Congregation proposes synagogue, recovery home at former Forge Club in Vernon Hills
A long-vacant building and property along Milwaukee Avenue in Vernon Hills could be revived as a synagogue and related uses.
The ambitious plan by Anshe Tikvah (People of Hope) would re-use and expand the former Forge Club south of Corporate Woods Parkway for multiple activities, including what would be the first Jewish, licensed substance abuse recovery home in Illinois.
The proposal envisions a synagogue, a recovery residence, an outpatient pastoral counseling center and a kosher commercial kitchen.
The synagogue would be a 3,666-square-foot addition to the front of the building and seat 250 people for worship services, religious education and events.
The recovery home would offer spiritual and community social support for residents in early recovery, according to Cantor Rabbi Rob Jury. Up to 12 adults would live on the premises for as long as two years, according to the proposal.
"This is what brings long-lasting, long-standing recovery," Jury said.
Outpatient and/or spiritual counseling would be provided by licensed mental health professionals for individuals, families and small groups. A kosher commercial kitchen would be rented to a caterer or other business seeking space and would serve as a job training center for residents.
Jury said Anshe Tikvah has been considering a multiuse facility for years, and if approved would move all operations to Vernon Hills as a permanent home. Anshe Tikvah received a grant from the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago to explore the viability of a Jewish recovery home.
The village board during its informal work session Tuesday was receptive to Jury's presentation.
"I have no problem with this concept," said Trustee Jim Schultz. "We've been trying to figure out hat to do with the Forge Club for who knows how long."
For more than 40 years until it closed in late 2013, the Forge Club was a members-only enclave that combined elegance and rustic charm fashioned after the Anvil Club in East Dundee. The vacant building sits on 5.3 acres adjoining Lifetime Fitness health club in the Corporate Woods office park.
In 2016, a proposal for 70 townhouses was informally rejected by the board as not being appropriate for the site. A revised townhouse plan also was denied.
The proposal by Buffalo Grove-based Anshe Tikvah is the first since.
"I think this is an outstanding re-use of this piece of property," said Trustee Thom Koch.
Trustee David Oppenheim said he was concerned with security but was assured by Jury a comprehensive review and assessment would be done.
Schultz said he wondered whether there would be opposition to the proposed recovery home and referenced a proposal in 2017 by US HealthVest LLC for a psychiatric hospital in a vacant office building on Milwaukee Avenue that was withdrawn.
Jury founded the congregation in 2005. Anshe Tikvah is a nonprofit organization to "promote the Jewish values of healthy living and recovery; to support the healing of body, mind, and spirit; and to support a Jewish spiritual basis for living," he said.
Anshe Tikvah holds its High Holy Day worship at Stevenson High School's performing arts center and has held its annual gala in Vernon Hills the past eight years.
A detailed staff review of the architectural design and other elements of the plan, including parking and potential wetland impact, will proceed in advance of a public hearing. Jury estimated the review, approval and building process could take 18 months or more.