Weston Bridges Apartments opening is a fresh start for Aurora’s old Copley Hospital building – Chicago Tribune

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Parish LaRosa needed one word to sum up his new apartment: “Awesome.”

LaRosa is one of the first residents of Weston Bridges, an eventual 53-unit condominium for independently living adults with intellectual disabilities that will be built into the former Copley Hospital building on Aurora’s nearby East Side.

Officials held a tape average Tuesday in Weston Bridges and it was a day of congratulations for the building’s developers, VIPs, city officials and many Aurorans.

But the biggest VIPs were people like Parish and his parents, Sherry and Mark LaRosa, residents of Aurora, who said their dream had been to find independent living for Parish, which is closer to them than Rockford, where he lived, until he moved back to his parents in 2021.

“It was wonderful, absolutely incredible,” said Mark LaRosa. “They were angels to us.”

Sherry beamed as she simply told a TV reporter that her son was “happy”.

Not only does he have a new apartment and is closer to home, but he also gets to be part of the community and explore the grocery store and other amenities in town, she said.

“And we can see him whenever we want,” chipped in Mark LaRosa.

Their joy was matched by that of the developers of the former Copley campus, now known as Bloomhaven, and the city officials who were all involved in the development.

The three pairs of brothers who founded the partners known as Fox Valley Developers, LLC — Paul and Jason Konrad, Michael and Stathis Poulakidas, and Russell and Ron Woerman, all of whom grew up in Aurora — came up with millions of dollars to invest in the development . And the city of Aurora also approved millions of dollars in stimulus to fill the funding gaps.

Mayor Richard Irvin said the redevelopment of the former Copley campus shows that “we are actually making a difference.” He pointed to the appreciation in value in the surrounding Copley or Bardwell neighborhoods and the increased interest in these long-standing East Side homes.

“People who wrote this neighborhood off want to be part of this community,” Irvin said. “It has a positive effect on all of Aurora.”

Paul Konrad, the Emmy-winning weather forecaster at WGN-TV, who spoke for his other partners, also thanked neighbors and said the partners are “grateful for their support during this time.”

It was tough support because the neighbors had been promised refurbishments that didn’t materialize as the building fell into disrepair over the years.

“So many said we’ll believe it when we see it,” Konrad said. “This place was a dark spot in the community.”

Paul Konrad said when his brother Jason first took him to the former Copley buildings and suggested the idea of ​​investing in redevelopment of the site, “I thought he’d lost his mind – it was a mess.”

But he trusted his brother’s vision and choked a couple of times on Tuesday, saying it was rewarded with the ribbon-cutting and official opening.

Development took place in several stages, the first being a cleanup that was necessary before redevelopment could be undertaken. It cost $12 million, with the city covering $3 million of the cost. But the developers didn’t get that money until the cleanup was complete and certified.

The remainder of the project involved a $128.5 million investment, which included approximately $9 million in city incentives.

At the moment, Weston Bridges has opened two floors out of a possible five, with 14 residents living there and two others who have just signed on. Eventually there will be 53 residents.

Next door will be Bardwell Residences, a 99-unit senior living center. The developers are putting the finishing touches on this, an opening is expected soon.

Already open is the new East Aurora School District Administration Building, which has been converted into the former Nurses’ Building at the far southern end of campus. East Aurora School District Superintendent Jennifer Norrell was on hand Tuesday to call the location “a good place.”

Norrell pointed out that not only does the school board have a new home, but the closure of Seminary Street next to Bardwell School has given children a new place to play, as has a park in the Fox Valley Park District on the eastern edge of the development. This not only benefits the students, but the entire district.

Children used to go to school on the west side of Lincoln Avenue because they were afraid to walk next to the former Copley buildings. But Norrell said they’re walking on the East Side now, and you can see a difference in their attitude to “walk past this beautiful campus.”

Finally, there will also be a medical center to be converted into one of the oldest parts of the building, the original Aurora Hospital, built before 1900.

But Tuesday was a day for Weston Bridges to shine, which it did during a media tour given by Lisa Fawver, outreach and networking director for the facility.

It featured bright, wide seating areas as well as a dining area where the residents, who are currently between the ages of 25 and 42, not only share two meals during the day, but also take part in a variety of activities planned by the staff.

“We walk a fine line between independence and support,” Fawver said.

Russell Woerman, the partner who acted as general contractor for much of the work, admitted there were days when he walked a fine line between optimism and questioning if they would ever get the job done.

It was particularly challenging to navigate the rules and regulations of the state and federal historic tax credits, which were key to raising much of the private money for the project.

But they knew they had to move on, Woerman said.

“It only works if we make it,” he said.

And Tuesday showed that they made it.

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