La Grange considers townhouses to replace children’s home


Village board members debate at the recent meeting (Shearrill/LION).

Nina Shearrill, Business manager

For over 100 years the Illinois Masonic Children’s home—located at 441 9th Ave. in LaGrange—acted as at first an orphanage, and then a group home. After its closing in 2017, the lot still houses several buildings that are not in use. M/I Homes, a home-building company, set its sights on the unused lot and has been working with the Village of La Grange and its architects to achieve a “mutually beneficial” agreement that fits in the parameters of village ordinances.

The plan was presented to the Village Board in early February. The Village planned to approve the development as long as it met six conditions. Five of the six were met early on, however one condition was still under discussion.

“It’s part of the process,” Vice President of M/I Home Matthew J. Pagoria. “In [housing] development there are a lot of details that go into making it a mutually beneficial agreement.”

There are rules about what percent of the lot that a house sits on that can be used for the actual house. Buildings are allowed to cover up to 30 percent of the lot they sit on and buildings that sit on the corners of blocks can cover up to 35. In their original plans, M/I homes wanted to cover 36.7 percent of inner lots and 39.7 percent on the corner lots.

“Through the planning commission and our architects we were able to modify the plans in order to not have to receive the variance,” Pagoria said.

Between the initial proposal and the reworked numbers, however, they were still over the maximum the ordinance allows. On Monday, March 11 they presented their final plan in which all six of the parameters were reached.

“I think it’s a welcome development,” Board of Trustees member Lou Gale said. “[The Masonic Home] is a property that would have sat empty.”

Many members of the Village Board appreciate the new project for various reasons. Some are happy the old lot can be put to use and create tax revenue.

“It was a formerly tax exempt property,” La Grange Director of Community Development Charity Jones said. “It will be a positive development for the community.”

In the beginning questions were raised about the effects the new building might have on the community. One concern was about too much traffic and a huge wave of people into the surrounding school districts.

“There are so many people that want to come,” Gale said. “It’s a great problem to have. It will lead to more businesses and people going to those businesses. It is good that someone wants to invest into our community.”