The Ecumenical Institute (EI), ICA’s sister organization that owns and operates ICA GreenRise, has signed a sales agreement to sell 40% of our parking lot at 4747 N Sheridan Rd to Sarah’s Circle, an Uptown-based nonprofit organization that provides a continuum of programs and supportive housing to help women permanently end their homelessness.
Sarah’s Circle has been a stakeholder and advocate for Uptown women since 1979, when founders Maxine Florell, Jeanette Hupp, and Janet Sullivan began operating a women’s center centered on accepting each woman as she was. To accommodate the growing need to address homelessness among women, Sarah’s Circle moved in early 1997 to the Ecumenical Institute building that would come to be known at ICA GreenRise. In 2013, the organization completed construction of a new building comprising 10 units of permanent supportive housing at 4838 Sheridan Rd, just half a block north of GreenRise. A second, 35,000 square foot development currently under construction at Sheridan Rd and Leland Ave will add 38 units of permanent supportive housing for women when completed this November.
“We're currently building the project on Leland and Sheridan, and were able to secure financing for a third property. So the board and staff at Sarah's Circle were actively looking for a potential site when this came up, and we thought—wow this is fabulous!” said Sarah’s Circle Executive Director Kathy Ragnar of the parking lot. “You can't beat it. It's right smack in the middle of 4838 Sheridan and [the new building at] Leland. So it's just a wonderful location because it will be easy for program staff and case management staff to get there and support the women who are in the housing, and the women can utilize the services of all the programs.”
Our journey to sell the parking lot began with a vision for how the space could be redeveloped to meet the needs of the community. EI and ICA board and staff members worked together to create “mission-match” criteria that included affordable housing, environmental sustainability, and anchoring social services. We then worked with MBRE to search for potential buyers and explore proposals from several groups before ultimately choosing to move forward with Sarah’s Circle.
“I’m proud and excited that the space is going to Sarah’s Circle, who have thrived within ICA GreenRise for the past 20 years,” said Lesley Showers, COO of EI. “This area is the kind of prime lakefront property that is so often developed for luxury housing, so it’s been incredible watching them expand and demonstrate how supportive housing can be integrated into the community. In just these few blocks there are so many great, affordable options for women, seniors, and families.”
Sarah’s Circle plans to develop a third property that will add an additional 28 units of permanent, affordable housing with supporting services, meaning that each woman in the building will have an on-site case manager.
“Every building is an asset for Sarah's Circle. Years from now we will still have these great buildings designed by Perkins+Will that provide housing for the most vulnerable women in the city. It’s not only an asset for Sarah's Circle, but for the city as well. This is an asset we're building for all of us, and it just continues to increase the viability of Sarah Circle’s mission of ending homelessness for women in the city,” Kathy said.
We have long treated the space as more than just a parking lot. It has served as a space for many community events over the years, including Lakeside Area Neighbors Association (LANA) block club events, back-to-school gatherings hosted by Christian Fellowship for All Nations (CFAN), and GreenRise tenant appreciation days. The parking lot has also been an extension of our sustainability mission of GreenRise, and has been improved with features such as permeable pavers that help drain storm water and greenery that reduces the heat island effect common in cities.
The sale of 40% of the parking lot to Sarah’s Circle represents a commitment to anchor community services and demonstrate that sustainable and equitable development is possible.