Apartments for disabled proposed in Des Plaines

Posted3/3/2015 5:30 AM

A 5-story independent living apartment building for people with physical disabilities has been proposed near downtown Des Plaines.

The city council voted 5-2 Monday to approve a zoning change, from commercial to residential, that could pave the way for the 40-unit apartment building at 751 Graceland Ave.


Over the Rainbow Association, the Evanston-based nonprofit behind the development, is requesting three additional variances -- for building setbacks, parking, and number of dwelling units -- that would be considered by the zoning board of appeals and city council.

Alderman Mark Walsten, who voted against the zoning change with Alderman Jim Brookman, said the development could be a "disaster waiting to happen" should the nonprofit's funding for the project dry up.

"It's a great thing to provide housing for people with special needs. I don't know if this is the right place for it," Walsten said. "If funding goes away and all the people have to move someplace else, that development and the owners will want to fill them up with somebody. It's going to be one-bedroom apartments. The question is, what happens to Des Plaines and the downtown then?"

Eric Huffman, Over The Rainbow's executive director, said the nonprofit operates eight independent living apartment buildings throughout Chicago and the suburbs -- and none have been turned over to private ownership.

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"This would be funded through tax credits," Huffman said. "The last thing we'd ever want to do is mess around with the bank."

Residents of other Over The Rainbow properties -- and prospective residents -- spoke in favor of the project.

"I think it's so much more than the taxes and other things," said Courtney Stocking, who lives in an accessible apartment in downtown Arlington Heights. "I want to be a part of the community just like my friends. I think when buildings come along like this, there's a need for them."

Graham Hills, who owns the neighboring G.L. Hills Funeral Home next to the proposed development, raised concerns with the building setbacks and parking plan, which would allow for 36 spaces.

"It's not the people or the organization," Hills said. "It's the building."

The zoning board and council are expected to consider the other zoning changes in April or May.

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