Former Ravenswood Hospital refurbished for senior tenants

In partnership with the Chicago Housing Authority and others, Evergreen Real Estate Group nears the finish line on an $81 million project that needed a change in state law to proceed.

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Ravenswood Senior Living is a senior living facility at 1922 W. Sunnyside Ave.

Ravenswood Senior Living is a new approach to housing for low-income seniors that brings independent living and assisted-care under one roof.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

For years, a principal building of the old Ravenswood Hospital stood as a blight in its otherwise upscale North Side neighborhood.

Neighbors were worried about people who had broken into the 10-story building, which was marred by graffiti. The building had no power and, for a time, a flooded basement, said David Block, director of development for Evergreen Real Estate Group.

Now the transformation at 1922 W. Sunnyside Ave. is practically done. After $81 million in work, it has reopened as Ravenswood Senior Living, a new approach to housing for low-income seniors. It combines in a single location a section devoted to independent living and another for seniors who need care.

Evergreen leads the project, with backers that include the Chicago Housing Authority. Block said residents have started moving into the 74 independent living units, while the 119 assisted living units will get tenants starting later this month.

David Block is the Director of Development at Evergreen Real Estate Group.

David Block, director of development at Evergreen Real Estate Group

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Block said the project is designed to serve seniors whose needs change as they age. The independent living units are being occupied by seniors on the CHA’s waiting list. “For them, there really aren’t good options as they become frailer,” he said. “Here, they can get more services without having to move.’’

It couldn’t have happened without a change in state law.

Illinois used to bar facilities licensed under its Supporting Living Program, an alternative to nursing homes, from being under the same roof with something else. That ended with legislation enacted in 2018, backed by then-state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz and state Rep. Greg Harris, Chicago Democrats. Feigenholtz now is a state senator.

It permitted assisted living for seniors within a mixed-use building, provided that the different functions have separate entrances and their own common spaces and staffs.

“Ravenswood Senior Living is one of the first developments of its kind in the country,” Feigenholtz said in a statement. “It was essential to be able to both offer affordable, continuum-of-care housing for our community seniors and preserve the historic Ravenswood Hospital building for future generations.”

Built in 1974, the hospital closed in 2002. Several developers were interested in the site but couldn’t get a deal together. Many residents argued that any new housing there should be affordable.

The CHA is a key financial partner, providing $22.5 million in financing and tenants for the independent living units. They will pay 30% of their income in rent. CHA officials said 29 of the 74 independent living units have yet to be assigned residents.

Many will come from Lathrop Homes at 2000 W. Diversey Ave., said the agency’s CEO, Tracey Scott. Lathrop is being redeveloped into a mixed-income property.

“This [Ravenswood] will help many of our seniors stay in place, given that their needs grow over time. That’s the impact of this project,” she said.

Tracey Scott is the CEO of the Chicago Housing Authority.

Chicago Housing Authority CEO Tracey Scott

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

The Illinois Housing Development Authority provided $25.4 million in financing, records show.

The renovation followed plans by the Chicago firm Worn Jerabek Wiltse Architects. Block said the building got a small addition and the floors were completely reconfigured, with cramped rooms replaced by larger quarters. One visible change was more windows.

Block said the building had some floors without windows that were devoted to surgical areas. “It was a pretty heavy-seeming building. With the changes, it’s a friendlier neighbor now,” he said.

The development shares a parking lot with the private Lycee Francais de Chicago and other commercial and residential buildings on the block.

Evergreen, which has properties throughout the Midwest, has worked closely with the CHA and the city on other deals in Chicago. It has completed developments that combine senior housing with new library branches at 4022 N. Elston Ave. and 6800 N. Western Ave.

Editor’s note: This article was updated to correct the spelling of Worn Jerabek Wiltse Architects.

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