The Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired will expand its building located at 700 Elm Street after Winnetka Village Council members voted unanimously to approve the project at a meeting on January 2. The council opted to waive a formal introduction of the ordinance.
Hadley’s project includes a 2,600-square-foot second story addition as well as an expansion of its walkway from the sidewalk to the entry to accommodate a guide dog or person to walk beside someone who is visually impaired.
The project requires zoning variations that would increase the impermeable surface area, include a flat roof instead of the required pitch roof, and extend the nonconforming wall design to the second level.
“This project began as a need to renovate the building to make it more safe and to take care of mechanical systems that are extremely dated,” Julie Tye, Hadley’s president, told the Village Council.
But soon Hadley officials realized the renovation presented an opportunity to reconfigure its space in a way that facilitates a collaborative atmosphere. “How can Hadley reconfigure itself so we are really meeting the needs of our 21st Century learners?” Tye told council members.
The renovation will not only bring the 1950s building up to 21st Century teaching practices, but also make it ADA compliant. Tye noted that it was “ironic” that a school serving students with disabilities was not up to code.
The changes will allow staff to relocate from the lower level to the second floor with the hopes of serving more people. Hadley provides distant learning courses for the blind and visually impaired, serving over 10,000 students all across the United States and around the world, according to its website.
The first floor board room will be enlarged, with possible plans for an interactive space open to the community where residents can learn more about what it is like to be visually impaired, Tye said.
Council members were receptive to the plan, with most questions focused on where Hadley workers park and the potential of two simultaneous construction projects occurring side by side, if One Winnetka goes through. Trustee Robert Dearborn asked how the One Winnetka project could impact employees who park in the adjacent public lot, which could potentially close. Tye said employees plan to park by the village green.
Likewise, Village Manger Robert Bahan said village staff will keep Hadley’s project in mind when completing the construction phasing for One Winnetka. At this point, One Winnetka is scheduled for more review by the Village Plan Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and Design Review Board, as well as a final approval by the Village Council, after developer David Trandel requested changes that would scale back the project in December.
Hadley plans to embark on its project in March, expecting it to take about 8 months to complete.