Nonprofit tries again for apartments for disabled near downtown Des Plaines

  • An artist's rendering shows a proposed four-story, 33-unit apartment building in Des Plaines intended for people with physical disabilities.

    An artist's rendering shows a proposed four-story, 33-unit apartment building in Des Plaines intended for people with physical disabilities. Courtesy of Over the Rainbow

Posted9/18/2015 5:45 AM

An organization that wants to open an apartment building for people with physical disabilities has presented scaled-down plans in hopes of winning approval from the Des Plaines city council, though neighbors are still unhappy with the proposal.

Zoning variations for a proposed four-story, 33-unit apartment building at 751 Graceland Ave. on the south side of downtown Des Plaines will be considered by aldermen Monday night, after they rejected a larger version of the building in June.


Over the Rainbow Association, the Evanston-based nonprofit behind the project, considered other sites in Des Plaines, but ended up coming back to the Graceland site because of its proximity to the Metra line.

"A transit-oriented site is absolutely perfect for the type of resident that would live there," said Eric Huffman, Over The Rainbow's executive director, adding that many of those who would live in the building wouldn't have cars.

The latest proposal reduces the number of apartment units from 40 to 33, while taking off an entire floor (from 5 to 4 stories). There would be as many as 33 parking spaces -- one per unit -- though it's still half of the 66 required by code.

Over the Rainbow is seeking a variation for parking, as well as permission to build on a lot of 22,044 square feet, instead of 23,100 square feet.

When the council voted 5-3 to reject Over the Rainbow's original plans in June, some aldermen questioned whether the organization had a long-term commitment to the building. If not, they worried, the building could turn over to private hands -- without enough parking.

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Huffman said none of the organization's 10 properties have failed.

They are funded through tax credit equity under a 30-year regulatory agreement with Cook County.

"We've never sold a building or lost a building or gone back on a promise," he said.

But residents who live nearby believe the project would make Graceland a busier street and make the neighborhood more congested.

Anita Bortnowski, who lives in a condominium building across the street, has collected 100 petition signatures from neighbors opposed to the project.

"The place is too small, the area is very congested, and we believe there are better options for Over the Rainbow to build their facility ... that would be even closer to the train," she said.

One of those locations, the former Sims bowling alley site on Ellinwood Avenue, was examined by Over the Rainbow, but determined not to be feasible, Huffman said.

If approved, the apartment construction could begin next spring and be complete by early 2017.

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