Since 2005, residents of the North Center Senior Campus have known it was a great place to live. Now the whole country is finding out.
Earlier this year, the campus (located at Irving Park Road and Western Avenue in Chicago) was named one of four national winners of the 2009 Livable Communities Award given by AARP and the National Association of Home Builders.
The award means the North Center Senior Campus is just that -- a true community, not simply a collection of nice condos and apartments with senior-friendly amenities. To win the award, the community must have features that improve everyday comfort, safety and personal independence for residents including transportation, walkability, accessibility, safety, shopping, housing, health and recreation.
From the start
The North Center Senior Campus was designed that way from the beginning. More than a decade ago, Ald. Eugene Schulter (47th Ward) made it his goal to enable long-time residents to remain in the community as they age.
"North Center Senior Campus is one of the most unique developments of its kind in the United States," Schulter said in his remarks at the award ceremony. "It is a solution to gentrification -- people from all walks of life live here. Seniors have the option to stay in their neighborhood in decent, quality housing."
Ald. Schulter, North Center Associates LLC, The Lakota Group and the non-profit Technical Assistance Corp. for Housing collaborated with members of the community as well as with local and federal agencies to create the North Center Senior Campus. Advocate Health Care donated five acres of land -- one square city block -- to give the campus its prime location and spaciousness.
"The North Center Senior Campus is one of only a few urban campuses in the country that include affordable apartments and condominiums for seniors, along with a health center, central green, corner park and shared amenities such as computer rooms, workout rooms, libraries and meeting space," says John LaMotte, a principal with The Lakota Group, the planning and design firm that crafted the master plan and the landscape design.
Advocate Health Center Irving Medical Building, which houses physicians and offers lab and X-ray services, is part of the North Center Senior Campus. The campus also includes the 104-unit Martha Washington rental apartments, the 86-unit St. Vincent de Paul Residence, and Belle Plaine Commons, a condominium building.
The Martha Washington apartment building opened in 2005. It is a Chicago Department of Housing funded independent-living facility for seniors. The five-story building contains 104 apartments (studios, one- and two-bedrooms). The ground floor includes a large community room, an exercise room, a game room and a wellness center. A picturesque terrace is screened with fragrant lilac bushes and flowering plants. It is age- and income-restricted, which means residents must be at least 62 years old and cannot exceed a specific annual income.
In 2007, St. Vincent de Paul Residence opened right next door. It has 86 one-bedroom units for those at least 62 years of age. The St. Vincent de Paul Residence was developed by Catholic Charities. It is a Section 202 building, which means it does not offer services, such as meals or housekeeping. Residents are responsible for their own cooking, housekeeping, laundry and personal care. It is age- and income-restricted. On the other side of its airy, glass-paneled lobby lies the city-run senior center.
The two apartment buildings filled quickly, and have waiting lists. But seniors still have an opportunity to move into the campus. Belle Plaine Commons, the third housing option there, has units available for purchase.
Belle Plaine Commons is a five-story, 92-unit condominium building designed in the classic Chicago style of stately dark red brick, with iron work balconies with brick columns. Inside, the common areas have vintage style décor and modern amenities."Belle Plaine Commons is the perfect choice for 55-or-better condominium buyers to discover the joys of homeownership in an award-winning community," says Judy Westerberg, sales manager for Garrison Partners Ltd., the exclusive sales and marketing agent.
While sales at Belle Plaine Commons are nearing the 90-percent mark, there still is a wide selection of residences. Prices at the 92-unit community start at $194,990 for one-bedroom condominiums; $204,990 for one-bedroom plus den condominiums; and $249,990 for two-bedroom condominiums.
One member of the household has to be 55 years of age or better, but the other member may be as young as 48 years. All prices include one outdoor parking space. Heated garage parking is available for an additional $15,900.