Swann Center’s new facility causes controversy

By Adam Terese

By Adam Terese

Contributing writer

The Swann Special Care Center in Champaign, which acts as a home for children who are severely handicapped, has plans to build a new recreational building – but it is not without controversy.

A staff of professionals, paraprofessionals, nursing assistants and volunteers work to create an atmosphere to ensure the children’s medical, nutritional, mental, emotional and social needs are met, according to the Web site of the Medical Rehabilitation Centers, Swann’s parent company.

To help meet these needs, Swann wants to use the land separating its building from the adjacent Country Fair Apartment complex, owned by Irwin R. Rose & Company, to build the new facility.

The new recreational facility, while not completely planned out, will include various activities for children with severe handicaps, said Max Redmond, director of resource development at Swann.

“There are no recreational facilities around that the kids can use because they’re profoundly handicapped,” Redmond said. “We need a facility that meets the needs of the kids.”

The city requires that the land be divided between Swann and the apartment complex. In order to build the facility, Swann needs the land divided north and south, Redmond said.

Apartment complex owners have only agreed to divide the land east and west, which would not be adequate for the approximately 3,000-square-foot facility Swann hopes to build. According to a report to the Champaign City Council from city manager Steven Carter, Irwin Rose does not support the proposal because the north half of the land he would receive would be “landlocked and unusable” if the new building was constructed.

There would only be a total of 20 feet between the new building and the apartments as well. In the report, Rose said he is concerned with the small distance between the buildings for “engineering reasons” left unspecified in the report. However, the city council has found the distance adequate to meet the zoning regulations, the report stated.

Rose was unavailable for comment.

According to the city council report, because of the extreme disabilities of the Swann Center residents, only a location in the immediate area is feasible. The land between the center and the apartments is the only option at this time for a new building, the report stated.

Another complaint was that the new facility would obstruct the apartments’ residents’ view, Redmond said.

However, Zipura Matias, who works in resource development for Swann, disagreed.

“Right now, their view is our building,” she said. “I don’t think the complaint is really valid.”

Liz Rice, director of Special Projects, a division of Volunteer Illini Projects whose group has volunteered at Swann, said she thought the whole situation was ridiculous.

“We’ve worked with Swann before, and what they’re doing is just amazing,” Rice said. “It’s not like they’re building a mall; it’s something good for the community.”

Swann has appealed to the Champaign City Council and its developmental recreation board to help settle the situation.

Earlier this year, the council has sided with Swann, but council members advised the care center to continue negotiating with the apartment owner.

However, the apartment complex hasn’t been receptive to the negotiations, Redmond said.

“The city has already decided,” Matias said. “We just want to keep negotiating to avoid any lawsuits or problems with the apartments.”

The new building is expected to cost at least $100,000, Matias said.