Plans for a 73-unit apartment complex for military veterans and their families on land once part of the former Silver Cross Hospital campus won preliminary approval from the Joliet City Council's land use committee Thursday.
Hope Manor Joliet, proposed by the nonprofit Volunteers of America, would be built on 3.2 acres that once was a hospital parking lot.
The goal, VOA President Nancy Hughes Moyer said, is to meet a growing need as veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars return home and can't find work and can't afford housing. The number of homeless vets, especially women and families with children, is heading toward a "crisis," she said.
But this is not temporary housing in which people will be moving in and out, Hughes Moyer said. Residents stay for as long as they need to, she said.
"This is not transition housing," Hughes Moyer said. "Everyone signs a lease."
The proposal calls for three buildings, each three stories high, centered around an open green campus. The first will feature 31 one-bedroom apartments and the other two will be a mix of 19 two- and three-bedroom townhouse units -- 19 of the former and 24 of the latter.
Two such VOA veteran complexes are located in Chicago, one on the West Side and a second under construction on the South Side. VOA has housing centers for veterans and seniors all over the country -- 20,000 units overall, Hughes Moyer said.
While the buildings will be staffed around the clock, it is not assisted living, she said. Some residents may have physical or psychological injuries from the war, but they will be capable of living on their own and will not present any saftey issues.
Twenty percent of the tenants will have an income of 30 percent of the average median income for low-income income individuals/families and 60 percent will be at or below the 60 percent range.
VOA has found that creating a community of people with similar military experiences helps provide a support system that helps people succeed, Hughes Moyer said.
"Our goal is long-term stability and self sufficiency," she said. "We focus very, very heavily on employment, if that's something they can be successful at."
The project is estimated to cost about $13 million to $14 million, with most of the money coming from the federal government via the Illinois Housing Development Authority.
Hughes Moyer said if they can secure funding by year's end, they could break ground by late fall/early winter 2014. Construction will take about a year, she said.
The project will go before the plan commission on Jan. 17 and the full city council in February.
Silver Cross' 88-acre campus was left vacant when the hospital built a new facility in New Lenox. In addition to the VOA project, a VA clinic is being built in the hospital's former emergency room and Aunt Martha's Youth Service and Health Center is building a new facility on the site, said Ruth Colby, Silver Cross senior vice president of business development.
There are no plans as of yet for the hospital building itself, Colby said.
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