On Monday afternoon, Envision Unlimited broke ground on a new construction project: an accessible group home for seniors with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The six-bedroom home will be located in the Wrightwood neighborhood on the city’s Southwest Side. 

This development has been in the works since 2018, and it all started with a land donation from Andreas Mueller. Mueller previously owned the land where the home will be built. According to Envision Unlimited president and CEO Mark McHugh, there’s long been a need for housing that is completely ADA-accessible for seniors. 

“As some of our individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have gotten older, their physical accessibility needs have increased and become more evident,” McHugh said. “People are used to living in the community in our group homes. However, without accessible housing, we saw some people needing to move to other levels of care, like, nursing homes.”

He added that the new group home is the first step in making all of the organization’s residential settings accessible for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Envision has nearly 50 homes in Chicago, as well as in the north and south suburbs. A home of this kind hasn’t been constructed in the Chicago area, McHugh said. 

“Much of the Chicago housing stock has stairs, where you have to climb to get into the house, and regular-sized doorways and bathrooms that aren’t large enough for wheelchairs and walkers. This certainly is an issue throughout the city and beyond,” McHugh said referring to lack of homes that are ADA accessible.

Envision Unlimited is a Chicago-based nonprofit founded in 1948 and serves people of all ages and backgrounds with disabilities. The organization provides day programs, community living services, a foster care program, employment programming and mental health services. 

More than 72% of Envision’s clients are Black, and nearly nine percent are Latinx. Just over 90% of its members have incomes below or at the poverty line. 

About four years ago, an Envision staff member was driving in the neighborhood and saw a for-sale sign on the lot. The staff member approached Envision’s leadership about purchasing it.  Leaders at Envision connected with Mueller’s real estate agent to see if he’d be interested in donating the land to a nonprofit organization and he agreed.

In 2018, Mueller who’s also a resident of Florida, donated the land where the development will be constructed. 

From there, Susan Turner, a senior technical architect at Chicago’s JLK Architects, drew plans for the home and rallied and recruited local companies to donate time and construction materials for the home. 

“As I was getting people on board, I was teasing them and telling them that they were the Dream Team. So now, the Dream Team has extended to suppliers and contractors donating to the house. It’s just been a groundswell of support for this project,” Turner said. 

As a result, half a million dollars in construction materials, labor, and professional services to plan, build, and furnish the home has been donated to support the effort. The donor companies include JLK Architects, Visor Consulting LLC, the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, Blinderman Construction, Chicago Lightworks and many more. 

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Here's an outside view of Envision Unlimited's new ADA senior home. Construction on the home is expected to begin in May, and residents will move in December 2022. Photo courtesy of JLK Architects.

Construction on the home will begin in May, and its first residents are scheduled to move in December 2022. The house is about 2,500 square feet and will include a living room, dining room, kitchen, six bedrooms, bathrooms, a detached garage and an enclosed garden space. McHugh said it’ll cost close to $1 million to build the home. 

“These folks deserve to retire or age in place in comfort. We’re hoping that this facility will provide that as one of the options for where they can live in a neighborhood with which they are familiar in a setting of Envision members that they’re used to,” Turner said. 

Envision Unlimited is still accepting donations for the project. Details about the new senior group home can be found here. 

is a multimedia reporter for The TRiiBE.