A local nursing home operator wants to redevelop the vacant former headquarters of the American Library Association in River North into a medical rehabilitation and recovery center, according to a proposal announced by 42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly.
Oak Brook-based Restorative Care Institute plans to open a 98-bed skilled nursing facility at 50 E. Huron St., where it is seeking approval to overhaul the five-story former ALA building with three new floors and a glass exterior, project plans show. Reilly said in a newsletter to downtown residents that the company hopes to open the location by August 2022.
The project would be the first new skilled nursing facility in the city of Chicago in more than 10 years and cost an estimated $34.6 million, including $4.8 million to buy the property from Chicago developer R2, according to documents filed last month with the Illinois Health Facilities & Services Review Board. Restorative Care Institute, whose manager Michael Hamblet also heads nursing home chain Eden Supportive Living, needs the state’s approval to open the new facility and is slated for a formal review in December, according to the review board’s website.
To redevelop the building, Restorative Care Institute also needs the approval of the Chicago Plan Commission and City Council for the project, which Reilly said would be designed to prevent infection to post-surgical patients during recovery with advanced systems “unlike anything in Chicago,” the newsletter said.
The plan comes amid widespread health concerns around congregant nursing facilities after many became hotbeds for COVID-19 in recent months. That has prompted many major health systems to boost home-based health care offerings, though it’s unclear what will happen to demand for either after the pandemic subsides.
A spokesman for Restorative Care Institute did not immediately provide a comment. The group’s application with the state cited a need for more than 200 new skilled nursing facility beds in Chicago. Existing options nearby that serve post-acute patients from Northwestern Memorial Hospital, among other health care providers, include Warren Barr at 66 W. Oak St. and Terraces at the Clare at 55 E. Pearson St., according to the application.
“There has been very limited development of skilled nursing facilities in the city of Chicago in nearly 40 years, and no skilled nursing facility that provides the level of care proposed at the Restorative Care Institute,” the company wrote in the application.
The redeveloped building would include a total of 83,000 square feet, split almost evenly between clinical and non-clinical space, according to Restorative Care Institute’s application with the state.
If the plan and property sale are finalized, it would complete a quick turnaround for R2. The firm bought the ALA building and the connected office building at 40 E. Huron St. late last year for nearly $6.8 million, according to Cook County property records. The ALA, which opened the 50 E. Huron building in 1963, leased it back for a short time before moving to a new location earlier this year at 225 N. Michigan Ave.
R2, which is best known locally for redeveloping vintage loft office buildings including many on Goose Island, is also marketing the 55,000-square-foot building at 40 E. Huron for sale or for lease.
“It’s a tired block right now, but an incredible location,” R2 Principal Matt Garrison said, noting that his firm is renovating the more than 200 private offices in the 40 E. Huron building to cater to tenants’ changing workspace needs created by the pandemic. “With the redevelopment of the (50 E. Huron) site and reimagining of the other site will, it will be a dramatic improvement of that block.”