Leaders of the senior living complex at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville have proposed a redevelopment and renovation project that would completely overhaul the campus and cost an estimated $33 million to $35 million.
For starters, the center, which offers independent living, assisted living and skilled care, has a new name: The Esquiline, A Life Plan Community at the Shrine. It previously was called The Apartment Community of Our Lady of the Snows.
“Esquiline” was chosen in a nod to the Shrine’s namesake. In the early days of the Catholic Church, a childless couple in Rome had consulted with the pope about how to donate their money to the church. After their meeting, Mary appeared in a vision to both, saying a church would be built in her honor on a site covered with snow, according to Catholic tradition. Esquiline Hill is one of the seven hills of Rome where snow fell on a summer day in 352, according to Catholic beliefs, and a church was built on the hill in honor of Mary.
The original apartment community at the Shrine opened 52 years ago in 1966 off Illinois 15, and other care components have been added since then.
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“We have set upon doing master planning so we can create a new campus so that we can ensure that there’s another 50 years in the future for The Esquiline,” said Barbara Prosser, president of The Esquiline.
Highlights of the proposed redevelopment and renovation plan include:
▪ Construct a three-story, independent living apartment building that probably will have 24 units.
▪ Build 10 courtyard homes for independent living. These 1,365-square-foot homes will feature an attached, one-car garage.
▪ Renovate existing buildings and common areas. Some units will be demolished to make way for the new construction.
▪ Build new memory care and skilled care areas.
▪ Add a rooftop lounge and garden to the existing high-rise apartment building.
▪ Create a second entrance.
Construction is expected to begin next year and be completed by 2020.
“We benefit from being on the Shrine grounds,” Prosser said. She noted that trees, landscaping and walking paths are featured on The Esquiline’s 17-acre campus perched on a hill in the rear portion of the 200-plus acres of the Shrine, which is known for the annual Way of Lights during the Christmas season.
“It really is a lovely place and it’s an attraction for many people just to be able to retire in a place that has those amenities,” she said. “We offer a lifestyle that we think is really attractive to people and really needed and desired by the Belleville, metro-east area.”
The complex has about 225 residents and about 150 employees.
The Esquiline has a board of directors and is a faith-based, nonprofit organization sponsored by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the religious group that operates the Shrine. To date, the board has approved the preliminary steps to get the redevelopment plan started.
Before a final decision is made to kick off construction, The Esquiline leaders are gauging the public’s interest in the project.
In the first phase, The Esquiline is collecting a $1,000 refundable deposit to establish a priority member list for the independent living units.
In the next phase, The Esquiline will collect a 90 percent refundable entrance fee of $195,000 to $299,000. Ten percent of this entrance fee will serve as a reservation deposit.
“When they move out of independent living, they get 90 percent back,” said Rachel Lugge, executive vice president of The Esquiline.
Persons who pay the reservation deposit will be given the options of choosing their unit and helping to design the new independent living units. For instance, they can pick out the type of flooring and cabinet colors installed in the home.
Also, they will be offered lower monthly service fees, which are now estimated to range from about $3,000 to about $4,800, depending upon the size of the unit.
The monthly service fees include flexible dining plans, biweekly housekeeping, all utilities except phone, Wi-Fi and DIRECTV.
Along with all kinds of activities to keep retirees busy, the complex offers a daily Mass in the chapel.
But Martha Holloway, director of sales and marketing for The Esquiline, noted that you don’t have to be Catholic to move to the center.
Prosser said about 70 percent of the residents are Catholic.
“We have really been really heartened and surprised by the excitement and enthusiasm and the interest that people have expressed to what we’re offering,” Prosser said.
“Once people know where we are and what we provide, they’re very interested in not only our current housing options, but also what we plan in the next two years.”
Want to go?
What: Seminar on clearing clutter and downsizing your home and information about the proposed expansion at The Esquiline.
When: 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 30
Where: The Esquiline at 726 Community Drive on the campus of the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows off Illinois 15 in Belleville.
FYI: Call 618-394-6400 to RSVP for the seminar and luncheon to follow. For more information about the seminar on clearing clutter, go to theesquiline.org/downsizing. For more information about the proposed redevelopment project, go to discovertheesquiline.org. Also, The Esquiline has a Facebook page.