On May 1, 2009, Progressive Housing Inc. and Progressive Careers purchased the building at 2514 N. Sheridan Road in Peoria that once housed the Lippmann furniture store. Since then, Progressive has been working hard to convert the building into a new community center geared towards helping adults with special needs.

The Lippmann Community Center, named after the family-owned business which has been a mainstay in the community for five generations, is scheduled to open later this fall. Walter Lippmann originally opened the building in 1949, but it had been up for sale since 2005 when the business merged with another enterprise. The newly revamped center will function both as a school focused upon improving the lives of those with special needs and a commercial entity geared towards revitalizing the Sheridan Triangle area. The final cost for the new center will be upwards of $1 million.

Progressive has been working toward this moment for quite some time. In 1988, Progressive Housing Inc. was founded and began providing residential nursing homes for adults with special needs throughout the state. The not-for-profit agency recently expanded their care from strictly residential to include day training under the name of Progressive Careers. Progressive currently owns and operates two 16-bed residential homes in East Peoria, while two other day-training facilities similar to the Lippmann Community Center have been constructed in Waltonville and Steger, Illinois. The Lippmann Community Center will be the largest of the three centers, with half an acre of space in the heart of Peoria under its roof.

The Lippmann Community Center was put on the fast track when Peoria Councilwoman Barbara Van Auken and Lee Ann Hohstadt, an Illinois Central College occupational therapy assistant, lent their support to the project. Hohstadt empowered her students at ICC to help design the facility, with the hope that one day they may be able to work or intern there in exchange for valuable experience.

A Learning Center
Ron Schroeder, the new facility’s director, said that Progressive got into the day-training aspect of care because it was critical of the ways in which some companies treated their clients. “Some of the other [day training facilities] are lacking in their professionalism, as far as we’re concerned,” said Schroeder.

The school will provide vocational and social skills training for the residents of Progressive properties throughout the state. Upon opening, it will service 28 clients and may serve up to 65 once it is fully operational. The staff will teach these adults daily living skills, and money and household management skills within a mock apartment. Work, education and social skills will be addressed in group activities. Play and leisure areas will focus on dance, theater, music and crafts.

A Commercial Block
The majority of the building on the Sheridan Road side will be dedicated to developing a commercial block of shops and services. This block will hold a café, used bookstore, gift shop, art gallery, community outreach corner and florist shop. It will add new jobs to the area and provide employment for Progressive clients.

“In the current economy, it is very difficult to find occupations for our clients,” said Schroeder. “We decided that there is no reason to have a school unless you can offer them some sort of employment.”

These adults will work in a variety of situations, from waiting tables in a formal setting to manual labor behind the scenes. “Our [clients] dressed in black pants, black cummerbunds, white shirts and black bow ties would be the ones serving coffee and the tea in the community room,” said Schroeder. Those workers who prefer a less public setting will bundle together cardboard boxes for shipping to a Chicago-based moving company, under a deal struck with Prairie Farms Dairy through which the center will receive the company’s used boxes. All of the jobs provided in conjunction with the center will be geared towards teaching valuable life skills and providing new experiences for the adults served.

Progressive hopes that the Lippmann Community Center will also provide a vibrant focal point for the Sheridan Triangle revitalization, offering much-needed jobs in the local economy. “We plan to employ 35 people from the neighborhood when running at 100 percent,” said Schroeder. “We think we can bring some employment that isn’t here right now to the neighborhood.”

For more information about the Lippmann Community Center, call (309) 685-0595. iBi