10 years after fire, senior apartments reopen

July 21, 2009 (CHICAGO) Community leaders say they hope the renovation of Flannery Homes will mark a new beginning for many in the North Side neighborhood.

It is a day they thought would never come , but after 18 months of construction and a $16-million price tag, the senior apartment complex literally has risen from the ashes, following an inferno that people said they wouldn't soon forget.

The image of the high-rise complex on fire was an image seared into many memories in October,1998. The Chicago Housing Authority building, filled with seniors, went up in flames, the result of a severed gas main.

CHA resident Joann Robinson was there when it happened.

"It was a nightmare. It was one of the worst. Fires are so scary, at any rate. Then, in a high-rise, and on top of that, seniors. All of those components, when I think about it now, I think it was truly a miracle that no one was hurt," she said.

Tuesday, Mrs. Robinson and other residents were celebrating the reopening of the Flannery Senior Apartments.

"Being a senior, I wanted some place that was kind of secure. The units are roomy enough. They are well put together. Of course, we are subsidized, and that's a big factor when you are on a fixed income," said Robinson.

Both towers of the complex have been renovated, especially for the senior residents.

"Our goal in looking at the buildings was not to have the residents go in and just be shut in, but to get out. How can we engage them in public activities and offer them space to do that?" said architect Jim Miller.

The reopening of the complex is a dream come true for some Chicago leaders, especially those who grew up in public housing.

"When you see elderly people who are in the twilight of their lives, if you will, to have a very nice place to live and a very nice community, but supportable and safe, it just reminds me of those opportunities that I would like for my parents to have and other seniors to have as they grow older," said Louis Jordan, CEO, Chicago Housing Authority.

ABC7 Chicago is told that there are still some spaces available for seniors who qualify. Anyone interested should contact the Chicago Housing Authority

Also, the seniors at Flannery are very active, but they have asked ABC7 Chicago to pass along a special request for exercise equipment, especially stair climbers and treadmills. They say, if you have some to spare, the folks at the senior apartments will surely make good use of it.

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