CHICAGO (CBS) — After 10 years, plans for a new state veterans’ home on the Northwest Side finally appear to becoming reality. It’s a project that has been in the works for a decade, through three governors, and millions of dollars in cost overruns.
CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory walks through the years of delays building the Illinois Veterans Home at Chicago.
State Sen. John Mulroe (D-Chicago) said the project is now fully funded.
“Obviously we wish we could’ve had it done quicker but it just didn’t happen,” Mulroe said.
“Everybody wants this to get done. There were many hurdles that we had to overcome.”
Then-Gov. Pat Quinn first announced the new veterans home at 4250 N. Oak Park Av. in 2009. He celebrated the groundbreaking for the 200-bed facility in the Dunning neighborhood almost five years later.
Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) said his office has received calls about the facility for years.
“I’ve talked to a lot of veterans’ children that they want to know what they can do to get their dads in here,” he said.
Nine months after construction began, a budget impasse under Gov. Bruce Rauner halted work in 2015. More than a year later, the project restarted; but a design flaw discovered in March 2017, related to earthquake resistance, sent contractors back to the drawing board for another 13 months.
In April 2018, construction resumed, but it took until February of 2019 to figure out funding; the final budget ballooned from $65 million to $118 million, in part due to wear and tear on the half-constructed building that sat unfinished for so long.
“I’m just thankful we’re near the finish line,” Mulroe said.
“It’s done. It’s over with. Move forward now,” Sposato said.
Almost a full decade ago, Eli’s Cheesecake owner Marc Schulman must have been excited about the new business potential around the corner, writing in a 2009 blog post about the veterans’ center that construction was expected to last 12-14 months.
“It started, and then stopped, and nothing happened. So we’re really excited with the cranes, and the amount of work that’s going on, and that our community will be able to offer veterans such a good place to be,” he said.
Schulman said he hopes to celebrate the new veterans home with a cheesecake when construction is complete, which now is expected by the end of 2019.
The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs is pursuing a 65% reimbursement from the federal government for eligible costs related to the project.