Editorial: Redevelopment of Aurora site highlights the benefit of public-private partnerships

The former Copley Hospital stood as an eyesore for nearly a quarter of a century on the east side of Aurora.

Its vacant buildings attracted vandals and trespassers. The deterioration of the 9-acre property at Lincoln and Weston avenues was affecting the neighborhood and community.

"No one knew what to do or had the resources or wherewithal to make something happen," Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin said.

But that changed, thanks to some visionary and resourceful cooperation between a private company and several public agencies.

The city planned to spend as much as $10 million to demolish the roughly 340,000 square feet of buildings and turn the site into green space. However, Irvin says he always hoped the property could be something more.

Then Fox Valley Developers LLC got involved in late 2017. The group of local investors envisioned converting the campus into senior housing, residences for adults with disabilities and medical offices.

Fox Valley Developers started by removing asbestos, lead and other toxins from the buildings while securing and preserving the campus for redevelopment. It then worked with the city, Fox Valley Park District and East Aurora School District 131 to continue a $128 million investment into what is now being called Bloomhaven. The city, for example, offered financial incentives for the project.

"This is the largest development ever on the east side of the city of Aurora," Irvin said.

There has been significant progress made on the project. A former nurses' dormitory has become the new headquarters for District 131. And the park district has opened a small park with a playground and splash pad on the east end of the property.

Bloomhaven is providing a boost to the surrounding neighborhood. City officials say there's been "a domino effect of positivity" because of the improvements made to the property. Homeowners have a renewed sense of pride in the area.

Meanwhile, the housing on the campus is poised to open in the spring.

"We are where we want to be considering delays from COVID," said Michael Poulakidas of Fox Valley Developers. "It's a testament to the public-private partnership and everybody working in unison."

Bloomhaven is a prime example of what local governments can do if they work with the private sector to tackle big problems.

Neither the city of Aurora nor Fox Valley Developers could have transformed the historic campus alone. By working together, they breathed new life into the property.

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