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Salvation Army plans westward move with expansion project

A rendering shows SalvatiArmy’s plan for West Humboldt Park center.

A rendering shows the Salvation Army’s plan for a West Humboldt Park center.

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Updated: July 20, 2011 4:39PM

The Salvation Army has disclosed plans to build a community and transitional housing center on five acres in West Humboldt Park, saying the project would expand its mission to serve needy people.

The organization wants to tear down old warehouses that extend north from the 3300 block of West Chicago Avenue. In their place would go a five-story complex that would include 494 beds and social services for people battling addictions or ex-convicts seeking a new start.

“It’s really the Salvation Army’s investment in the people that we serve,” said Major Greg Thompson, general secretary of the group’s metropolitan division. The project should cost about $50 million, including the land acquisition and demolition, he said.

Details were included in a zoning application filed with City Hall. The group wants to change the five-acre site’s zoning from manufacturing to a classification that allows short-term housing.

The organization would relocate from property at Monroe and Ashland that it has used since the 1970s. Thompson said the army has outgrown the space, which includes about 420 beds. “It’s worn out after all these years,” he said.

Plans for social service centers can stir opposition from neighbors, but Thompson said he’s gotten positive feedback so far.

“That spot where they want to build is an eyesore. It has been for a long time,” said Bill Howard, executive director of the West Humboldt Park Development Council. Howard said the group still has to bring its project to community meetings, the usual step before City Council approval.

Thompson said the army has a contract to buy the site and hopes it will close in December. Work could begin next summer, with construction taking at least 18 months, he said.

He wouldn’t discuss the seller or what the army is paying for the five acres. Records show some parcels are owned by Muhammad Ghieth.

In another zoning request, the army said it wants to expand and redesign a thrift store at 2258 N. Clybourn. Major Robert Buttrey, general secretary of adult rehabilitation programs, said the $10 million proposal does not affect housing at that location for men who are addicted to drugs or alcohol.

The plan also calls for a new donation center and maintenance building.

In West Humboldt Park, Thompson said the army wants a facility that fits in with and offers services to the community. Landscaped courtyards would separate wings of the building that would run from Spaulding to Christiana.

Included would be a food pantry, gym, a chapel and programs such as family and spiritual counseling. The architectural firm Antunovich Associates produced a design of masonry and cast stone intended to blend with homes that start just west of the site.

The projects are separate from community and recreational centers the army is building in poor neighborhoods around the country with money from the late philanthropist Joan Kroc. One such center is being built in West Pullman on the South Side.

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