Construction crews began piecing together metal scaffolding around the former police station in Lake View Monday in preparation to construct one of the nation’s first homes catering to lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual senior seniors.
Workers at the site confirmed it was the first step in what will be a long journey to transform the historic building at the corner of Halsted and Addison streets into the housing facility. The vacant lot on North Halsted between the 100-year-old police station and Whole Foods will also be used in construction of the new building.
- "Groundbreaking Planned for 1 of America's First LGBT Senior Homes"
And Emily Blum, the director of communications with the Heartland Alliance, says while they still plan to hold an official groundbreaking ceremony, the scaffolding is going up in an effort to save the historic facade.
“We’re planning on a groundbreaking event any moment now, but basically the architects identified some deteriorating parts to the building that they thought was a hazard,” Blum said. “We’re going to have to deal with the deterioration of the building, so we put of the scaffolding to nobody would get hit in the head with a brick or anything.”
Blum later emailed to say she misspoke, saying the official groundbreaking is "still not until early Spring" of 2013.
This comes after the Center on Halsted, an LGBT-focused community organization at 3656 N. Halsted, recently pulled together a panel of Chicago leaders from area organizations to highlight the changes LGBT seniors and elders of color are facing.
It was one of the first steps in preparing for the new group of seniors that will fill the space. Joined by Heartland Housing, a nonprofit specializing in affordable housing, the Center on Halsted is planning to run the new senior home.
The six-story affordable LGBT housing center in Boystown will be second only to Los Angles’ Triangle Place that offers similar services. The Chicago Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners voted Sept. 18 in favor of the $21 million project. It will feature almost 80 units for seniors with retail space on the first floor.
Brian Richardson is the former director of public affairs for the Center on Halsted, a community group in Lake View dedicated to the LGBT community. He says addressing the aging population has been a concern and a challenge for some time.
“This is the first generation that fought at Stonewall,” Richardson said. “They were the first generation that woke up everyone about AIDS. They came out of the closet first and really changed the world for generations behind them. They’re also now the first generation, in large, who are aging.”
The project is slated to be finished sometime in the spring of 2014, and according to Richardson, everything down to the paintings on the walls will be catered to the gay and lesbian crowd. While the new center won’t discriminate based on gender identity or sexual orientation, it will be clear to seniors that community life at this home will be very different.
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), who told the Times this has been a dream of his for at least seven years, spoke about the project again Oct. 11 during the Legacy Walk dedication. To him, this is another moment in history for the LGBT community.
“We are moving forward as a city by recognizing that lesbians and gays need senior affordable housing in their community,” Tunney said to a thunderous round of applause and cheers. “The Center on Halsted is working with Heartland because we will have many more days to celebrate, and many other historical projects that we will be doing together.”
Editor's Note: A quote from the Heartland Alliance about the construciton was added to this article.