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Pritzker, Durbin vow to make Chicago Veterans Home ‘a reality’ — by December

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a news conference announcing the long-delayed opening of the Chicago Veterans Home. Photo by Tina Sfondeles.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a news conference announcing the long-delayed opening of the Chicago Veterans Home. Photo by Tina Sfondeles.

After nearly five long years of delays — rooted in both political battles and construction problems — the embattled Chicago Veterans Home will see its doors open come December, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and other elected officials announced Friday.

Pritzker stood alongside U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and state legislators in announcing the long-awaited opening of the 200-bed home at 4250 N. Oak Park Ave, which the Democratic governor said would even feature a barber shop for its residents.

Former Gov. Pat Quinn broke ground on the home in September 2014, only to lose his re-election bid two months later. His successor, former Gov. Bruce Rauner, halted construction of the home during the historic budget impasse.

Adding to the delays, engineers were forced to rebuild the shell of the building due to an error regarding earthquake safety standards, the Sun-Times reported in 2017.

But on Friday, surrounded by dozens of veterans and construction workers, Pritzker vowed an end to the struggle.

“We know that this project paid the price for the budget crisis under the previous administration. Politics and ideology won out over our fundamental responsibility to those who served our country. A personal agenda took precedence over doing what’s right for the people of Illinois,” Pritzker said.

“But those days are over. I’m so proud to make this veterans home a reality and to make clear to veterans in every corner of our state that this state is on your side.”

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Durbin — who helped to secure federal funding for the home — noted while 75 percent of veterans in the state live in Chicago, the closest veterans home is in Manteno, some 50 miles to the south in Kankakee County.

Pritzker, Durbin and the dozens of veterans in attendance signed a 6,000-pound slab of concrete, which was then raised and placed onto the construction site. It marked the last major structural component of the building.

In signing legislation last year to help rebuild the Illinois Veterans Home in Downstate Quincy — where 14 people have died of Legionnaires’ disease — Rauner told reporters the Chicago veterans home process had been a “nightmare,” full of “bureaucracy.”

The final budget for the veteran’s home is $118 million, with $65 million coming from federal funds and $35 coming from the state, the governor’s office said.

The home will mark the fifth veterans home in the state.