Sometime next year a wounded warrior from the Chicago metropolitan area will get the keys to a new home, thanks to a team of local organizations and individuals.The Chicago NFL Players Association, the Chicago area home builders associations, an anonymous donor, the Newport Cove community in Lake County and an architectural school have joined together to create a home for a military veteran wounded in Afghanistan or Iraq.
“We want to give back,” said Reggie Smith, retired linebacker and president of the NFLPA’s Chicago chapter, in making the announcement today, Veterans Day. “It’s our way of thanking the men and women who put their lives on the line for our country.”
The home, a LIFEhouse™ featuring universal design principles, will be located in Newport Cove, a waterfront community on the Chain O’ Lakes near Antioch. “It’s a lovely setting,” said Rita Unzner, executive officer of the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago. “The house is being designed to accommodate the special needs of the wounded veteran. It will not only be functional, but also beautiful, a place where the vet and his – or her – family can heal and grow.”
“We hope it will be the first of several homes our groups create,” she said.
She added that many members of the three Chicago area home builders associations (HBAGC, Northern Illinois HBA and Fox Valley HBA) will be providing products and labor for the venture.
“The wounded veteran recipient will be chosen from recommendations by local veterans associations, VA hospitals and communities,” Unzner said.
New American Homes, the developer of Newport Cove, will construct the house. “The home building industry has been suffering in this economy,” said Susanne Tauke, company president. “This is a way of turning lemons into lemonade. Thanks to a very generous donation of seed money and partners like the NFLPA and home builders groups, we are able to work together to create something that will be a wonderful gift for a wounded veteran.”
Newport Cove, an award-winning planned community of 67 homes located on 42 waterfront acres along Bluff Lake on the Chain O’ Lakes, includes a private 100-slip marina and eight-acre waterfront park.
Tauke’s company has some experience in creating universally designed homes. Two years ago New American Homes teamed up with the Department of Architecture, State University of New York at Buffalo, to create the first LIFEhouse™, a home exemplifying universal design standards. The university is internationally renowned for its IDEA Center (Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Research) and its pioneering work in accessibility and universal design.
The LIFEhouse™, located at Newport Cove and open for viewing, is a 1,992-square-foot ranch home with three or four bedrooms and three baths plus a full lower level. It has received several awards and been featured at the American Institute of Architects 2011 National Convention, the National Endowment for the Arts/American Institute of Architects 2010 Diversity Leadership Meeting and the Harvard University Graduate School of Design’s 2011 Social Change lecture series.
The wounded warrior home will be another LIFEhouse™.
This is the second project in which the local NFLPA and builders associations have worked together. Last spring they joined to help renovate Chicago’s AMI Kids, an alternative school for troubled children.
“Our home builders want to use their skills to do something valuable for the communities we live and work in,” said Unzner. “We hope to encourage people to join with us to build many projects like this wounded veteran house.” Asked what is needed to complete the home, she mentioned cabinets, plumbing fixtures and carpeting, among other products, then pointed at the Newport Cove marina and said, smiling, “We’d also love to find someone to donate fishing poles – or a boat!”