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New Illinois Veterans Home In Chicago Is Complete, But Still Not Ready For Anyone To Move In

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Gov. JB Pritzker, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, and other state officials celebrated Veterans Day by cutting the ribbon on the Chicago Veterans Home, a project years in the making, and the first state veterans facility in Chicago.

"This home, following a resident-centered model of care, really feels like a home. This is a place with local art, and community kitchens and gardens, a place that really respects and honors the humanity of the heroic residents that it serves," Pritzker said.

The facility is on Oak Park Avenue near Forest preserve drive in the Dunning neighborhood.

The Morning Insiders asked earlier in the week to speak with someone who served our country that's now living at the Illinois Veterans Home at Chicago. To our surprise, that wasn't possible. CBS 2's Lauren Victory explains why.

They fought for our freedom and the state of Illinois fought for them, building this sparkling new energy-efficient center for veterans.

Inside are beautiful and modern spaces where treatment will especially focus on military men and women with dementia.

"It's joyous, but sad for why they're in here," said Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th).

Sposato is also torn on the timeline. It took $120 million in taxpayer money, and six years to complete the center, due in part to delays caused by the state's lengthy budget stalemate under former Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Sposato and former Gov. Pat Quinn were on-hand for the groundbreaking in September 2014, but the smiles faded soon after.

Quinn, who had pushed for the state's fifth veterans center, lost re-election two months later. Quinn has said, after 2014, he's not really sure what went on with the project, but he was disappointed it took so long to get to this point.

CBS 2 visited the construction site almost a year and a half ago after work had restarted. Now-former Illinois State Sen. John Mulroe and others, including Gov. JB Pritzker, acknowledged then that the home was long overdue.

"I'm just thankful we're near the finish line," Mulroe said at the time.

But work took another year, and despite the May 2020 completion date listed on the state's website, the windows aren't being shined for any residents. No one can move in yet.

Despite all the delays so far, Sposato said he believes the new veterans home will be open in February; a hopeful outlook backed by some seemingly finishing touches, including a recent call for artwork made by and for the people who will eventually call the site home.

A Veterans Affairs spokeswoman said applications for the Chicago Veterans Center will open up in December. As for why none are living there yet when the building was finished months ago, we could not get a straight answer.

She blamed delays on the Rauner administration and contractor disputes.

Quinn said getting the money to even start the project after it was first announced in 2009 took longer than expected: five years.

A large portion of the building is funded by the federal government.

Treatment at the Chicago Veterans Home will especially focus on military men and women with dementia.

(NOTE: Photos in the above video are courtesy of MILLER + MILLER Architectural Photography.)


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