Wheaton council reviews early concept for Loretto Convent property

Wheaton's city council is reviewing an early concept plan for the redevelopment of the Loretto Convent property.

City staff members suggested the developer, Pulte Group, bring the plans to the council.

"The intent is to allow a developer to present a proposal without spending significant dollars to get a sense of whether the concept makes any sense or not," City Manager Mike Dzugan said. "It basically gives direction to the applicant as they prepare an application for the zoning process."

Pulte wants to turn the property - located south of Chicago Golf Club and west of Seven Gables Park - into a 48-home, single-family development aimed at people 55 and older looking to downsize their home, but not downgrade. The homes would be a ranch style and include a two-car garage, an integrated outdoor living space and landscaping that would be maintained by an association.

Vince Rosanova, an attorney representing Pulte, said the property is ideal for residential purposes and could provide a new housing option to an underserved and fast-growing segment of the Wheaton-area population.

"More often than not, these folks are already living in our community, where they've established roots, and they want to stay close to their kids and grandkids, but in a house that more appropriately serves them," he said.

The property is owned by the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose sisters have lived and worked at the Loretto Convent since the 1940s. Sister Kay Foley, U.S. province leader of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, said the property needs to be sold to provide a retirement for the remaining sisters.

"We just want to have money to make sure the sisters have decent living quarters because there's nothing coming in," she said. "My hope is that the future of the property will provide the peace and serenity it has provided to us for the past 70 years. When it's necessary for us to move, we will go through a process of embracing what comes our way."

Foley said the sisters have been discussing the need to sell the property for about a decade and have worked with many other developers to negotiate a sale and determine what would be put on the property, but plans keep falling through.

Several residents spoke out against Pulte's proposal Monday. Some expressed a desire to preserve the historical structures on the grounds, including the mansion dating to the late 1800s and a 1950s chapel, while others cited concerns about potential flooding and increased traffic in an area that only has one access point.

Pulte wants to call the development Loretto Club, to recognize the history on the property. Representatives said the buildings that stand on the property are in varying states of disrepair and would be demolished.

If Pulte decides to move forward, a formal application will need to be filed with the city, which will result in the plans being subject to public hearings and review by the zoning board and city council.

"A lot more work would be necessary," Dzugan said. "This is conceptual at this point."

Foley said she didn't hear from Pulte on Tuesday and wasn't sure where they stood after Monday's meeting, but if they do decide to move forward she anticipates they would submit an application in December and likely purchase the property in late spring.

The Wheaton City Council was presented with a concept plan for the Loretto Convent property Monday. Pulte Group wants to turn the property into a 48-home, single family development aimed at people age 55 and older. Daily Herald file photo
Pulte Group is considering submitting an application to the city of Wheaton that would propose the demolition of existing buildings on the Loretto Convent property, to make room for 48 single-family homes. Daily Herald file photo
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