Change in Regulation Paves Way for $81M Hospital-to-Senior Living Redevelopment

An adaptive reuse project that will transform a vacant Chicago hospital into a mix of affordable senior apartments and assisted living is underway.

Developer Evergreen Real Estate Group broke ground on the community, Ravenswood Senior Living, on January 23. The $81 million project will convert the 10-story former Ravenswood Hospital into 74 one-bedroom independent living apartments on the top six floors for Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) residents. On the first four floors, 119 units are set aside for participants in the Illinois Supportive Living Program, an alternative to nursing home care that is administered by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

Originally built in 1974, Ravenswood Hospital closed in 2002. Construction is expected to last 18 months. CHA is contributing $24 million to the project’s independent living component. The remaining funding is a mix of debt and equity, as well as low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC).

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Evergreen signed a letter of intent to redevelop the building in March 2016, Chairman and CEO Jeff Rappin said during the groundbreaking ceremony. But the plans were brought to a halt in November of that year by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, which cited a regulation prohibiting independent and assisted living under one roof.

The project saw new life when Illinois Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) sponsored a change to the legislation which would allow for assisted living in mixed-use developments. That bill was passed by the Illinois General Assembly and signed into law by former Gov. Bruce Rauner in April 2018.

The law now allows for multiple senior housing uses in one building, as long as there are separate entrances, common spaces and staffs.

Chicago-based Evergreen develops, acquires and manages real estate, and its portfolio of over 70 properties includes affordable senior housing, assisted living and memory care. The firm has earned a reputation as an adaptive reuse specialist in recent years.

Notably, in 2017 Evergreen repurposed St. Charles Hospital in Aurora, a national landmark, into 60 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments for seniors. The redevelopment cost $24 million.

The firm has its work cut out in repurposing Ravenswood Hospital. Its architecture is reflective of 1970s construction, with a large central core surrounded by long narrow rooms, Evergreen Director of Development David Block told SHN in 2018.

“These buildings are vacant for a reason: they’re functionally obsolete,” he said.

Evergreen recently brought two ground-up mixed-use developments with a senior housing component to market in Chicago. These communities, in the Rogers Park and Independence Park neighborhoods, have a mix of affordable senior and multifamily apartments, as well as CHA-subsidized senior apartments, sitting atop new Chicago Public Library branches. This allows seniors to utilize the libraries as an amenity.

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