agreement in the next couple of months.

“Little City does good work, and we think it’s rational for them to develop under a single government entity,” Carver said. “We’re willing to work with them.”